Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spring in the Deep South, part one

Our winter was very mild this year - just one day of snow, hardly any ice and then it was spring.  When our azalea shrubs started blooming I took several pictures of them using 3 different cameras.  Our pink and white azaleas were given to me in small pots, as a gift years ago, when I had been sick.  They are now taller than me.

In April 2009 a swarm of bee settled in the pink azalea bush.  A beekeeper came and removed them.

The red azalea bush also came from a very small pot.  The flowers are larger than those in the two other azalea bushes and since it is just outside our kitchen window its bright blooms bring cheer to the kitchen.  It is even more colorful when the yellow finch family living in our yard comes to our birdfeeder.

As soon as our houseplants were placed outside, tiny red flowers appeared on one of them.  We also started some sweet basil and a heliotrope plant.

On April 1st, we visited the Smith-Gilbert Gardens close to our house.  Daffodils and camellias were still blooming then.  There were some other pretty flowers whose names I do not know.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

It is always such a pleasure walking in these gardens - so peaceful, with hardly anyone during the week.

A stop at the koi pond is always fun.

That week a Russian pianist, now living in Atlanta, gave a recital.  Her name is Dr. Elena Dorozhkina.  She started to learn piano at the age of 5.  Before moving to the U.S., Elena earned two Bachelors and Master degrees in piano performance, collaborative arts, pedagogy, voice and choral conducting from the St. Petersburg, Russia, Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory.  It was difficult taking her picture as her hands moved very fast.

On the program that day she played some Beethoven, Prokofiev, Debussy, Scriabin, Liszt and Chopin.  I tried to make a video with my camera when she played Chopin's Waltz in D-flat major, Op. 64, No. 1, also known as The Minute Waltz, although it takes a bit longer than one minute to play it.  I hope I can place it on this post.  ---- I tried to attach my video, but it said "error" so I'll find another pianist on YouTube playing this piece so you can see how fast the hands have to move to play it.  Below it is played by Valentina Lisitsa, and Ukrainian-American pianist residing in North Carolina.

I used the photos I took of Elena during her performance to play with them with my new cell phone app.  You can see the results below.

Rainy weather came the following fifteen days, as well as thunderstorms and some tornadoes.  I looked at the weather forecast every morning to see if two days of sunny weather were coming up.  Finally two days of full sun were forecast, this last Tuesday April 21 and also April 22. We went on a little trip east of Atlanta.  First we stopped at my husband's former firm.  When he retired he left behind a lovely quilt that his cousin had made for him so we picked it up.  You can see it below.  Since my husband was working for a wildlife and conservation organization, the quilt shows wild animals in the dark material.  A variety of nature and outdoor life motifs were embroidered in the light squares.

For a late lunch, we drove a bit further east to the small town of Social Circle, Georgia.  There is a well-known inn there called The Blue Willow Inn.  It features traditional Southern cuisine.  On the Web, Yelp, urbanspoon, tripadvisor and roadfood give the inn from 4 1/2 to 5 stars for their food.  The inn is located in a 1917 neoclassical Greek revival mansion with a wide portico porch supported by four fluted columns with Corinthian capitals.

Lunch came with a choice of iced tea, homemade lemonade or coffee.  Before choosing food from the buffet, I took several pictures.

As you can see above, there was a lot of choices: baked ham, chicken livers, fried chicken, roast beef and gravy, chicken and dumplings, baked salmon, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, corn, green beans, creamed potatoes, black-eyed peas, sweet potato soufflé, fried green tomatoes and chutney, rice, lima beans, tomatoes and okra, buttermilk biscuits, corn bread muffins as well as a salad bar.  I tried to take just a little bit of several items but my plate was very full. I could not finish it.  My husband's plate was quite full too.

Did you know that fried green tomatoes were a Native American dish?  They introduced it to the colonists who exported it to Europe.  The Catholic Church had banned eating ripe tomatoes because they felt that the skin of a ripe tomato had the texture of human skin and believed it was an aphrodisiac ... Then I took a look at the dessert buffet while my husband was finishing his plate.

I passed the peanut pie, strawberry shortcake, lemon meringue pie, apple pie, chess pie, spiced muffins, Blue Willow squares, brownies, coconut layer cake, peach cobbler and settled for a thin slice of chocolate cake and a small piece of pecan pie - but could not finish either.

There are several cookbooks from the inn, the latest is called The Blue Willow Inn Cookbook and is in paperback I think.  Mine, bought second-hand, is the 2005 edition of the Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking, with 600 recipes.

The inn is named for the china pattern "Blue Willow."  A collection of dishes in that pattern is exhibited throughout the house.  The mansion, decorated with antique furniture, accessories and beautiful crystal chandeliers is a perfect background for a leisurely lunch.

After lunch we stopped briefly by the front porch and sat in rocking chairs close to rhododendrons in full bloom.  

It was such a beautiful warm and sunny day that we hated to leave.  We slowly toured the garden, passing the elegant three-tiered fountain and the little garden statues.

Across the street is another impressive mansion, not quite as large as the Blue Willow Inn.

Later on I found out that this mansion was built for Sanders Upshaw in 1916.  His older brother, John, decided to have a pillared mansion built for his wife Bertha, and to have it constructed directly across the street.  In 1917, as a friendly rivalry with his brother Sanders, John Upshaw built his stately mansion larger and grander (which has been the Blue Willow Inn since 1991.)  First, John Upshaw had to have a two-story Victorian cottage built in 1899 moved to the side of his lot.  The name "Upshaw" sounded familiar to me, so I researched it on the Web.  The first husband of Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone with the Wind, was named Red Upshaw.  Below is Margaret Mitchell with Red Upshaw and underneath, Margaret as a flapper in the 1920s.  (Courtesy Atlanta History Center.)

It turns out that Red was a cousin of John Upshaw.  While Margaret and Red were courting, Margaret would come to Social Circle and stay overnight in John Upshaw's relocated Victorian cottage.  Margaret did marry Berrien "Red" Upshaw on September 2, 1922.  The best man was Red's roommate, John Marsh. By December 1922 the marriage was over because of Red' drinking and violent temperament.  The divorce was final in 1924 and Margaret wed John Marsh on July 4, 1925.  Margaret Mitchell used Red Upshaw as the character basis for Rhett Butler in her novel Gone with the Wind.  Below is Margaret and Red Upshaw on their wedding day.  Red is 5th from the left, Margaret is next to him.  John Marsh, best man, is 2nd from the left. (Courtesy Atlanta History Center.)

I selected 3 photos to use with my cell phone apps - the watercolor and the paint apps.  Below are the original photos, then the way they look after going through my apps.

We drove on further east to another historic Georgia town - Madison, Georgia ... to be continued in part 2.


David said...

Vagabonde, You sure are having a great time playing with the new apps on your phone! Great photos and it's pretty amazing what effects you can render with the new technology. We have eaten at the Blue Willow Inn a couple of times...the most recent a couple of years ago. We thought that the quality had slipped a bit. Beautiful place though... Very interesting story about 'Red' and Gone with the Wind. Thanks and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

DJan said...

Those apps do make them look like paintings. I have that piano concerto reverberating in my mind as I look at your pictures. Just stunning, all of it. :-)

Linda said...

Your photos are gorgeous, and that Russian pianist looks fantastic. I know of another Russian pianist, and she is really good! Her name is Shulamit Irina Maneev...here is one of her performances. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzvBMtIDegk

I really enjoyed your post, thank you so much for sharing. :)

Amanda said...

Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your very interesting southern life. The "minute Waltz" by Chopin made me remember of Rameau "Le rappel des oiseaux" http://au.dailycd.com/au/k/keyboardsuites/keyboardsuites.m3u

Have a wonderful spring!

Valerie-Jael said...

Beautiful post, thanks for sharing the great photos and stories. Valerie

Jenny Woolf said...

this is a charming post. Your azaleas are stunning and must look quite amazing with the yellow finches. I wish I could see them! The inn looks like a fabulous place - what a gracious house. I loved this post.

bayou said...

Hello Vagabonde, last night I was interrupted when I wanted to post my comment on your last entry - so amazing that you survived a fire in the airplane,made me shiver.
But this post is truly beautiful with all this Southern charm to it and great colourful pictures. And so interesting and full of great information, again!How can someone play a piano in such speed? I am in awe. The Willow pattern is very well known here - I have a growing collection of it and it has taken over the Danish Royal Copenhagen dishes - I love better the vivid blue of the English pattern.
Looking forward to part 2 already.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Beautiful pictures and descriptions. When we visit the south, other than enjoying the wonderful architecture, we love the cuisine. There is no better tasting food than in the south.

Thanks for the pictures and very interesting story of Margaret Mitchell.

Sweet Posy Dreams said...

Love the azaleas. When I lived in Knoxville, I think I liked the azaleas as much as the dogwoods during the dogwood festival. The inn looks like a fabulous place -- so elegant.

La Table De Nana said...

Gorgeous azaleas..homes..blooms.. dishes..photos:)

Mae Travels said...

Sad that the thought of Margaret Mitchell and her family connections not only includes the beautiful South that you write about, the early spring, flowers, beautiful homes, delicious food. But also the legacy of slavery and intolerance that still has such ramifications throughout North, South, East, and West; everywhere in the US.

That said, I enjoyed seeing your photos and reading about your travels.

sweffling said...

When I saw the photo that began this post I thought that that was your house! I was amazed.
I love the effect of those apps especially the paint one. I must look for them myself:)

Paris Rendez-vous and Beyond said...

What a delightful journey you've taken me on dear Vagabonde.

I adored the photos of Margaret Mitchell too....so interesting. After all these years, "Gone With the Wind" is still a favourite!!! How could it not be!

Thank you dear Vagabonde.....I know I'm going to enjoy Part 2!!!



Frances said...

Vagabonde, how can I tell you how much I enjoyed this post. It was a joy to go along with you on this southern springtime tour.

All those azalias round your home are gorgeous, and I find them even more beautiful learning that they first arrived to be planted when very small.

I always enjoy reading about the road trips and you and your husband take. The stops that you detail in this post offer more evidence of what a fine travel reporter you are.

Lovely to be able to collect that beautiful quilt. Yes, I did click to enlarge the photograph!

The piano concert must have been so beautiful. I am sure that the pianist appreciated having an audience who recognized her talents.

Your playing with the smart phone apps is fun to see. One of my NYC friends also loves this play, and achieves great results.

Now...on to Social Circle (what a name!) and the pleasures of dining at The Blue Willow Inn. I could easily picture myself sharing a table with you all, and making various selections...then realizing that I might have chosen too much!

It's grand that this large home is still finding a way to fund its upkeep. When I was at college in Lynchburg, Virginia, there was a similar home, turned into dignified restaurant, across the Avenue from my school. The place was called The Columns. You've definitely taken me down a part of my own memory lane.

May I also thank you for your research and the amazing wedding photograph about Margaret Mitchell and the Upshaw family.

I've much more to comment, but hope to remember it so that we can talk more when we next meet.

Best wishes to you and Jim. xo

Magic Love Crow said...

Truly beautiful, breath taking post! I always get hungry when you show the delicious food!! Hugs ;o)

Jeanie said...

Your beautiful azeleas just make my heart jump! You don't see so many of those in the north and certainly far less that are so large and grand.

Speaking of which, those homes are quite amazing -- so filled with history (I appreciate all that research you do!). And I would have loved to hear the pianist. The photos you did with the phone app are really lovely. I wish I could paint as well!

A fun post -- looking forward to part 2!

Nadezda said...

Vagabonde, I see your new adds are very useful. Love ones like watercolor. The Maison is stunning, especially I liked the blue ware, very similar to Dutch one I've seen in Delft, Holland.
I also love your azaleas and rhododendrons near Maison, am waiting for my rhododendron blooms.
Glad you had nice time listening to St. Petersburg pianist. I especially love Chopin.

Reader Wil said...

Votre jardin est si beau avec beaucoup de fleurs de printemps.
Dans mon jardin j' ai deux arbres qui sont très beaux avec des fleurs roses. Merci de votre postVagabonde! Il fait froid encore.
Wil, Abcw Team

Vicki Lane said...

What a beautiful post! Those houses are magnificent. And I love the tie-in to Margaret Mitchell! Also, your cell phone photos are amazing!

Ginnie Hart said...

You find the neatest places to visit near where you live, Vagabonde. I've made the decision that if we ever move back to America, I will make sure I go exploring like I do here in the Netherlands...and like you do there.

I really LOVE the watercolor app on your phone. It's way cool!

Sally Wessely said...

Your photos are spectacular. You made me long for the beauty of spring in place where there is so much color. We are having a rather bleak and cold spring here.

I so enjoyed reading about the history of the two mansions that you captured in your photos. You do your homework so well!

I'd love to visit the Blue Willow.

Loved the photos that were enhanced and altered by the phone apps!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vagabonde ... lovely photos and story line of life with you - the Upshaw mansions etc .. fascinating - while the restaurant offerings look so so good ..

The azalias are uplifting .. cheers Hilary

Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse said...

Such beautiful pictures of your garden. The size of your azaleas is amazing!

DeniseinVA said...

Oh my gosh I loved reading this post and seeing all those marvelous photos. A lot of work here. Thank you for sharing it.

Shell Sherree said...

I'm amazed at the size of your azaleas, Vagabonde ~ I had no idea they grew so large. We have a beekeeper in our family, so he sometimes gets maydays such as yours to come and secure a swarm and relocate them. I don't know that he's ever found them in an azalea bush!

Dewena said...

Hello Vagabonde, I have no idea how you found my little blog but I'm so glad you did so that I could find yours! I feel that I've stepped into another world here and have lost myself in it instead of eating breakfast and feeding my dogs!

I've read down through a few posts here and am so impressed by your stories and photos--and wish I had one of those watercolor apps!

I listened to the waltz and could picture your lovely Russian pianist. We drove around Social Circle for an hour a decade ago, falling in love with the houses and gardens there so I enjoyed going back with your pictures. How interesting to learn of Rhett's inspiration! And the Blue Willow Inn is lovely.

But your story of your detour while flying was fascinating! That's not something that happens everyday, it's the stuff of novels. And yes, all of these stories, reminiscences will surely be stories your grandchildren will treasure. I see by your archives that I have years of more stories to read, and I love that possibility.

So nice to have met you,

P.S. You mention my name--my mother was named for her father who was Dewey. And I was named for her!

Pat said...

What a super post I must say that is a brave bee lady to tackle them with bare hands. I hope she wasn't stung.
Heliotrope always makes me think of the film star Robert Donlevy and the film where he played a baddie. If the heroine smelt heliotrope she knew he was close. Very creepy.
Incidentally re your pianist I shall be in St Petersburg next week.DV
Waiting for your two fine days was well worth it with such a lovely place to lunch and then sit on the porch - wonderful.
I admire your apps - but don't really understand them.
Thank you for the post.

sandy said...

I enjoyed all your photos and all the info you posted - so interesting. Love them all - and have to say I've never seen such white koi. The way you format and show the photos is really nice by the way.

Lynn said...

Thanks for coming by my blog! I love that you went to the Blue Willow Inn. I visited for lunch - about 13 years ago. It looks exactly the same. Looks as if y'all might have been the first ones there that day!

Good reminder - note to self: plant basil. I haven't done that yet. Too much focus on the flowering stuff.

EG CameraGirl said...

The azaleas are so incredibly lovely! I enjoyed this post!

Cergie said...

Oui vous avez eu une belle journée ! J'avoue avoir été tentée par votre petit-déjeuner. Un cadre magnifique, des plats variés et si bien présentés et un homme séduisant attendant à ta table...
Ai-je bien compris ? Ces azalées sont dans votre jardin ? Les abeilles s'envolent parfois lorsque en entourant la reine, ces essaims sont une aubaine pour les apiculteurs...
Dans les pots je crois reconnaître surtout des pousses de basilic, cela me rappelle qu'il serait temps que je sème des plantes condimentaires si je veux en profiter plus tard....
Profite de ton printemps, Vagabonde, c'est le plus agréable moment de l'année !

Miss_Yves said...

Merci pour cette superbe visite, ces belles photos, ces fleurs printanières et toutes ces collections.

La valse de Chopin est brillamment jouée et les variations photographiques sur la pianiste russe sont plaisantes. J'ai beaucoup aimé le traitement de cette belle demeure façon aquarelle.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

The gardens that you visited (and the food) are wonderful. But I best loved your own beautiful azaleas and can't believe they grew from potted plants! You have a real green thumb! And the bee swarm removal was so interesting. I would never have thought of calling someone who would do that!

I wanted to thank you for your thoughtful comments on my 'Big Sugar' post. We seem to be going through a bad time right now as far as what we all learned in civics class (and you learned in studying for your citizenship). It is a shame that big money speaks louder than the people's votes. I hope we can turn it around eventually.

Kay said...

It's funny that as soon as I saw your first photo of the Inn, I was going to say it looked like Tara in the movie version of Gone With the Wind.

What incredible photos!

Al said...

Beautiful springtime photos, and I love piano music. We're back to winter today!

Friko said...

A garden, a beautiful house, a great meal, a concert, you have done yourself proud once again. It’s not always necessary to travel far afield, there are treasures to be had closer to home as well.

I have a collection of willow pattern myself; I wish I could sell it, I no longer want stuff that collects dust and grime.

Were you allowed to take photos at the concert? That would be frowned on here, but the pianist as well as the organisers.

stardust said...

Your garden looks perfectly lovely with those azaleas. Azaleas are blooming in my garden, too, and as I look at the azalea presented by my late mother, I think of her. I’m happy for you that your spring is fabulous with various beautiful blooms, nice music, delicious dishes, photography, and so on. Thanks for the glimpse into the deep south of America.


Jenn Jilks said...

I love you iPhone app! I have similar ones on my iPad.
What a range of topics you covered. Very beautiful photos.
Our winter was cold, snowy, and seemed long. But spring is here. Truthfully, the food is my fave, with hubby's allergies cooking has been tricky! Eating out is such a treat.

Jane said...

Such an interesting post with so many wonderful and varied photos to make me want to get out there and travel some more! I love your azaleas.

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