Women Gather in South Carolina to Exchange Gifts for the Soul

Peace. Artistic Expression. Adventure. Beauty. Sisterhood. Self-care.

My holiday season commenced with a road trip to Rock Hill, South Carolina where women of all ages gave and received gifts that nourished the spirit. Ruth Surface of Mended by Hand Massage and Wellness organized the event which benefited Keep It Real, Mommy,  a nonprofit organization empowering women to care for their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.

KIRM Founder Danielle R. Adamczyk shared her story and goals for the community she has created–women brave enough to be transparent about the challenges of motherhood. Plans include a life coach, chaplain, and counselor on staff to support women through miscarriage and grief, overcoming childhood trauma, and learning self-love.  Danielle wants mothers to know they are not alone. A fast-growing organization based in Charlotte, North Carolina, KIR plans through expansion and legislation to positively impact women’s lives nationwide.

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Danielle of Keep It Real Mommy: “50% of the women who are going to experience postpartum depression begin to spiral during their pregnancy. A good way to jump ahead of that is with a community base–a place where everyone is welcome regardless of motherhood philosophy or religious background or beliefs. A place where everyone is accepted warmly.”

Ruth asked me to read travel tales of living in Morocco and offer guests ways to chart their own adventures–local or global– in the new year. Bonus was meeting Ruth’s friends and family while spending time with her mom, Sally.  Sally and I have been soul sisters since kindergarten, and she was driving down from Virginia. I couldn’t wait to see her newest jewelry line, Chérie, inspired by the photos I’d taken on my journey in Africa–a continent Ruth and Sally called home for nineteen years. 

 

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As is the tradition in Morocco, those who attended made new friends and deepened old ties over mint tea and treats. Catering was provided by Food Taylor Made.  Guests sampled classes by Ceramics and More, soaps and lotions by Raw Essence, essential oils and massages by Mended by Hand.

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Sally made her amazing Ma’amouls– Lebanese cookies made from a buttery semolina pastry filled with exotic dates, imported nuts, Mediterranean spices, and Middle Eastern essences.  Ma’amoul is also Sally’s grandmother name which she says has  become a symbol of life’s sweet blessings and delights. 
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Photo by Blakely Dixon
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Gifts for the Soul Organizer Ruth Surface (left) and Keep It Real Mommy Founder Danielle R. Adamczyk (right)

I shared that self-care was foreign to me until I unexpectedly became a single mom when my children were one and three. I hated the times when they were away, but wise women convinced me to use the space to recharge. Over the years, baby steps—lunch out on a pretty patio, walking through the woods or a museum —eventually turned into strides—an overnight stay at a B and B, learning Latin dance, leading students and volunteering on trips abroad.  Beauty and adventure infused me with superpowers  moms, teachers, and creatives need–wonder, confidence, calm. And when my kids grew up and flew away, God called me to fly away, too. In Africa I felt like a girl again and a woman much loved. Chérie means “cherished” in French, the language of Niger and Morocco where Sally, Ruth, and I lived.

Some who attended were young moms. Others were grandmothers caring for their  parents. Most said wistfully they’d like to travel solo, with a spouse, or a friend. I offered a calendar to intentionally schedule timeouts in the new year–be they massages, art classes, trips abroad or across town.

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Practicing what we preached, Sally and I explored Rock Hill, a southern city just south of Charlotte reminiscent of the Kentucky hometown of our youth.  First stop was Ruth’s new salon smelling of newly sprouted grass, essential oils, and fresh paint. At Milk and Sugar, Owner Yolonda Licea, as delightful a lady as you’ll ever meet, makes staff and clients feel like family. Though busy preparing for the official grand opening, she sat cross-legged on the floor telling me the story of her heaven-sent space. I believed her. After my long drive from Tennessee, the facial from Jess James and massage from Ruth were as soothing as naps under angel wings.

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Yolonda Licea, owner of Milk and Sugar, Rock Hill, South Carolina’s Premier Day Spa

To book a massage with Ruth (see below), go here.

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Ruth Surface

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Jess James
Women realizing dreams at Milk & Sugar Spa and Salon

We drove to East Main Guest House Bed and Breakfast Inn which proved to be the place to stay. Though the Rock Hill square rocked with live music (Food Truck Friday), we opted not to walk into town but to relax in our beautiful surroundings. Once the home of the town doctor, the inn is now a healing haven of southern hospitality. Our room was perfect–pretty and overlooking the garden. The twin beds brought back memories of my sharing a room with my sister and birthday sleepovers (called slumber parties when Sally and I were kids). We enjoyed meeting other guests at breakfast and seeing signatures from around the world in the guest book. If you want to experience a charming, quiet getaway or need a venue for a southern wedding or women’s event, this is your place. Tell gracious Innkeepers Scott and Donna Peterson I sent you.

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Just a couple of blocks away is Amélie’s French Bakery & Café. Sally loves this spot and now I do, too.

 

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For more information on Chérie, please see brochure. And in the new year, remember to follow your heart, walk in faith, choose adventure, wonder at beauty, seek and find.

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Thank you to East Main Guest House Bed and Breakfast Inn and to Ruth of Mended by Hand for your hospitality.  As always, the opinions here are my own.

 

 

 

 

Tennessee Backroads…Natchez Trace and Loveless Cafe

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My life is a Tale of Two Cities…both tourist towns.  At Nashville’s center, 2nd Avenue, I rubbed shoulders this summer with girl gangs in shorts and boots out for barbecue and beer.  In Marrakesh’s marketplace, Jemaa el Fna, I rub shoulders with girl groups in harem pants and sandals out for a bargain and mint tea.  But sometimes the best stuff is found on country (or desert) backroads.

Though Sundays when I was growing up and picnics with my kids meant fried chicken, the last few years I’ve rarely eaten anything fried. But when on my layover in Madrid on the way to Tennessee I almost opted for KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) over a tapas bar, I knew it was time to go home. I missed biscuits and gravy.  And like I said in my first Southern Girl Gone Home post, I dreamed one night of bacon.  I’ve never eaten country ham other than at Christmas, but I couldn’t wait to taste it again. While home I porked out—literally–particularly at a place considered a national treasure.    I’m ashamed to say I have been in Nashville since 1987 and never made the trip to the Loveless Café.  Since only home for a month, I decided to check out the place People Magazine says the country ham is “the best in America” and USA Today calls “the real McCoy of Southern cooking,”  Bon Appetit gushed, “On a scale of 1 to  10, my breakfast came in at about a 14,” and Martha Stewart crooned, “It was the best breakfast I’ve ever had.”  And, of course, there’s the wall of fame– country music legends making claiming the food is iconic.

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The Loveless began as a private home hangout in the 40s where folks gathered in the living room and danced on the hardwood floor.  By 1951 Lon and Annie Loveless were serving chicken and biscuits to travelers on Highway 100 from their front door; they then added 14 motel rooms.  The rest of their history is here and check out their world-famous “Biscuit Lady,” Carol Fay Ellison making biscuits on the Today Show.

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When Taylor, Cole and I were told the wait was an hour and forty minutes, we almost bolted, but I’m so glad we didn’t. We waited only and hour and I was a little disappointed because I was having a great conversation in the Shimai gift shop with owner Becca Ganick. She loves meeting people from all over the world  who stop by.  The restaurant is open 7 AM-9 PM Monday-Friday.  We were there on a Friday at prime lunch time; to beat the crowds it’s recommended to visit Monday-Thursday 7-9am, after 2pm or  before 6pm.  Or stop in on a road trip on the Natchez Trace as I hope to do next time.  To plan it, festivals, sites, and Bed and Breakfasts along the way are listed here. It’s amazing what you can learn on backroads.

We did breakfast at lunch time (so Taylor and I tried the Blue Moon Cocktail–there actually WAS a blue moon when I was home)  but you can get lunch or supper as well. See menu here.

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While Taylor and I had breakfast, Cole chose a dinner classic--meatloaf.
While Taylor and I had breakfast, Cole chose a dinner classic–meatloaf.

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Be sure to try the GRITS–even if you aren’t a “Girl Raised in the South.”  And after the biscuits, you may want to pick up a package of their biscuit mix. I hauled mine back to Morocco…if only I could have brought the ham, too.  And if you want to try one of their recipes, I recommend the Fruit Tea Punch–especially those of you who drink only hot tea because In the south, “sweet tea” on ice is a staple, Banana Pudding with Homemade Wafers (especially if you don’t have “store-bought” wafers), Loveless Pecan Pie, or their signature Elvis Pie.  And please, all you southern cooks, leave your favorite variations and other favorite recipes in the comments for Yankees ( people from “up north” or anywhere not southern US) to try.

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Shelling beans by the bird dog over sweet tea…my mom tells the story of my dad buying a bird dog, Queenie, with an entire week’s pay when she was expecting me. Later he bought another one, Ben Hur.

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