Sunday, March 28, 2010

On The Road with Julie and Becky

Early Tuesday morning we boarded the first of two flights to get us to North Carolina. It's a whole day from one side of the country to the other and as you all know, flying is just not what it used to be. But it gets you to fun things, so we do put up with it!  Upon arrival we picked up our red rental car and away we went to Winston-Salem and MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) where we would be for the next 5 nights.

Before checking into the Zevely Inn,  

we headed to Sweet Potatoes, a restaurant we had found on the internet. What did we do before the internet in our lives?  There is so much information at our fingertips to help us find the best food and things to do. Well Sweet Potatoes did not disappoint! The aroma seeped out into the street and we could tell we were in for a treat as we looked for parking. The menu held many temptations; I had narrowed it down to two - the drunken stuffed pork chops or the fried chicken.

Julie started with the Potato Leek soup and smacked her lips as she enjoyed it to the bottom of the cup.  I chose the fried chicken in honor of my husband; it is his mission to find fried chicken, which in our health-conscious society is hard to do. It wasn't a bit greasy - just tender and crispy. It arrived with a side of "smashed" sweet and red potatoes and an apricot jam.  Julie had the drunken pork chops and hers must have been good too, neither of us offered the other a taste! We were keeping it all to ourselves.

Then they told us the desserts for the night!  I thought they had me with the first one - Sweet Potato Pie, but it was the last I had to try - Sweet Potato Bread Pudding.  Julie ordered the Bourbon Pecan Pie, and I did get a taste of that. Usually pecan pie is much too sweet and one bite is plenty, this had a wonderful taste and texture. We are placing bets that it had a sweet potato base as well. They truly know their sweet potatoes in the North Carolina. I didn't get to share my sweet potato bread pudding with Julie, she despises coconut and it had it through and through. So gosh, I ate it all by myself.

Food is always important at events - fun to try the regional favorites and we really enjoyed the food on this trip as you will continue to see. We found so many great little restaurants!  Usually food is just something to keep the energy going and the brain functioning, but this trip we became "foodies".

Wednesday morning brought us down to the lovely morning room at the Zevely Bed and Breakfast where we were staying. 
We met Lynne Anderson, who we had only known via emails prior to this and had a lovely time visiting. Many of you know Lynne Anderson as the person who heads up the Sampler Consortium. We will give you details about this interesting site and what is being worked on for the near future in the next week or two. We had never met Lynne before, but we immediately felt like old friends.  We visited for so long we had to dash to lunch before our first program at the seminar in the research center started.  We headed for the West End Café on 4th Street.

What a great spot for lunch!  Linda at the Zevely Inn supplied us with quite a list of places to eat and didn't fail us once. I had a lovely toasted tuna with Swiss cheese and the interesting thing was, they put a touch of 1000 Island salad dressing on it. Now this sounds weird, I agree, but the sweetness of the dressing was a very nice touch. So one day my company will find themselves tasting this yummy sandwich at my house.  Julie tried the lamb gyro with coleslaw and in a last-ditch effort to be good, ordered a side of fruit instead of the fries.  It came with both - ah well, the best laid plans...  It was delicious and a real shame we were in such a hurry that we couldn't savor the tastes here.  We tried to go back for lunch on Sunday, but they're closed that day, so make sure you take that into account in your planning.  

The research center is a wonderful location at MESDA, they have catalogued information on over 80,000 southern artists!   They are currently working to get this information up online and available to those on the internet. You can see more about this at their web site.

The Old Salem Museum and Gardens gift shops always have many nice things that find their way home with us, so we spent some time checking them out before going to the opening reception. We have to spread it out over all the days, a little bag each day with a treasure or two to take back.

The reception was so nice and we had our first chance to say hello to many people we see when we have the chance to travel to these events of "like minds" - many of us had been craving a textile event with there being such a dry spell the last few years.  But we talked too much and the food was mostly gone by the time we toured the tables!  I did enjoy a couple of glasses of "Salem Tea", a concoction by Salem Kitchens, who cater the events for MESDA. The sweet tea is too sweet for me, but this is such a nice blend. I would love to have the recipe, but could probably never duplicate it.  Here are a few recipes, though, in case you want to try your hand at it!  Salem College Ice Tea  seems closest to what we had. It was served iced, but we all agreed it would be wonderful hot as in this recipe:  Russian Tea .

Julie and I were up early enough each morning to run into town after our breakfast at the Inn to support our home team - Starbucks, with our caffeine fix  - a chai for me and caramel latte for Julie!

Thursday began the official seminar: Trees of Life Bear Fruits of Love - New Research in Southern Needlework and Textiles.
The day began with Kim Ivey from Colonial Williamsburg presenting two talks:  Piecing the Puzzle Together: New Discoveries in Chesapeake Schoolgirl Embroideries and Material Witnesses: Virginia Quilts from the Chesapeake to Apple Pie Ridge.

For lunch a specialty of the area, Moravian Chicken Pot Pie. All of your children will love this, no vegetables! Just lovely meat in gravy and beautiful crispy crust, which they served with mini pumpkin muffins. Mmm. Another treat is their sugar cake; the Moravians make some very special treats! You can tell we were enjoying the food and it just goes on and on!

Here's a good recipe I found for the pie - it really is something special - it relies on great quality chicken, broth and crust to make this a really special treat!

Moravian Chicken Pie
Piecrust dough - for two crusts
2 ready-made Pie Crusts from the supermarket
3 cups cooked, chopped chicken (can use pieces or whole chicken)
1/4 cup flour
1 1/4 cups chicken broth (the richer the better) - can add a spoon of Better Than Bouillon for a richer flavor.
salt and pepper
optional dash of poultry seasoning

Put one crust in a deep pie plate.
Mix chicken, flour, broth, and poultry seasoning in a large bowl. Pour into the pastry lined pie pan. Cover with the second crust. Pinch edges together to seal and flute decoratively. Bake at 375-400 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Serve hot.
Can be frozen before baking, then bake (frozen) at 400 for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  If freezing, double wrap very well in plastic food wrap, then wrap again in heavy-duty foil or put into a large freezer zip bag, being careful to squeeze out as much air as possible.

We also went looking for Moravian Sugar Cake recipes:
Moravian Sugar Cake
This one purports to be Winkler's recipe
And so does this one!

And Pumpkin Muffins  These look delicious! So do these and these.

The weather was beautiful, but we hadn't had a chance to be out and enjoy it yet. 
In the afternoon we learned a bit of the history of the textile collections at MESDA from Daniel Ackermann the Associate Curator. He provided such insight into how and why the MESDA founders collected these pieces and how that work continues today, along with research, so that we can all now enjoy and continue to learn about them.  

Well, there is a new group and many of you are probably proud members already - Stapleheads!   Have you been a follower of Kathy Staples 
and her ongoing research and enthusiasm for historic needlework and textiles? She is key to the textile seminars at MESDA that started I believe it is now 7 years ago. Many there have come year after year; this was Julie's and my second visit to the MESDA textile seminar. So Robert Leath, chief curator and Vice President for collections and research, had every person in the room stand who was there, at least in part, because of Kathy Staples.  The entire room was standing!  Then he proclaimed - "Kathy Staples is the Grateful Dead!"  Which we figure makes us her groupies  - "Stapleheads"!

Kathy gave her first talk of the seminar Girlhood Embroidery: New Acquisitions at MESDA and then we ended the day with a treat, our first view of the new Textile Gallery, not yet open to the public!  (You thought we were going to mention food, didn't you?)  They have done a wonderful job of making it "Green", using special paints and materials that do not off-gas, special lighting and great fixturing!  

But the day is not over yet, this night we meet with Lynne Anderson and a small group to discuss the future of the Sampler Consortium and its upcoming web site. The dinner was held at the Old Salem Tavern, another favorite eatery that we had experienced on our last visit, and just across the street from the Zevely Inn. I don't think there is anything on the menu I wouldn't love to eat! I even surprised many of my friends and tried their version of Fried Green Tomatoes!  I am not a tomato eater usually, but this was so delicious, I had it another night at another restaurant. Now I will be on a mission to try this delicacy on my journeys.  

Here are some Fried Green Tomato recipes - These are very traditional, as are these.

The tavern's green tomatoes were served with a red pepper and white cheddar cheese sauce that really complimented the taste with a sweet-tangy flavor!  Kind of like this.

Many great ideas were shared as to what we would enjoy from a web site and how to easily use it. You will all want to become members of the Sampler Consortium if you are not yet. It is free and currently will keep you updated on information and events to do with historic needlework and samplers in particular.

Friday morning started with what was my favorite talk of the event and one I will go into more detail in our next supplement. 
Johanna Brown, Director of Collections, Curator of Moravian Decorative Arts, discussed Washed in Blood: Moravian Embroideries. It was fascinating. I love to learn about the symbolism so much and this makes me hungry to read and learn more about the symbolism of Moravian decorative arts. I will try and find out if there are other materials Johanna suggests before we give you the further details regarding this discussion.

Laurel Horton was our next presenter and talked about Early Southern White Quilts and Coverlets.  
Lynn Tinley and Suzanne McDowell gave a talk from their summer studies program at MESDA on Household Textiles in the Miles Brewton House in Charleston. If you are interested in research and in depth study of Southern Textiles and arts, you should look into the special program offered each summer by MESDA. 

We closed the day with Kathy Staples' talk, From Home Looms and Store shelves: New Considerations of Southern Backcountry Textiles.  Following this we had a chance to view some historic clothing brought in to share by Beverly Evans as well as the Damask Tablecloths Lynn Tinley had discussed in her talk. It is always great to have hands on materials to view. 

Friday evening the seminar officially closed with a dinner at the Old Salem Tavern. Oh what a treat to have a second meal here!

Saturday, Julie and I attended an extra offering, a Coverlet Turning. 
They brought out 25 coverlets and quilts from the collection for us to see and study. Many of which had never been exhibited. We were lucky enough to be given permission to photograph them and share them here with you. 
These are just a few photos - there are many more, which we will put up in the next little while.  We thank Daniel Ackermann for his generosity in allowing us to share with our friends here. You will see some wonderful appliquéd, pieced and embroidered pieces. Many of the appliqué pieces were done with a Reverse Buttonhole stitch.  
Julie had never heard of the Reverse Buttonhole, but it's simply a Buttonhole Stitch with the legs going in the opposite way as usual - instead of facing toward the inside, the legs pointed outward at the edge of the cloth.  We tried to take a picture so you could see, but you'll still need pretty sharp eyes...   The predominant design was the tree of life out of beautiful imported English chintz fabrics. 
We learned that before 1825 to achieve the color green, first yellow would be applied and then blue over the top. You can many times see the outline of the yellow showing beyond the edge just a little. This will be a clue in dating the fabrics. On the embroidered pieces, many used self-couching stitches usually identified as New England Laid or Couching Stitch.   In honor of these wonderful Southern craftswomen, we re-named it Southern Couching Stitch.  
So many beautiful peacocks and other fantastical birds adorned the trees, it was a feast for our eyes.

We shared our last lunch and said our good-byes. The days had gone fast and we still hadn't visited with everyone as much as we would have enjoyed. We learned that the next Textile seminar MESDA will be holding will be on the road - taking participants to Harrisonburg, VA. So watch for this event two years from now. (Do I really want to tell everyone about this? They limit enrollment and I do want to be sure there is room for Julie and I, so pretend I didn't share how wonderful this event was with you!!!!)

Back through the stores for our last round of shopping! Then we headed to Reynolda House, the RJ Reynolds home and Museum of American Art. It was a beautiful home to view on a wonderful landscape, with gorgeous gardens. Now also home to Wake Forest University and some lovely shops. But they sure close things up early here, by 4 PM and at the most 5PM, all were closed!  

Dinner tonight was at the Filling Station where the food was so good and such a great selection, we ended up back here again for lunch Sunday before heading to the airport after we were disappointed to find the West End Café closed. I think we both rolled home after enjoying all the delicious specialties we found in the many restaurants of North Carolina!

Sunday we relaxed at the Bed and Breakfast 
before making the long journey back to the airport and home. The Zevely Inn has beautiful porches on the back with rocking chairs -  perfect on a lovely day to sit and stitch. 
Downstairs is a lovely living room where we shared many conversations with those of like minds attending the seminar. 
Linda and her staff are always friendly and accommodating. You will enjoy your stay in this Inn. 
You can go on line and see each room to choose which you would prefer, Julie and I try a different one each time. We both have our eyes on the same one for our next visit! It will be rock, paper, scissors to see who wins that decision.

We have so much to share about our trip that today we just gave you an overview, and some details on the wonderful food. Next time we will share more in-depth details about some of the talks and programs that were given at the MESDA seminar and following that, information on the Sampler Consortium.

We hope you enjoyed being an armchair traveler with us!


  1. i love to be an armchair traveler with you two and of course love to travel with you. thanks for sharing. what an adventure and looking forward to your next blog indepth coverage of your adventure. thanks

  2. It is amazing the sites that I have stumbled upon and the connections I have made in the short time I have been blogging - your adventures in North Carolina were fascinating - and though I am not the needlecraft queens that you two are, the food is enough to tempt me to travel to North Carolina - thanks!


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