Tuesday, December 13, 2011


We were invited this year (again) to the home of Susanne's sister Robin and her partner in beautiful Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Robin and Ellen have a beautiful historic home located adjacent to Old Salem, the restoration of a Moravian town dating from the eighteenth century.

Unfortunately, the Box is too small for us and our luggage on such a long trip, so we had to leave him home in the driveway as sentinel and took the Sienna instead. The van was also useful in carrying everyone around in Winston-Salem on the day after Thanksgiving, when we did some sight-seeing. Oh, I am getting ahead of myself.

I'll tell you the story through the pictures I took. So here goes!

We left Harrisburg on the day before Turkey Day and headed south on I-81 to Staunton, Virginia, where we stayed over at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. The building above was just across the street and housed a museum, museum shop, and art gallery.


I really liked this piece of pottery but exhibited my characteristic reluctance to buy it. I knew we'd see some pottery at Old Salem, too.

We had dinner at a restaurant in Staunton. We had eaten there the previous year and enjoyed the atmosphere. One of the good things about traveling on the day before the holiday is that you encounter few people in eating places. They are home getting ready for the big day.

Staunton is a model for historic preservation, and we enjoyed strolling through town after dinner and enjoying the store windows.

In the morning we headed back to I-81 and stopped at Dunkin' Donuts near the interchange. Susanne got her favorite blueberry coffee (on the second try) and her favorite veggie cream cheese bagel (again on the second try), and I opted for some warm glazed donuts, which paled in comparison with the Oram's donuts we get in Beaver Falls!

Soon we were underway, enjoying the unique landscape of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Following directions from our GPS, we arrived at Winston-Salem in a few hours. We always know we're there when we see a local landmark, the Wachovia Building, dominating the skyline.

Soon we arrived at Robin and Ellen's house. It was built in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and sits on a very pleasant street of older houses. Many of them belonged to members of the same family for many years.

 Here are pictures of the streetscape.

The house was immaculate and beautifully decorated with many beautiful pieces of art, especially pottery and china. We took a little tour as we carried our suitcases upstairs. The table was already set for the  feast.

In the kitchen Ellen and Robin were putting the finishing touches on the flavorful and colorful dishes they were preparing.

Turkey, of course, one sweet and one savory. Drumsticks galore!

Stuffing with croutons and andouille sausage, a real Southern treat. Andouille is defined as a coarse-grained smoked sausage made using pork, pepper, onions, wine, and seasonings.

 Scalloped potatoes and leeks with peas as garnish were delectable.

Sweet potatoes, yummy. Speaking of which, I had seen a Facebook entry from Ellen longing for sweet potato corn muffins she saw on television being made in a baking demonstration  by a friend who owns a restaurant. I decided to make the muffins and take them along as a surprise. I think Ellen was pleased! Also shown are collard greens Ellen's mom brought.

Well, just who was coming to eat all the goodies? Ellen's mother and brother came from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her friend Ruth, who lives locally, also came. In addition, other friends of Robin, from Greensboro, joined in as they have for several years. By the light of the unique centerpiece below, Ellen started the festivities with a touching rendition of a stanza of the Thanksgiving hymn "We Gather Together."

Soon enough those beautiful china plates were empty, and we moved on to dessert, including a ginger bundt cake, a shoofly pie (representing the Pennsylvania Dutch but also known in Southern cooking) and a pecan pie (so common in the south). All of this was accompanied by delightful conversation. This was one lively bunch with a variety of life experiences to share with each other.

The next morning Ellen and Robin, Ellen's mom and brother, and Susanne and I headed to the Winston-Salem convention center, where there was an antique show taking place. We saw a lot of interesting things, including the colorful Depression glass shown above, and the white painted cupboard below.

Ellen had to go hunt down her brother Tony after the rest of us collapsed from too much walking and standing.  We headed for lunch at Panera. It was great to sit down and enjoy another (much simpler) meal together.

The next day, Tony and Ellen's mom left for home. Ellen's friend Ruth came over -- in her black Porsche -- to say goodbye. We discussed whether I would fit in the Porsche, and the answer was, universally, of course not! I guess I am stuck with the Box! (No offense, Box.) Check out Ruth's crazy shoes below!

On Saturday, Robin had to work at Replacements, Ltd., near Greensboro, where she is marketing manager. This year she was especially proud of how her staff had decorated the showroom, so we went out to see. Ellen, eager for a moment or two without guests, enjoyed the day at home. Watch the video linked above to take a tour of Replacements.

Check out the upside down Christmas trees! One Christian web site claims thus about the inverted tree: "By the 12th century it [the fir tree] was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmastime in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity." All things old are new again!

We wandered among all the beautiful displays. I am always attracted to the beautiful antique silver services for sale. This year I fixated on a silver tray for a child's high chair. I remember having a hand-me-down high chair as a kid with a chipped porcelain tray insert. None of those at Replacements! Check out this sterling silver model, decorated with fairy tales. And priced fairly, I must add, at a modest $2,999. I imagine that is more than my whole high chair cost -- or near to it!

Soon Robin was set free from her duties and joined us for a few minutes on the sales floor.

As we arrived home, it was dusk. We drove through Old Salem, passing Winkler's bake shop, where they make that fabulous Moravian sugar cake.

Home Moravian Church also stood out as the sun set and evening lights came on.

In a few minutes we arrived at Robin and Ellen's cozy back door.

By now everyone was hungry (again!), so we headed out to one of Robin and Ellen's favorite casual places and had a good meal, although I would be hard-pressed to remember what I ate!

After our memorable meal, we drove a few miles out of town to a park called Tanglewood. Last year Susanne and I stayed in the mansion in the center of this park. I think we were the only people there! In retrospect, it was kind of creepy. This time, however, there were many, many cars lined up at the entrance to drive through the park to see a holiday light show. It was a dark night, so the displays were especially effective. Some were animated and others were elaborate scenes.

This was the entrance to the Festival of Lights.

Everyone liked the lighted candles.

This scene had a marine theme and was located to reflect in a pond.

This drive-through scene included the sound of bells as we drove beneath them.

This animated scene allowed you to drive through snowflakes, accompanied by the sound of the Sweet Southern Singers. We thought of granddaughter Chloe when we saw this trainer and his horse doing a little trot as the Sweet Southern Singers reprised 'Winter Wonderland.' It was all great fun. The only low point was when Robin and I wanted to go eat pie somewhere and the other two dunderheads wanted to go home and sleep. Sheeesh.

On Sunday morning, Robin and I headed to Ellen's church, just up the street. It's a very diverse congregation with an urban ministry. They have a medical team right inside the door to revive you when you've collapsed from climbing the stairs. There must be a more old-man friendly entrance somewhere, but we couldn't see it!
The people were very friendly and welcomed us. No one minded when I filmed for a moment after the service. Apparently, the church was left for dead some years ago but has been revived by providing its neighborhood with a reason to continue -- service to others.

We went back to the house, where the sisters posed for a photo on the front porch.

We piled into the van for a trip downtown to a great Southern restaurant called 'Sweet Potatoes.' I mentioned a restaurant where Ellen's favorite corn muffins came from, and this was it.

There we were joined by friends for a delicious brunch in colorful surroundings. The place is very popular and every seat was taken the whole time we were there.

There we were joined by friends Ruth, Maggie, and Mary Sue. We all ordered something different, and everything was hot and delicious. I had the sweet potato pancakes, which I had enjoyed so much last year, but this time I got strips of fried chicken with them. They were so large, I ate only half (I know, can you believe it?) and enjoyed the rest the next morning before leaving town.

The owners of the restaurant, standing at left, came over to visit as we enjoyed our meal.

Then something unusual happened, something almost paranormal. Something overtook me, and I was powerless to resist. When the bill for the whole table came, I paid it! Believe you me, it was frightening. I think Robin and Susanne were even more amazed than I was. You know, it felt sorta good!

After lunch, we took Robin and Ellen home (I guess we did -- I was still in shock), and Susanne and I drove over to Old Salem to visit the shops. The garden shop offered seasonal decorations in a quaint building.

The only thing I would have bought was this redware bowl in the style of the early Moravian potters. Ain't it great? It was no doubt a "presentation" piece and not intended for use. Hey, I missed that little coffee pot in the picture! It's the symbol of Old Salem, and all I could find was a key chain with it on. I hope it's there when I get back.

Now here's a book I could sink my teeth into. I think it was in this store because the original Krispy Kreme donut bakery was located in what is now Old Salem, back in 1937, when it was just an old neighborhood in the town of Winston-Salem. Now there are hundreds of stores around the country and in foreign lands.

Much of the merchandise in the shops was geared toward the celebration of Christmas, with many of the products having a Moravian theme. There were a lot of these "ruffed" Moravian beeswax candles for sale.

There were also pottery mugs that the Moravians, in Home Church at least, use for their Christmas Love Feast. Unfortunately, these were all made in China.

As we left the village, I captured this scene of some brick buildings surround the green. Simple yet elegant.

Back at the house, we found Robin arranging her huge collection of brush trees from the 1950s (you know, we all had them) as a table centerpiece. It's a very impressive display, this little forest.

There was also some pottery that we have come to call "Lesterware" after our late friend Lester Breininger. This is his shop's interpretation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

On the mantel in the family room stood a collection of tree toppers, again from the 1950s. Shiny little sentries awaiting the arrival of Santa!

On Sunday evening, we met Robin and Ellen's friend Andrew at a local bistro for food and conversation. I swear we are at the table in the center of the photo.

On Monday morning, we packed after Robin and Ellen went to work for the day, and headed north toward Harrisburg. Near Old Salem we encountered a street crew blowing a huge pile of leaves across the street. It was amusing to see a half dozen guys with leaf blowers whipping the leaves through the air.

Heading north but following our GPS' instructions, we took a somewhat circuitous route, but it gave us the chance to come across this geological formation, called Pilot Mountain. Here is what is written about it by the state park in which it is located: "Approach from any direction and see Pilot Mountain rising more than 1,400 feet above the rolling countryside of the upper Piedmont plateau. Dedicated as a National Natural Landmark in 1976, this solitary peak is the centerpiece of Pilot Mountain State Park."

It was a sort of dreary day, but yet another sight further north provided a smile.

The rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia provided a lot of area for grazing, and we saw many herds of black cattle along I-81.

Finally, near nightfall, we stopped to see our friend Bob Evans in Chambersburg and enjoyed the ministrations of a very polite and friendly server and some standard American fare. 

Around an hour later we pulled into our driveway, weary from the drive but happy to have spent several days with Robin and Ellen in their lovely home with their family and friends. Thanks for sticking with us to

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are welcome here.