Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hampton Plantation

North of Charleston along Highway 17, back through high pine woods, there sits a decrepit old mansion that was the ancestral home of Archibald Rutledge, former poet laureate of South Carolina.  Last fall Annie, Finn, and I had read Rutledge's book Claws as part of our US geography study.  It's a lush, gripping story of a little boy who gets lost in a cypress swamp and, at the climax of the tale, is face-to-face with a bobcat on a log. 

I'd wanted to take the children to Cypress Gardens so they could get a good feel for what a cypress swamp is really like (you don't know it until you've been in it!), but the gardens were damaged badly in flooding, and have not re-opened.  Bummer.

Then I remembered my father mentioning Rutledge's homeplace.  Yeah! Sold! No cypress swamp, but plenty of lowcountry flavor.  We visited in late December.

My love for old decrepit buildings is nothing new. I fell promptly in love with this one and deeply wished we could buy it and restore it to its former glory.  The plantation, a lovely shell of a home, was still decorated for Christmas with the most basic greenery. 

Look at this color! With the bricks!

The dining room.

Beauty. I loved seeing the plaster and lath juxtaposed with the solid wall. 

The ceilings of this room are strangely higher than other ceilings on the first floor, and because the architecture is Georgian, they have a basically empty, short (5' tall?) room above this one. Having a room above, with windows and doors, was necessary to achieve the Georgian style, but it's creepy, too, because the enormous, short room has never been occupied.

Palmetto and brick. 

The parlor, I think.  Magnolia leaves, pinecones....

...and a sobering display of names and prices of plantation slaves. 

This is the ballroom, and it was so beautiful that I gasped when we entered.  The ceiling is glorious.  

Ballroom mantle detail. 

Be still my heart!  A second floor with a split staircase, then another staircase that winds up to the third floor.    

The second floor was in even worse shape than the first: missing walls, gutted rooms. 

I loved it so much, so dearly. 

A view back to the hall--one staircase going up, another going down.

Little tidbits that tugged at my heartstrings.

Clean Lowcountry light. 

It's just amazing to think of what it once was.  Of children and slaves and family roaming these halls with all their joys and heartaches and dramas. 

Thank you, state of South Carolina, for preserving this dignified beauty. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Afternoon Rest

Yesterday we spent three hours baking, icing, and decorating cookies to send on a weekend religious retreat. When it was all finally done, I sent the children out to play and I decided to have tea and chocolate in my sweet chair

Through the screen I could see the lilacs and the snowball bush.  The scent of lilacs sometimes drifts into my room on the wind.  Such a treat!!  I have decided that Afternoon Rest should happen every day--even if it's just twenty minutes. 

The pause that refreshes......

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring Chickens

The Big News here is that on Monday evening we picked up our eight Buff Orpington pullets. This much-anticipated event came upon us rather suddenly; we were planning to get them over the coming weekend, but circumstances changed and my husband called Monday afternoon to tell me we had to get them *that day!*  So I loaded the children up in the car and we went to the feed store, where I puzzled my way through purchasing feed, pine chips, chick grit, and a waterer. 

But so worth it to have these cuties in the backyard!  They've been cooped up for two days as we get them used to their new home, but tomorrow they are going to be allowed to go into the run, where they will meet--through the fencing, for sure--the dog, the cat, and the many cows. 

I am completely smitten, can you tell?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Austerity Measures

As my friend A. says, "austerity measures are now in place!"  

Our checkbook has suffered from leaky faucet syndrome lately and there's a water break in sight: a home renovation project that is *not* a do-it-yourself affair. 

As a result, I'm implementing austerity measures until, oh, sometime in October.  What's this look like?

*Keeping a strict eye on dining out and takeout.  We typically do this once a week; I'm shifting it to once a month or so, if my husband agrees. I also take my children out for lunch once every week or two, but I plan to shut that down. 

*No clothing purchases until autumn.  No fabric, either.  We're going to wear what we've got and sew through what we have.  In fact, I may try to just use up a LOT of fabric.  A lot. 

*No shoes unless a child outgrows them. Or unless my husband needs running shoes. 

*Instead of buying something, determine how I can live without it or substitute something else.  Like Grandma! (This can be fun.) 

*Use the library for books, naturally.

*While not strictly a measure to save money, I'm going to spend some time going through our belongings: do items need maintenance? (Shoe shining, mending...) Does anything need to just be thrown out?  Is there anything to give away or sell?  I do think having less stuff makes a more orderly home, and lately I've been feeling a little fuller than usual.  

*In general: only spend money on consumables. 

The faucet is officially off!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Thy Praise Shall Never Fail

Our Easter was beautiful. Yes, the day before Easter is exhausting (cooking, cleaning, ironing, mending, wrapping, dyeing, preparing) but the payoff is sweet. 

I woke before dawn and watched the sky pinken over the silvery pond, then drank my coffee and drove north to church.  At our sunrise service we decorate a cross with flowers, and this year because Easter is so late, we didn't have any daffodils. It was all azaleas, pink dogwood blooms, yellow kerria japonica, my offering of a few late pink and white tulips, and the icing on the cake: loads of gorgeous purple lilacs. After sunrise service I always walk up to visit my mother's grave, and yesterday I found hundreds of violets growing all around it.  Beautiful!

Our egg dyeing this year was limited to shades of blues.  I enjoyed that. 

I used our white Noritake china ("Stoneleigh") for breakfast and hot beverages, and champagne flutes for a Perrier-orange juice combination. 

We all got dressed for church and miraculously left on time, but not before I tucked a few white azaleas into Annie's hair.  Her Easter dress is yellow dotted swiss, made by my Grandma Polly over 30 years ago for me, and features a wide collar and sweet heart-shaped buttons down the back.  Delicious! The azaleas were a good fit, because my grandmother had hundreds in her garden in Charleston. My father tends them now!

At church I took my usual notes, and also scribbled the last stanza of "Crown Him with Many Crowns" into my church journal--because it was ineffably sublime. 

Easter dinner at my in-laws': I think my favorite dish was the whole (tops on!) carrots just roasted in the oven.  This incarnation of the lemon sponge cake turned out well, but I squished too much whipped cream out, so it was a little wimpy on the cream.  I think if I make one more sponge roll, I will have gotten sponge rolls out of my system for a while.  

The children had their annual Easter egg hunt on the lawn, we FaceTimed my niece (in her freshman year of college in faraway Georgia), and when we got home in the early evening a rainbow was arching across the valley behind the house.  

*               *              * 

Crown him the Lord of years,
the potentate of time,
creator of the rolling spheres,
ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
for Thou hast died for me; 
thy praise shall never, never fail
throughout eternity. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lemon Sponge Roll

(Inspired by watching an episode of the Great British Baking Show back at the end of my flu week last month.....)

Incarnation Number One:

A sponge cake (a la The Joy of Cooking) spread with a thin layer of store-bought lemon curd and a thicker layer of sweetened whipped cream, then rolled up and sprinkled with powdered sugar. 

Too sweet for me, but a good first attempt. I'm shocked that the cake didn't just fall apart when I rolled it up! 

Incarnation Number Two (just completed, for Easter dinner tomorrow): 

The same sponge cake recipe, spread with a homemade lemon filling (also a la The Joy of Cooking) and sweetened whipped cream, then rolled up and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  It will be served alongside a few sprigs of mint, I think. 

The jury is still out and won't be in until tomorrow afternoon, but so far I think Incarnation Number Two wins.  The homemade lemon filling is creamier, more tart, and more luscious than the sad jar of boughten curd.  

I'm also taking asparagus tart to Easter dinner tomorrow, but I'm using gruyere and parmesan to up the ante a bit.  It's Easter, after all! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trying Out the Crepes

A week or two ago I made crepes for the first time. I used a recipe my cousin sent, and filled the crepes with a melted cheese and turkey filling for lunch.  Both of my children politely declined seconds.  I made a mental note to try it with nutella next time.....

So, I've not yet perfected crepes.  Mine turned out beautifully, but I haven't nailed down the filling that will induce my children to eat them.  And I'm pretty sure they both said they didn't like the crepe itself anyhow.  Who doesn't like crepes?!

This week I'm on to a different type of crepe.  Although I've owned the pattern for a few years, I'm only now sewing the Colette Crepe dress. I decided to try to make a wearable muslin, so I cut the pattern out using some thrifted fabric I bought ages ago. 

So far I've finished the bodice and the waist ties, and I cut bias strips (I'm skipping the facings, too annoying).  The trickiest bit for me is always fit. I'm rarely able to wear a dress right off the rack...something to do with having one shoulder and hip 2" higher than the other, and a seriously protruding shoulder blade.  I'm also extremely short-waisted thanks to my scoliosis. I tried to fit the bodice to my duct tape dress form last night, but I almost think my dress form needs revamping.  She seems a little--squished.  So I tried the bodice on in front of the mirror, but it's a back-wrapping dress and seemed virtually impossible for me to tell how it will fit without, you know, the rest of it done.  I keep reminding myself that the goal of this dress is to have something light and cool to wear in the morning for housework and teaching.  That's it. I'm not wearing it to the opera!

If the fussy Crepe doesn't work out, I've already got my consolation prize all lined up: another Alabama Chanin camisole dress.  It's comforting and familiar and cozy--basically the macaroni and cheese of my sewing world.