Saturday, October 30, 2010

Undiscovered Treasure

Yesterday, I got to have lunch with two dear friends on Main Street in Downtown Greenville. We went to one of my favorite spots for lunch. For some reason, this place seems to be one of Greenville's undiscovered treasures. It is in the historic Westin Poinsett Hotel's Spoonbread Restaurant. When you walk in, you feel as if you've just stepped back in time 60 years. In fact, when they filmed the George Cloony movie Leatherheads in this area, they used the hotel in several scenes.

The decor is very elegant, the ambience is calming.

Yesterday, we had the little restaurant all to ourselves. It was quite and the staff catered to us like we were royalty : ) One of my friends made a comment about how good my fries looked, and they brought a big plate and put it in the middle of our table for sharing. I had a yummy Patti Melt on toast with Boursin cheese and sauteed pepper, onions and mushrooms. My friends both got the grilled chicken BLT. We did some creative sharing so we all got a sample of everything. To make it even better, the food is delicious and the price is reasonable - my meal was about $7.

Below are two articles from the web with a little history of the hotel and restaurant.

History: The Spoonbread Lady
From G Magazine
November 2009
By Linda Dishman

Stepping slowly between tables in a long cotton frock, curls swept up in a matching calico headscarf and thick gold hoops swaying from her ears, Irene Griffin cut an unforgettable figure as she made her way through the dining room of the Poinsett Hotel. But what really stood out and gave her an enduring nickname, as well as a well-earned place in Greenville history, was her spoonbread.

Every Sunday, beginning in the 1940s and continuing through several decades, Irene, “The Spoonbread Lady,” would handcraft and personally serve casserole dish after casserole dish of spoonbread. For the uninitiated, spoonbread is a quintessential comfort food. Using cornmeal as a main ingredient, the dense, pudding-like Southern favorite is made with butter, eggs, and buttermilk to give it a consistency that is more like a cross between a soufflĂ© and Yorkshire pudding than a bread. It is meant to be eaten hot from the oven with a spoon, hence the name.

Families who flocked to the Poinsett for Sunday brunch came to know Irene simply by her nickname, and soon her reputation extended far beyond the borders of Greenville County. Irene once recalled seeing a billboard as far away as Virginia advertising the hotel and her spoonbread.

She said she learned to make spoonbread by observing Richard Strossner, who was at that time the Poinsett Hotel’s baker. Perfecting the technique meant adapting the original recipe by adding her own secret ingredient. She never told a soul what that special something was, that is until she passed the recipe to her grandson, according to a Greenville News report. Irene returned to tour the renovated Poinsett Hotel when it reopened in 2000. She was then about to turn ninety years old, so her days of baking and serving spoonbread had long passed. But the hotel honored the long tradition by naming their refurbished restaurant Spoonbread in her honor. No longer on the menu, spoonbread is still available by request.

Famous Poinsett Hotel Spoon Bread
This recipe was given to Miss Lucille Benson (later Mrs. Robert Jefferson Walker) in 1941 by Mr. Mason Alexander, manager of the Poinsett Hotel.

4 oz. cornmeal
½ cup water
dash of salt
dash of baking powder
1 Tbs. butter
5 eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil cornmeal in water. Add salt, baking powder, and butter. Let mixture cool.

Beat the eggs and add to the cooled mixture one at a time.

Pour into a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm (preferably with a spoon right out of the pan!).

About the hotel...
A Tradition Rich in History
From The Westin Poinsett website

For one hundred years, the Mansion House Hotel stood on South Main Street in Greenville, South Carolina. In 1924, the hotel was demolished to make room for the construction of the Poinsett Hotel. The price tag for the new hotel was 1.5 million dollars, and when it opened on June 20, 1925, it was one of the most beautifully furnished hotels in the country. However, during the first year of business, the hotel lost $30,000 and continued to lose money through the years of the Great Depression.

In 1930, Mr. J. Mason Alexander was hired as General Manager Director. Mr. Alexander was known as Old Admiral Spit and Polish, the best hotel manager in the business. Mr. Alexander had a formula for success known as "The four C's: Cleanliness, cooking, competence and courtesy." Local residents filled the hotel's dining room for family dinners and ballrooms for formal dances. The hotel quickly became known as "Carolina's Finest," and by 1940 it was making money.

Also known as "Mr. Poinsett," Mason Alexander was labeled, "the man who gave you clean money," because he made sure that no guest left the Poinsett Hotel with anything but clean money in his pocket. Thus, the people who handled money were required to polish all coins before putting them in the cash register for change.

Due to increased business during 1941, the hotel added 60 rooms bringing the total to 248 rooms. By the mid 1950's the motel industry boomed and city hotels became obsolete. In 1959 the hotel was sold to Jack Tarr hotel chain. From 1971 until December 1986, the hotel was foreclosed, and by the end of that year, the last residents of the retirement home moved out.

In June 2000, the owners, former employees and friends of the Poinsett Hotel celebrated the 75th anniversary of its original grand opening with an exhibit of historic memorabilia in City Hall and a reception in the Gold Ballroom of the hotel. Many memories of the grand days of the hotel were recalled and shared.

Until early 1990, the Poinsett Hotel was considered one of the eleven most endangered historical sites in South Carolina. With the grand opening of the Westin Poinsett Hotel, the hotel's future will no longer be jeopardized and once again the City of Greenville will be home to the "Carolina's Finest."

Chatty Crafty

This weekend will be spent getting ready for next weekend. A road trip to Chattanooga for my second Indie craft show. I am working on new glass pendants and art to take with me. Hoping to do a couple of big firings today.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Strikingly Red...

I love this time of year. The weather is so unpredictable. One day it's sunny and cool, the next rainy and warm. Today is extremely windy, and the changing leaves are letting go and whirling around me as I walk from my office to the car. There is one, strikingly red and lying on the pavement near my car. What's left of it's summer color still visible in the center, the leaf bursts to a vibrant red. Such beauty in such a small package.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Life in the Eyes

We met one of the vendors this weekend - a wonderful portrait artist.

Tim had a chance to talk with her about her work. She had some of her previous work there, would take commissions, but would also do charcoal portraits on the spot.

She said that having a sitting model usually spurs other business for her. So, we bartered my glass for a portrait, and Tim got the chance to sit for her. He said that they chatted and joked the entire time, so it didn't require him to sit stone still for a whole hour.

Here is the final portrait. I thought it turned out really great! She just had a way of capturing the personality, not just a likeness. She focused on sculpture and has been doing portraits for over 20 years.

Interestingly, she ended up getting a few more sittings and a commission for a larger portraits as a result of Tim sitting for her! She chose the glass piece featured in the "Sometimes it doesn't work...saved from the trash" blog entry I posted earlier. After all that piece went through, I am happy it has a good home now.

A few more photos from the weekend.

Across the street is the historic Abbeville Opera House.

Packing up to leave.

Scary, Scary, Boys and Girls

We did have a chance to do a walking tour of Abbeville while we were there this past weekend. It was the classic little town with a quaint town square. Each little store and shop had their own uniquely dressed scarecrow sitting out front.

A restaurant

Hair and nail salon

Ice cream shop

Abbeville Opera House

Public library


Coffee Shop

Local newspaper

A bakery

A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath...

Abbeville was a great little place, almost everyone was extremely nice to us there...almost.

I think Tim met the only grouchy person in town. Apparently, the festival displaced the the regular farmer's market vendors from inside the Livery Stable to outside in the parking lot this weekend. Not being from around here, we were clueless and Tim's car was sitting in a spot right where this very frustrated soul wanted to sell her veggies.

As we walked up, I heard her say to Tim in a really ticked tone, "It's about time you showed up."

She then proceeded to "give him down the road" about how the festival people had taken over the inside spots, how we were clearly instructed not to park in those spots (nobody ever told us not to park there), etc.

He calmly moved the car, came back and offered to help her mover her tables down 5 feet to where she wanted to be in the first place. By this time, she had calmed down a bit.

I think it was really more anger at the festival planners than at us. We just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she took it out on Tim. It was amazing how his calmness in the face of her anger, even his willingness to help her move seemed to diffuse the situation.

I noticed a little while later that there was a whole bunch of cars parked where she had been. I'm not sure if the farmer's market is just a morning thing, or if she packed it in because business was bad.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What a nice place to visit!

I got into Abbeville around 3:00 today. It is such a sweet place. Very quaint and colorful, and they have the perfect spot for a festival like this. I am all set up and now just waiting for the crowds to start. It looks like a very nice selection of art - pottery, jewelry, woodworking, etc. It all seems to be fairly high quality, although I can't remember if this was juried or not.

Abbeville Bound...

I am taking some time off from my real job today and heading about an hour down the road to Abbeville for their Art'Oberfest.

I've never been to Abbeville, but I've heard that it's a quaint little, southern town. In the movie "Sleeping with the Enemy," Julia Roberts character escapes her abusive husband and hides out in a small town. Those scenes where filmed in Abbeville.

The artists are going to be housed in the old livery stable, which looks kind of cool from this photo I found online.

It seems I learn something new from every one of these show I do. The nicest part is the opportunity to go somewhere new, meet new people, and get a chance to sell some of my glass. I feel compelled to keep on creating it, so it's good that occasionally I get a chance to part with some, otherwise we'd have a whole garage full of the stuff by now.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Step by Step...

I took pictures of this project from close to start to finish...

Step 1 - Painting on black glass with Glassline paints.

Step 2 - Inside the kiln - ready to fire.

Step 3: Fired and cooling - painting on the clear, top glass and second firing to come.

Finished piece.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Trial and Error...Heavy on the Error.

Tonight I spent a couple of hours fusing and playing around with this blog. Trying to figure out how to enhance it, add a slide show and cool features like that. It took some time, but I finally got it to work. If at first you don't the directions.

Unfortunately, I seem to have a knack for doing things the hard way. I often joke with my husband that I don't have to read the instructions because I know he will, and then I can just ask him.

I wonder how much easier things would be, if I started with the directions first. I know I would finish most things lots faster. Is this tendency to go it alone specific to me, or is it just human nature?

I wish it was only on trivial things like creating a blog or learning Photoshop that I end up finally resorting to the manuel. Unfortunately, my ready, aim, fire nature is also all too evident when it come to my walk with Christ.

How many times do I try and just figure it out myself, rather than opening The Manuel and asking for his guidance? You'd think after all these years, I would learn from my mistakes...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

And Away We Go!

My new kiln is hooked up, the outlet switched out to one that fits its plug (thanks to my great father), and I figured out how to program the digital pyrometer after a bit of trial and error. My artist brain sort of freezes up when faced with a numerical keypad...flashback to my days in Algebra class...

But finally it's programmed, and I am currently cooking dinner and simultaneously firing my first load of glass. One of the coolest things about working with glass is the anticipation of opening the lid after it's all cooled down to see what surprises happened under the intense heat. This kiln has a little window on the side, so I can keep an eye on things during firing too.

Here's the kiln sitting in the corner of the dining room. I may have to just throw a tablecloth over it and use it as a buffet when we have company : )

Kiln waiting for a new outlet. Thanks dad for installing that!

Getting a piece ready to fire.

Uh, oh....I think the breaker just tripped when the temp had gotten up to about 700 degrees. I reset the breaker and started it up again. Checking to see if something else is on the same circuit I'm not sure why that happened. Hoping it keeps on without a hitch.

Well, it tripped one more time, but I finally finished it up. I flashed cooled it, and now it's in the annealing stage. It wasn't the smoothest firing I've ever done, hoping everything is in tact in the morning. I wouldn't be surprised if something is cracked in half...

Flash cooling - the kiln is glowing red.

Okay, so what did I find this morning before I left for work? Everything was in tact -no cracks apparent.Still a little warm when I opened the kiln this morning, but now too hot to touch.

I plan on adding another layer of Glassline paint on top of this layer to create a more dimensional effect. This weekend, I will work on ten top layer and then fire this piece again.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ring Around the Rosies

I was waiting out in front of my office building this morning about 8:50 to take a photo of a large group on the office steps. The sun was coming up over the edge of the the building, illuminating the roses planted there.

They were almost glowing...sparkles of dew on their very red petals. I couldn't resist taking a few shots while I waited for the group to arrive and assemble. Such beauty, such simplicity, such grace, such a gift from the creator to His creation.

How often do I hurry past those very bushes without a glance?

It makes me wonder what other moments of grace I miss as I rush through life. I always feel like I am late for the next thing...from the moment my feet touch the floor in the morning until I tuck my toes back under the blanket at night...I am in a perpetual hurry. How many little spectacles of loveliness are right in front of me, but never noticed?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Wide Open Spaces...

My new kiln was delivered yesterday!

It seems huge to me, especially when compared to my 2 older tabletop kilns. This one came on a semi truck, packed in 2 crates. They delivered it to my husband's office, and then his boss kindly brought it on to the house in his truck. Tim spent time putting the stand together last night, and I found a temporary spot for it in the dining room. Hopefully, I will be able to make room in the garage soon.

It is a beautiful thing...all gleaming stainless steel and rough firebrick. I can't wait until I have a chance to test it out. I still have to coat the bottom with kiln wash before I can fire my first load, but hopefully this weekend. If we really lived in a Toy Story world, I would be worried about introducing it to my other kilns. I know they would both get immediate inferiority complexes. Especially the oldest one, he doesn't even have a digital pyrometers, and his firebrick is a little on the shabby side.

Kiln out of the box.

The stand.

The mess.

More of the mess. Maybe I can get this thing set up completely today. I'd love to have the mess cleaned up soon.

Today, I recruited my daughter to help me at another festival. We are all set up at a local Catholic school's fall festival. Someone that came by the Trillium Show last weekend suggested I do this one, and I agreed to give it a try. So far it is slow and we haven't had many lookers. I guess I gain experience even when it isn't profitable. That's glass half full thinking....

Em looks pretty today!