the wonderful world of veena.

30 August 2014

veen on the road: reynolda house.

When I stayed with Britney and Brandon in Knoxville, I mentioned to Bee that I had a few extra days in my trip to play around with, and - knowing my reputation as a history nerd - she suggested that I spend a few days in Winston-Salem. In addition to Old Salem, the restored Moravian settlement that is now a living history museum - which will be my next post - she mentioned the Reynolda House as a place of interest. And that is exactly where I headed on my first afternoon in town.

[the front of reynolda house: what used to be the front drive]
Reynolda House was the home of the RJ Reynolds family. Conceived of and designed by his wife, Katharine Reynolds, the "bungalow" is now a museum showcasing many of the family's treasures as well as some great works of American art from the 19th and 20th centuries.

[entrance to the reynolda gardens]
For $14 [or for free, if you have a valid student ID] you can get a headset and take your time wandering through the house, learning about Katharine's vision for the house - open reception hall, organ in the house, fantastic porches, etc - and seeing the basement additions - billiards and shooting room, beautiful bar, and amazing roller skating floor - that RJ and Katharine's daughter Mary made when she and her husband took over the care of the house in the 1930s.

[i love me some gazebos]
My favourite bit was definitely seeing the pipe room for the organ. The organ itself was in the reception hall, but Katharine and her architect devised some intricate way of hiding the pipes and rods in the upstairs and attic levels of the's difficult to describe, and even when I was in the house, I didn't fully understand it all until I walked up to the attic and suddenly there were hundreds and hundreds of pipes in front of my face. It was pretty incredible. Unfortunately there is no photography allowed inside the house, so I don't have a picture of said pipe room, but trust me when I say it is awesome. Or, better yet, go visit the house and see for yourself.

[beautiful gardens to stroll through]
And when you finish inside the house, go take a wander through the extensive gardens. At the time the Reynolds family moved in, the Reynolda estate was a fully self-sustaining community, complete with church, school, outdoor activities, and a fully-functioning produce and dairy farm. There were houses within walking distance of the main house so the servants could return to their own families in the evenings. There was a pond for the children - Reynolds and servants alike - to swim and enjoy some fresh air.

[more gazebos]
So yes, the gardens. They are still meticulously maintained and are completely free and open to the public. There are gazebos and benches throughout, if you feel like sitting and enjoying the view for a time. I spent close to an hour just wandering and taking pictures and could probably have stayed longer had I not been hungry and in need of some sustenance. Of all the places I visited in my 5 weeks on the road, those gardens were some of the most spectacular I encountered.

[my mother would have gone crazy for these gardens]
There is also a small village with restaurants and shops, should you wish to stay on the premises a bit longer. I ate at the tavern - those shrimp and grits were pretty good - but didn't visit any of the shops. They are more boutique as opposed to souvenir, so I decided to pass. The ice cream place looked pretty good, but I was too full after lunch to partake.

[walking toward the greenhouse]
All told I probably spent about 3.5 hours on the Reynolda property and loved every moment of it. I'm a sucker for history in general, and I especially loved learning about what a progressive family the Reynolds were. Katharine was a working woman before she married RJ, and following their marriage she raised four children while overseeing the building and then maintenance of the entire estate. According to the stories, Katharine was RJ's main advisor on home and business matters until his death, following which she took over many of his duties. Yay for women's empowerment.

The details:
  • 2250 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27106
  • Open Tuesday-Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm; Sunday 1.30-4.30pm; Closed Monday
  • General Admission is $14 and includes the audio tour guide. Admission is FREE for children under 18, students / active military with a valid ID, museum members, and employees of Wake Forest and Wake Baptist Medical Center
  • Gardens and village are FREE to visit
  • If you're doing the house and garden, give yourself at least 2 hours to fully enjoy both
  • The pool was under renovation when I visited, so I didn't actually get to see it, but I bet it will be awesome when that bit reopens. Should be completed later this year
Reynolda was one of my favourite stops on my road trip, and I would definitely urge you to visit if you are in the area.

28 August 2014

veen on the road: vegging out in greensboro.

Following Brit's Bach Beach Bash, I needed a few days to chill out. It was a crazy weekend in general, and it was also the most social interaction I had had in quite a long time, so I was very much looking forward to a quiet few days in Greensboro.

A little background: two of my very good friends from Rhodes, Stu and Carrie Johnston, live in Greensboro. Stu and I were very close in undergrad, and although Carrie and I didn't spend a whole lot of time together, we were friends and always got along very well. Stu and Carrie got married in 2008, but I had not seen them together since before their wedding, and I had not seen Stu since June of 2009, so we were long overdue for a visit.

[the "alexander", available only at corner slice in greensboro. cheese stix topped with bacon and served with ranch dressing. yes please]
When I began nailing down dates and details for this summer excursion of mine, Stu was the first person I emailed asking about the best time to visit. Once I received his enthusiastic response, I began planning the rest of my trip around that visit.

And what a great two days it was. When Stu asked me what I wanted to do during my visit, my response was something along the lines of, "I want to do what you do and eat what you eat and probably day drink a little." And that's pretty much what we did.

[stujo with the 2002-2003 copy of faces, the last year they made hard copies. it provided hours of entertainment while we were in college and continues to do so to this very day]
I got to meet a few of Stu and Carrie's friends; I accompanied Stu on a few errands around the town; the three of us went out one night for dinner; and I introduced them both to the wonders of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey.

But most importantly for everyone involved: when I arrived at their place in Greensboro on Monday morning, Stu already had the extra disc for Hoosiers in the DVD player and queued up to the scene I needed to watch -- the deleted scene that shows Buddy apologizing to Coach Norman Dale for walking off the team and asking to be allowed back on. Finally one of the longest-lasting mysteries of my life is solved!

[farewell breakfast: fried chicken biscuit with a side of bacon. sending me off in style]
My visit to Greensboro was fun and refreshing and delicious and educational, all rolled into one, and it was exactly what I needed. Stu and I spent a few hours catching up on Rhodes gossip, and once Carrie returned from work, we settled in for drinks and dinners and long chats. It was so great to see and catch up with them both, and it made me even more thankful for their friendships.

Up next: a spontaneous few days in Winston-Salem!

27 August 2014

veen on the road: brit's bach beach bash.

The first weekend of my road trip took us to Carolina Beach for Bee's bachelorette weekend, dubbed "Brit's Bach Beach Bash". Britney's cousin Cindy generously offered us the use of her home on the island, and 7 of us piled in to make camp for the weekend.

It was a 2.5 day whirlwind of gifts and drinks and beach-going and dancing, and it offered us all a chance to spend some time chilling out and getting to know each other before the wedding. We threw a little lingerie shower for the bride-to-be, we got a few songs dedicated to Bee by the band at the Sea Witch on Saturday night, and I managed to sneak in a run along the causeway and viewings of the World Cup third place and final matches.

I loved getting to spend a few days celebrating Britney and also meeting and getting to know the rest of the wedding party. I'd only met Stacy and Amy once each before, and I had not met Rachele or Angelia, so it was nice to meet them before the actual wedding.

[bee and kati before friday night shenanigans]
[rachele and bee recounting funny high school stories]
[book of gorgeous photos amy took of b+b before their nc shower]
[the vee-bees strike again]
[freeman park beach. yes please]
[hunting for amusements at the sea witch] 
[that's a girl who just got some sunglasses thrown at her from the band's guitarist]
[rach and bee before sunday morning brunch. so many curls happening] 
[rachele, britney, and amy]
[bee and amy before brunch]
[bee and amy, again]
[our brunch view from gibby's deck]
[so many boats ready to set sail]
[awesome spot for brunch, if you're ever in carolina beach] 
[my bloody mary concoction from the bar. it was pretty spectacular]
[bee with her bloody mary] 
[the brunch gang, from left to right: bee, robin, cindy, stacy, amy, angelia, and rachele]
[dinner gang, night one]
[bee and amy]
[me and rachele]
[the gang at the sea witch]
[rach and amy]
[the sister-gang] 
[britney and stacy] 
[scamming sunglasses from all over the place]
Bachelorette weekends are always a bit of a shitshow, but when they include the beach and copious amounts of Jack Daniel's, I'm pretty set.

[I know the pictures are a bit out of order. sorry 'bout that, and I promise I'll fix it before the next post. that's what happens when you have too many cameras]

33 of 52: resting and recovering.

It's been a long few months. Don't get me wrong, they have been fun and full of adventure, but they have also been busy and exhausting, and this last week was just what I needed: days full of rest and relaxation and vegging out and watching movies and eating comfort food.

With my brother home for his break, it becomes almost like a pseudo-break for me. We spend most days on the couch watching reruns of Chuck and Psych along with whatever sporting events we can find.

In between I found time for a few other things, too. I went for a few leisurely runs. I got all my hairs chopped off. I worked my first Fanbank event. I caught up with Walker and Joe and was introduced to the world of Settlers of Catan.

[hairs are all gone! shortest it's been in 5 years, and I love it]
But mostly I chilled. And it was exactly what I needed. Bring on the real world this week.

21 August 2014

veen on the road: the belmont mansion.

I began my recent road trip in Nashville. While I have been to Nashville many times in the last 4 years, I have not really spent much time exploring the city. Between catching up with friends - and spending time with baby Evelyn in more recent months - there's not been much time for sightseeing, so I made sure to find time on this trip.

As luck would have it a friend of mine from Rhodes, Lauren Winkates Ingwersen, had recently moved back to the city and had also not seen too many of the sights. Number one on my list was the Belmont Mansion, and since neither of us had been there before, we decided to check it out.

Nestled right in the heart of the university center of the city close to downtown, Belmont was the home of Adelicia Acklen and her family. During the tour you learn about Adelicia's life, her three marriages, and her business savvy that saw her oversee the Louisiana plantations she inherited upon her first husband's death.

The home itself would be considered large but not imposing by today's standards, but the interiors are pretty stunning. Many of the rooms have original furniture in them, and much of the wallpaper has been recreated using photographs and samples of the originals. One of my favourite rooms was the dining room, where you learn about the multi-course meals Adelicia served - anywhere from 7 to 17 courses! - as well as her love of china -- over the course of her lifetime she collected 7 full china sets, comprising over 3,500 pieces!

When the house was completed in the 1850s, it sat on a hill overlooking the city, and the observation tower on the house would have allowed an unobstructed view for miles and miles in any direction. As the city developed over the years, the family's property was sectioned off and sold, and at one point the mansion was actually used as a girls' school and dormitory. Eventually the university was founded and grew and developed around the mansion, and in the late 20th century the mansion became a historical site and was transformed into a museum to preserve the history of both the home and the family who lived there.

[me and winkates in front of the house]
Both Winkates and I really enjoyed our visit to the Belmont, and I would recommend checking it out if you've got an hour in Nashville and are looking for something to do.

Belmont Mansion
1700 Acklen Avenue
Nashville, TN 37212

  • Photography is not allowed inside the house, but there are plenty of great pictures you can get in front of the house and on the grounds in front.
  • Tours are circular, so there is only one tour running at a time. Depending on what time you arrive, you may be added to an ongoing tour and then restart with the next group.
  • Admission is $12, but there are available discounts for senior citizens, active military, and AAA members.
  • Hours -- 10am-4pm Monday through Saturday; 1-4pm on Sunday
  • There is a small parking lot just next to the house for visitors; additional street parking is available as well.
I'm a sucker for history and pretty houses, so this was a pretty great way to kick off the road trip.

20 August 2014

32 of 52: niece week 2014.

My nieces - my cousin's daughters - came to Memphis for their yearly visit this week, so I took it upon myself to show them as much of Memphis as I could before my brother arrived home on Saturday night. We made a few tentative lists before they arrived so as to maximize our time, and then each day one of them would choose the following day's activities and meals.

[hello, family meal at gus's. it's good to be back]
In just a few short days we managed to visit the following places:
  • Gus's Fried Chicken
  • Blue Plate Cafe
  • Stax Museum of American Soul Music
  • The Arcade Restaurant
  • Sun Studio
  • Central BBQ
  • Huey's
[oh, you know. biker night on beale st. no big deal]
[exterior of the stax museum, the birthplace of american soul music]
[collage of our day at the stax museum]
We also participated in two of Backbeat's tours - the Walking Ghost Tour and the Extended Mojo Tour - and we ran the Bardog Breakaway 5K for St Jude on Sunday, so I think we made the most of our days.

[the gayoso building downtown, home of one of memphis' newest - and most vicious - ghosts] 
[outside grawemeyer's, home of memphis' haunted piano]
[our day on the extended mojo tour included a lot of memphis history, both music and otherwise] 
[the million dollar quartet: elvis jamming with jerry lee lewis, carl perkins, and johnny cash. what i wouldn't give to have been a fly on that wall]
[the dj booth from where dewey phillips first broadcast 'that's alright mama' and then interviewed elvis for the first time] 
[pretending to be the musical host of the tour. i was pretty awesome]
[with my girls after our 5k on sunday]
And on Saturday, they surprised my brother at the airport. We timed their visit so that it would coincide with the Brother's trip home, and we managed to keep it a secret from him for the last 2 months, so he had no idea. They made a sign for him, borrowed a sombrero from my room, and accompanied my mother and me to the airport.

[mother and me at the aerotropolis]
[hiding from the brother]
[complete and total surprise]
other highlights included: sleeping in my own bed again; saw the Walsh siblings and Dillard at the race on Sunday; Brother Bear came home; started updating my resume.

[pretty sunrise on my friday morning walk with my mother]
Probably my greatest accomplishment from the week was introducing the girls to the awesome-ness that is The Mighty Ducks. 9-year-old me was ecstatic.