Favorite Recipes from the Inn Cook at the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House

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Hello there.

It’s Carol Ann, Inn Cook of County Inn Days.  Today I’m working away in my Butler’s Pantry preparing all sorts of culinary delights and because sharing doubles my joy I will share a few of the recipes I’m preparing in case you get inspired to do a little cooking  and baking yourself.

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I love cookbooks and my cookbook closet is proof of that fact.  Over the years I’ve collected quite a few wonderful cookbooks. With the help of these books menus are never ho hum affairs at The Jeremiah Brown House. There’s always something new being “cooked up” and there’s always cooking inspiration from the authors of these books. Some cookbook authors run restaurants or inns while others compile the recipes of famous personalities like Claude Monet, Beatrix Potter, Tasha Tudor or Princess Diana.  I find menu planning with the help of these books as much fun or sometimes more fun then  the actual cooking and baking.   But of course cooking and baking is great fun too  – the scents floating from the kitchen are Yummy and we all do have to eat, don’t we?

So let’s get started.

Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe comes from cookbook author, Susan Branch.  It appears in her Autumn Cookbook.  It’s fun to have cookbooks which feature special recipes for the Season.  This recipe is great with Thanksgiving Turkey or Christmas Ham.  In fact it’s on the menu for Christmas dinner here at the Jeremiah Brown House, dinner for 20.  If you’re on a diet you might want to skip it, but then again live a little .  It’s the holidays!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:  4 c. sweet potatoes cooked and mashed,  8 oz. cream cheese softened, 1/2 c. butter softened, 2 eggs beaten, 1/4 c, brown sugar, 2 and 1/2 Tbsp. dry sherry, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 c. chopped walnuts, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg.

Process:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  With electric mixer (not food processer) whip all ingredients except walnuts and nutmeg until light.  Stir in walnuts and put into a buttered casserole. Spread evenly and put nutmeg over top. Bake 45 minutes till golden brown.

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Once I try a new recipe and like it the recipe is copied and placed in a special notebook so that these tried and true favorites are easy to find when planning the next dinner party.  There are notebooks for Tea treats, for Main Course foods, for Desserts and all sorts of other categories. My father, Joe, always used to say, “You’ve got to have a system.”  So I enjoy creating a system for everything I do.  You might call these systems rituals, but  whatever you call them they help me get things done in an orderly fun manner.

But let’s make something else.

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Snake Rolls

You probably wonder why these yeast rolls are called snake rolls.  Well, though I didn’t bother with the details this time one can very easily turn these simple yeast rolls into little snakes by snipping a mouth and inserting a peppercorn for an eye.

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See?

The recipe comes from a book I have had for years.  The book is so used the cover fell off ages ago. What fun things Ann Wiseman came up with in her book – breads shaped like pocket fish that puff out when baked at 500 degrees, pink angel breads made from tomato dough, cinnamon lambs with bodies made of cinnamon buns.  So many fun things to dress up a dinner table.

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But the snake rolls are my favorite because I can whip up the dough and it keeps in a bag in the fridge for days till ready for baking –  2, 3, 4 or however many rolls I need.

Ingredients: 1 pack yeast, 2 cups warm milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs, 7 cups of flour or more.

Process: Mix and stir ingredients.  Knead until smooth.  Oil dough ball and store in fridge, covered, punch down from time to time.  An hour before any meal cut off a lump of dough.  Divide into balls.  Roll balls into snakes.  Tie snakes into knots.  Snip mouth open an add an eye.  Let snakes rise 15 minutes on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

I love baking bread.

But I also love baking pies.

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And it’s time for Pumpkin Pie.

Here’s my favorite recipe

Ingredients:  2 cups cooked pumpkin, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 3 eggs slightly beaten, 1 cup light cream, 1/2 tsp. salt and a 9 inch pie shell.

Process:  Combine pumpkin, sugar, spices and salt.  Blend in eggs and cream.  Pour into pie shell. Bake 40 to 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven until knife is inserted off center and comes out clean.

Now for the Pie Shell Recipe.  The recipe comes from my friend Nancy who now lives in Washaugal, Washington.

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Mix 1 and 1/2 cup flour wih 1 and 1/2 tsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. of salt in a pie pan.  Then mix 1/2 cup oil with 2 Tbsp. of milk and pour it into flour mixture.

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Using a fork mix everything together and press into place.

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And there you have a pie shell for pumpkin or pudding or any one-crust pie of your choice.  The crust is great for quiche too.

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But my other favorite pie is Apple.  Ah, Long live Apple Pie and good friends who share it, friends like you and I.  ( I set those lyrics to music once upon a time so I’m singing as I’m baking.)

Between my Mom and Paul Burrell, former butler to Princes Diana,   I  can come up with a lovely apple pie any time my spirit and tummy demand it.

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My Mom, Lottie, and her double crust pie pastry recipe

Ingredients:  2 cups flour, 1 tsp. salt,3/4 cup crisco shortening, 5 Tbsp. ice water

Process: Mix all ingredients except water in a food processor, then add the water a little at a time till the dough holds together like a ball.  Roll out onto a floured board.  Place crust into pie pan.

The apple pie filling recipe comes from Paul Burrell in his book, “Royal Manner”.  Paul says that this Deep Filled Apple Pie recipe is a particular favorite of the Royal Family.  Well then that’s one thing  my family have in common with the Royal Family.  They all love this pie recipe too.

Ingredients:  Pie crust recipe for double crust pie, 2 pounds of apples, finely grated rind and juice of one large lemon, 4 oz. of light brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. plain flour, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg, 2 oz. of sultanas, 1 oz. butter, 1 small egg white beaten, 1 Tbsp. caster sugar.

Process:  Roll out the pastry and place in 9 inch pie tin.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile peel, core and slice apples thinly.  Place them in a bowl and toss with lemon juice.  Mix the flour, brown sugar cinnamon and nutmeg.  Sprinkle a little of the sugar at the bottom of the pastry and mix the rest in with the apples and sultanas.  Place the apples in the pie pan and dot with butter.  Roll out the remaining crust and place on top as you wish. Brush with egg white.  Trim the pie edges and if the top is a solid piece of pastry cut a small hole in the middle.  Sprinkle the caster sugar on top.   Bake 40 to 50 minutes at 375 degrees.

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 So there you have it!  These recipes should keep you busy for a while… till the next time I share more Inn favorites.  When you make these goodies think of me or better yet, write to tell me how they turned out and how you liked them.  Sharing doubles the joy you know so share the food and share your thoughts.  I will be back with more recipes  from my Country Inn Days.  Till then Bon Appetite and enjoy!

It’s another Afternoon Tea

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For thousands of years people have been drinking tea and enjoying the tea ceremony, but I think there’s something about afternoon tea that makes it just right for us today as well.  The health conscious should approve of tea’s natural goodness and those of us who are busy, busy, busy should enjoy the restful interlude it offers around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  A tea ceremony has the ability to enrich everyday life and create  gilded moments.  Creating a tea ritual for ourselves is a very lovely civilized affair. but it’s also very nice to share the experience with others and though we can meet those others at elegant hotels or charming tea shops there is something very special about inviting people into our own homes.  It’s The Art of Hospitality,  an art (like the Art of Letter Writing) that is beautiful and should never die.

But who to invite?  We can invite anyone and everyone, old friends, new would-be friends, the young, the old and the in- between.

It’s easy.  Afternoon tea can be as simple or elaborate as you choose – a pretty china tea cup with a few slices of cinnamon toast would work just fine, but today I feel like fussing a bit.

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I recently bought a neat pan from William Sonoma that makes brownies or other simple cakes into interesting elongated shapes.  Today seemed like the perfect day to try out this pan.

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And I’m happy to say the pan worked very well. Aren’t these brownies cute?

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A little powder sugar to dress them up and a very simple recipe can look quite snazzy on the tea table.

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I always like to experiment with at least one new recipe for my tea parties so today that recipe is for a carrot cake and the recipe is a keeper.  Let me share the recipe with you.

Carrot Cake

For the cake:  2 eggs, 2/3 cup light brown sugar, 5 tbsp. vegetable oil, generous 3/4 cup self-rising flour, 1 and 1/2 cups grated carrot, 1 tsp. cinnamon and scant 1/2 cup shredded coconut

For the topping:  1/2 cup cream cheese, 3/4 stick butter,1/2 cup confectioners sugar, grated rind of 1 lime,toasted coconut and grated lime

Process:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and line a 2 lb. loaf pan or a 7 in round cake pan.

2.Beat together the eggs and sugar until very creamy.  Add the oil and beat hard.  Fold  in the remaining ingredients and turn into the prepared pan.  Smooth the top,  then slightly hollow out the middle to avoid a very domed top on the finished cake.  Bake for 35-40 minutes   until golden and well risen and a skewer comes out clean.

3.  Remove the cake from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  To make the  topping beat the ingredients together until light and creamy and spread over the top of the cake.  Make a pattern with the prongs of a fork.

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In addition to the brownies and carrot cake I also whipped up two other goodies to serve to my guests.  These chicken salad sandwiches served on wheat bread provided a little sustenance to the menu…

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as did little phyllo cups of egg salad.

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I also served my stand by recipe for scones.  I like to serve the scones with Devon clotted cream but today I decided to whip up ordinary heavy cream instead …and I always serve the scones with Bonne Maman’s Raspberry preserves.  Yum!

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Now it’s time for a little art play.  I dig out my watercolor pencils and create place cards for myself and my guests.  I’m matching the flowers on the name tags to the flowers on the table.

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These little touches make an afternoon tea special.

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So the food is prepared and the table is set and now all that’s needed are my guests. Today those guests are of the younger generation for as I said before afternoon tea is for everyone and if we adults don’t expose children to the finer things in life (like afternoon tea) who will?  Besides, I believe it’s important to have friends of all ages.  My older friends teach and inspire me and they make me feel young and my younger friends help me lighten up and remember what it was like to be young. Diversity is important, all kinds of diversity.

Well here they are now.

All these young ladies are angels and singing angels at that for they all sing in the Church choir I conduct.  How lucky I am to meet so many sweet young people (and they’re not all girls either). My next children’s tea will hopefully have a few boys attending for as I said before, afternoon tea is for everyone!

I can remember being eight or ten or 13 years old, can’t you?  I appreciated adults taking me seriously, talking to me and listening with interest to what I had to say. Afternoon tea is a great time for friends to share and get to know each other better.  Taking time, in person, with people we care about becomes its own reward.

I find creating the afternoon tea ceremony for guests lets me offer my friends and acquaintances what often seems in short supply these days – attention and the wish to please. Sure, it’s a little bit of work, but tea can be infinitely variable in style and complexity.  The food served can be simply made or for that matter even purchased.  As in so many things it’s really the thought that counts most.

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The time flies at my tea party and before I know it the party is over.  There’s a little washing up to do, but not much.

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And as the last tea pot is set on a towel to dry I’m left with a warm, satisfied feeling.  This feeling comes over me whenever I dabble in The Art of Hospitality. I’ve had such fun today.  I can’t help but start wondering about my next tea.  Who shall I invite? What shall I serve and where shall I serve it?  There’s much fun to anticipate.

So enjoy your daily afternoon teas but  I hope you invite others, young and old, to share the experience now and then.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles he joy.

It really does!

It’s a Country Inn Day – Sharing Tea Day

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Here I am on another wonderful Country Inn Day.  I’m so glad you could join me.  What do you do first thing every morning whether you’re at home or off on holiday at a gracious Country Inn or snazzy hotel?

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My idea of fun is to write a letter with my first cup of coffee every day and that’s exactly what I do here at the Inn this morning.  I’m writing to Erika, a professional chef who lives and works in the state of Washington, but as I read her letter and respond I feel as though Erika is here with me at the Inn.  Letters are like that.  They help friends transcend the miles.  John Donne, the late sixteenth early seventeenth century English poet, put it this way – “Letters mingle souls.”

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But I could use more than Erika’s spirit and soul here at the Inn today.  I could use her professional expertise because on this Country Inn Day I will not only be playing the part of Inn Guest, Innkeeper, and Inn Maid, but I’ll also be playing the part of Inn Chef.   I’ll don my special coat and cap in preparation for a Sharing Tea.  I bet if Erika were here in person she could help me whip up some extraordinary tea treats.

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I do have these guys to inspire me.  They “hang out” (literally) in my kitchen, but though they look pretty cute they’re not a lot of actual help.  I get my help from cookbooks, and do I have cookbooks, only about a million of them.  At each Sharing Tea I like to experiment just a little, so I always choose one new recipe and today that recipe  comes from a little historic book.

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The book is called “Victorian Parlors and Tea Parties”.  It’s written by Patricia B. Mitchell.  After reading and enjoying notes on the tea meal and how it came to be, along with information concerning the role of the Victorian wife and details of the Victorian parlor, I settle down to find that new recipe which I can make for and serve to today’s Inn guests.

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High Muck-a-Muck Crabmeat Spread

I look through all the recipes and decide on this simple crabmeat spread which is served on crackers. The little green pepper garnish is my idea.  You might like to try it yourself.  Here’s the recipe.  It’s quick and easy.

High Muck-a-Muck Crabmeat Spread 

Ingredients:  1 lb. crabmeat, chopped, 1 c. Cheddar cheese, grated, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 2 green onions, finely chopped

Process:  Mix.  Spread on toast rounds, triangles, or crackers.  Heat 5-10 minutes at 400 degrees until hot and bubbly.  Serve hot.

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Today’s tested recipes come from a favorite little booklet called “Tea Time”.  This booklet is created by the Gooseberry Patch people and I’ve discovered many tasty treats within its pages as well as amusing general information concerning the tea ceremony.

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Today I make  “Tea Time’s” Caramelized Pecans.  These sweet nuts are a great garnish for chicken salad puffs ( another recipe in the “Tea Time” booklet), but they can stand on their own quite nicely.

Caramelized Pecans

Ingredients:  1/2 cup sugar  3/4 cup pecan halves

Process:  In a heavy saucepan, heat sugar over medium heat ’til melted (about 4 minutes.)  Stir constantly to avoid burning sugar.  Stir in pecans until well-coated.  Remove pan from heat.  Pour mixture onto wax paper.  Cool.  If stuck together, break apart.  Use whole or coarsely chop is using as a garnish.

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But now as Inn Chef it’s time to do some baking.  How about some Cream Scones?  Scones are  always perfect for a tea party and my “Tea Time” book has a good recipe for them.

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Scones are yummy, generously topped with Devon Cream (imported from England) and jam.  Here’s the recipe.

Basic Cream Scone

Ingredients:  2 c. flour, 1 T. baking powder, 1/4 t. salt, 4 T. sugar, 6 T. butter, 2 eggs, beaten, 1/3 c. cream, milk or half-and-half

Process:  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  With a pastry blender or Cuisinart cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a separate bowl, combine eggs and cream until well blended.  Stir cream mixture into dry ingredients until they are moistened.  Divide the dough into two 8-inch rounds on a greased baking sheet.  Cut the dough with a sharp knife into 8 wedges.  Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or till scones are golden brown.

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Tips for tender scones

Rule No. 1  Thoroughly mix dry and liquid ingredients in separate bowls before combining together.

Rule No. 2  Don’t over-mix when adding dry and liquid ingredients, and don’t over-handle the dough.

Rule No. 3  Over-baking will result in dry scones.  Oven temps may vary so check your scones every 5 minutes before baking time is up.

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The only other tea time treat I’ll be serving today is a chocolate covered apricot which is topped with crushed pistachios.  There’s nothing to this recipe.  All you do is melt semisweet chocolate chips, dip the apricots into the melted chocolate and then roll them in crushed pistachios.

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These apricot nibbles are a yummy snack anytime you crave something sweet, but they’re also a nice addition to the tea table.

Today’s  recipes are all simple to make and require little preparation time.  Of course, if you happen to be a pastry chef you can go all out and dazzle your guests with impressive creations, but if you’re not, the idea is simply to have some little treats for your guests to enjoy.

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My work as Inn Chef is now complete.  I feel a magical change coming over me.  I am now being transformed from Inn Chef into Innkeeper and as Innkeeper I have other duties.  I must assemble the tea treats onto a tray…

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and I must light the fire, fluff the pillows, turn on the music and stand ready to welcome the Inn guests.  This is the moment I’ve been waiting for and voila…

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The Inn guests have arrived!

Did I tell you how a Country Inn Day Sharing Tea works?  There’s always someone old invited (an old friend), someone new (a new acquaintance on the way to becoming a friend), someone borrowed maybe two (old and new invited guests may be asked to bring a friend).

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Joni is today’s someone old for she’s been a friend for ages.

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Carole is the someone new.

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And Carol brought Lynn along so she’s the Inn’s borrowed guest, just one today, not two.

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The tea is poured and this Country Inn Day Sharing Tea Party has begun.  Once again I am transposed from Innkeeper now to Inn Guest.  This is  the magic of a Country Inn Day!  I can now relax and enjoy.  I wish you could be here with us for there’s nothing quite like taking a nice break every now and then to relax and visit with friends in a serene setting over a cup of tea.  Our worlds are so full and our tasks can be very demanding.  It seems to me relaxing break-times are not only nice, but a must.

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And when the Inn guests take their leave and the Inn Maid (me) does her magic, cleaning up the dishes, I’m left with a feeling of sweet satisfaction, for Henry James had it right when he said,   “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”, except maybe the hours of preparation leading up to afternoon tea.

It’s all fun – Country Inn Days, Sharing Teas, Imagination, Creativity and Play.  These things are great escapes from ho hum ordinary days.  Don’t take my word for it.  Indulge, and you’ll see for yourself.  Go ahead.  Have your own Country Inn Day and/or Sharing Tea and …

PLAY

Guests are on their way to share my Country Inn Day

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The Jeremiah Brown House 1853

How I look forward to Country Inn Days, my regular escapes from reality and ordinary life.  Every Inn Day is a little different.  Today my Country Inn Day has magically transformed me into an Innkeeper. Why Innkeeper?  It’s because tonight guests are expected here at the Jeremiah Brown House and someone has to prepare for them.  Who better than me!  If  you’ve ever entertained you’ve assumed this role of Innkeeper yourself whether you realized it or not.  

I love to entertain because I believe in sharing.  Sharing doubles the joy.  If we’re lucky enough to have a home I think we should share that home with others.  It shouldn’t be for us alone. What fun is that?   So today as Innkeeper I will get busy and also supervise the Inn staff, that being the Inn housekeeper (me) and Inn chef (me). Together we’ll work at fluffing, polishing and preparing the Inn for tonight’s guests.  There’s much to be done.

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I order the housekeeper to wash all the floors  and vacuum all the carpets.  She gets right to it. Do you enjoy cleaning?  Well, having guests in gives one a little extra incentive to pull out the rubber gloves, bucket of hot soapy water and any other tools necessary to make the place sparkle.  Having frequent guests inspires one to keep things in tip top order.

If a little cleaning is done regularly not too much has to be done to prepare our place for guests.  Besides, we should all live well every day in every moment and that’s easier to do if our surroundings are tidy, clean and pleasing all the time.

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The night before this Country Inn Day, because I am a conscientious and caring Innkeeper, I got a head start preparing the Inn for my guests.  I visited the local gourmet market to pick up a few things.

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Flowers for sure!

“How can one help shivering with delight when one’s hot fingers close around the stem of a live flower, cool from the shade and stiff with newborn vigor”  – Colette

I am lucky to have the Hudson Heinen’s Market nearby where I can find flowers of every kind – roses, Asiatic lilies, delphiniums  and many other gorgeous blooms.  Some women love shoes.  I love flowers!

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All dwellings deserve flowers every day.  I want my guests to step into the Inn and be delighted with what they see.  Flowers delight.

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” – C. Monet

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At every turn flowers give the eye something beautiful to gaze upon.

“Flowers really do intoxicate me.” – Vita Sackville-West

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To walk in the door and be greeted by flowers is just the nicest thing.

“Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed the soul.” – Koran

I keep fresh flowers around every day.  You should too.  Life is short and we must treat ourselves to beauty every chance we get. But on Country Inn Days, and especially when guests are expected at the Inn,  a few extra blooms are added.  And that’s just one of the reasons why I love Country Inn Days.

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“When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.” – Chinese proverb

On a personal note I feel sad that my own mother did not enjoy flowers in her home as I do. This was for good reason.  My mother lost many sisters and brothers in her lifetime, attending many funerals with many flowers, so flowers began to represent death to her rather than life. This was so tragic because beauty is designed to lift us up, not put us down.  We need flowers in our daily life now, flowers all around our happy moments.  Why?  It’s because beauty is a very good thing.  It becomes us.  It improves us.  Then when flowers are sent at sad times that beauty will help us feel better, not worse.

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But flowers are not the only thing I buy at the gourmet market. This market is a good place to find special drinks as well as prepared food items.  Buying prepared food items  on Country Inn Days takes the pressure off the Inn chef.  She (me) always creates something special for guests, but appreciates a little extra help too. So today I buy grilled shrimp to serve guests at cocktail time.  I will also serve the Inn chef’s specialty of the day. What is that specialty?  Today it’s Cheese Straws.  Have you ever made Cheese Straws? Let’s step into the Inn’s kitchen and see how they’re coming along.

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I see the puff pastry is rolled out ready for the Gruyere and Parmesan cheese topping.  I’m told the cheeses are mixed with thyme amonst other things.

IMG_6639[1] They are then cut into strips,

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twisted, and placed on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  They bake at 375 degrees for just a few minutes and

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the Cheese Straws are ready for our guests.

The Innkeeper, Inn Housekeeper and Inn Chef have done their things and now it is time they are transformed into Inn guest. That’s me!  I now will enjoy the fruits of their ( my) labor along with the other guests who will be arriving soon.  Ah, the magic of a Country Inn Day.

IMG_6649[1] The drinks are being readied.

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The candles are lit and the fire is set.

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One last look around to be sure everything is in just the right place.  I must place the Cheese Straws on the table.

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And it looks good to me.  I hope the Inn will look good to the other guests as well for I want the best for my guests who deserve nothing less.  I want them to enjoy their stay here.  I intend to enjoy mine. Each Country Inn Day is a great escape from the ordinary.  The shopping and cleaning and baking and polishing is always worth the effort in the end.

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The guests arrive.  We have a lovely time chatting and sipping and sampling the appetizers and then we decide it’s time to venture into Hudson for a little dinner.  This dinner the Inn chef (me) does not have to prepare.  She gets a night off.  Goodie!

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We’re headed to one of Hudson’s best restaurants, Solaire.  It’s almost a secret because it’s hidden away upstairs in one of the buildings at First and Main. I don’t think too many people know about this luxurious hideaway, and that’s fine with me, because it’s never crowded and always quiet.  I hate noisy restaurants where you have to strain to hear or be heard by your dinner companions. One purpose of Country Inn Days is to ‘rest and relax’ and at Solaire dining is a luscious, restful experience.  Come with me.

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Just follow the oriental rug.

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and we’re here!  Lovely, isn’t it?  Intimate and elegant.

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 There are tables for two and tables for more, all set with crisp, white linen and flowers.

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 The gal behind the bar is sweet and attentive.

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She shows us to a table and takes very good care of us.  It’s nice to serve others, but it’s also nice to be served.  There’s a time for everything under heaven.  I hope you take that time to treat yourself and others well.

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A little work, a little play, a little imagination and life seems so much sweeter.  Country Inn Days put it all together.  We don’t have to venture far away, packing our bags and spending lots of money in order to have sparkling fun.  We can do those things, but we don’t have to. It’s possible to stay right at home or in our very own neighborhood. All we need do is look into ourselves and create the life our heart imagines, a snazzy life for ourselves, our spouse, our family, and our friends.  We should create this sparkle every day, but add a little extra pizzazz on Country Inn Days.  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes agrees with me for he wrote the following words in a letter to a friend back in 1911.

“Life is a romantic business.  It is painting a picture, not doing a sum – but you have to make the romance , and it will come to the question how much fire you have in your belly.”

Enjoy!

A Passion for food, A Passion for Sharing in Letters

passionpassion

If you’re like me you enjoy a great many things, but I wonder if you’ve cultivated some of those favorite things into full-blown passions.  It’s great to enjoy a subject, but it’s quite another thing to make that subject your own by developing rituals around it so it becomes more .  Once a subject becomes a passion it offers us so much more delight.

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Do you love cooking and baking as I love cooking and baking?

I love to discuss my passions with friends.  Why?  It’s because sharing doubles the joy. One of my passions easily shared in letters is my passion for food – cooking, baking and entertaining with food.  Is food one of your passions too?  Even if you don’t enjoy working with food yourself you probably enjoy eating it, so reading food stories or recipes in letters just may make your mouth water and keep you entertained.  And if the subject of food delights and amuses you as it does me then finding like-minded pen friends will make your day.

I have a number of such like-minded, food-loving, happy cooker/baker-type pen friends.  There’s Shari, a gal I met through a friendship book many years ago.  Shari lives in Wisconsin.  And I’ve met a number of wonderful foodies through The Letter Exchange: Amelia in Minnesota, Maureen in Massachusetts and Tracy in England just to name a few.  These gals share their favorite recipes with me as I share mine with them.

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Pizza pasta salad

Shari loves salads on hot Summer days: Pizza Pasta Salad, Guacamole Chicken Salad, Cranberry Salad and Chicken Noodle Salad.  What?  You only ever heard of Chicken Noodle Soup?  Well, live and learn.

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Spicy roasted brussel sprouts

Recently Amelia sent me a recipe for Spicy Roasted Brussel Sprouts.  Yum!  All you need for this recipe is olive oil to coat the sprouts, a few pinches of kosher salt, red pepper flakes to taste, a little bit of honey, and of course, brussel sprouts.  Mix ingredients together, place in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes and the sprouts will become soft, caramelized and delicious!

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Seed Cake

Tracy, my English pen friend, loves tea and tea treats as you might expect.  Sharing doubles her joy as well as mine. She offers me little escapes regularly as she describes the charming tea houses she visits in villages in and around Guildford, England.  Recently Tracy sent me a recipe for Seed Cake.  I can’t wait to try the recipe.  I remember watching one of  Agatha Christie’s  Miss Marple films where Seed Cake was discussed.  The characters were saying they hadn’t had Seed Cake for ages and they were thrilled to see it on the menu.  Soon Seed Cake will be on the menu at the Sharing Teas I host regularly and I’ll be using an authentic English Seed Cake recipe too.  This makes an afternoon tea lover like me quite excited.

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Irish Soda Bread

I have a feeling my pen friend Maureen was named for the famous Irish actress, Maureen O’Hara.  I say that because Maureen’s mother was born in Ireland and her father was first generation Irish-American from South Boston (Southie as Bostonians call it). Back in the days of Maureen’s father’s youth, living in South Boston was just like living in Ireland – at least that’s what Maureen tells me.  Her parents met on Saint Patrick’s Day in Southie.  Is it any wonder Maureen sent me a delicious and wonderful recipe for Irish Soda Bread?  I must share it with you so next Saint Patrick’s Day you can make this tea time treat and dazzle all your friends.  You can tell them the recipe is “pure Irish” for Maureen said she couldn’t be more Irish if she were a leprechaun.

Maureen’s Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:  4 cups of all purpose flour, 3T. sugar, 1 T. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. baking soda, 6 T. butter, 1 1/2 cups raisins, 2 eggs, 1 1/2 cup buttermilk

Process:  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 2 quart round casserole dish.  2.  In a large bowl mix first 5 ingredients with a pastry blender, or by hand.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  3.  Turn dough onto well-floured surface, with floured hands knead 8-10 strokes mixing thoroughly.  Shape dough into a ball and place in casserole.  In center of ball cut a 4 inch cross about 1/4 inch deep.  4.  Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes (check after an hour) or until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.  5.  Cool in casserole pan on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and finish cooling on rack.

Happy Baking!

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Though every personal letter is special, having pen friends who share one or more of your passions makes letters even better.  Any letter received from these soul mates will be extra special and great fun.  Don’t take my word for it.  Reach out and you’ll be sure to find kindred spirits who will make the Art of Sharing in letters one of your very favorite things.  Sharing  may even become a passion in its own right.

Sharing in Letters

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As I sat on my porch this morning getting ready to write my letter of the day, I gazed out the window and it sure looked like rain was on the way.   It wasn’t but a few minutes later that the rain did come – and a welcome visitor it was.  Hudson has been very dry lately and all the trees and plants have been mighty thirsty.

Any hour, any day, any situation,  is a good time to write a letter, but sitting peacefully while watching and listening  to the music of raindrops is an especially delightful  accompaniment to letter writing.

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I pulled out my stationary and pen, sipped my morning coffee, and enjoyed the raindrops bouncing against the flagstone as I pondered just what to say in my letter to favorite pen friend Joy.  I was answering a sweet little package she recently sent me… yes,  I mean package.  Joy is always surprising me with the creative-looking letters she sends my way.

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This time Joy put pages of blue-lined letter paper into a little white bag, the bag was decorated with delightful pictures.  This bag then went into her envelope.  It never ceases to amaze me how many different ways Joy will package her letters to me.  Such visual fun she offers all her lucky correspondents.  So what could I now send  Joy that might delight her half as much?

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Because we both enjoy cooking and baking I decided a pretty recipe card with an interesting recipe might be something Joy would like.  Yesterday I was reading a favorite blog, Poppy’s Patisserie, and I came upon a three-ingredient brownie recipe.  Many people commented on her blog saying they loved this recipe so I took it down. Besides the fact that these brownies are supposed to be delicious, they also seem very simple to make. (And we all know simplicity is truly appreciated by most people these days.)  The recipe calls for only 3 ingredients and one bowl to dirty, Yes! I thought Joy might really like this recipe. I can’t wait to try it myself  and you might like to try it too. If you do try it and like it don’t thank me, thank Poppy.  Here it is:

Nutella Brownies

Ingredients  – 1/2 cup Nutella spread, 1 large egg, 5 T. plain flour, 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (optional)

Process  –  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or line 6 muffin tins with paper cups.  Wisk egg and Nutella together.  Add flour and wisk some more.  Put mixture in tins and sprinkle with nuts.  Bake 13-14 minutes.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream

Pretty simple, huh?

I hope the recipe will please all of us, especially Joy, but I also wanted to send her another thing, a Friendship Book.  Have you ever heard of Friendship books?  Most people in the States haven’t, but my pen friends over seas seem to know all about them.  They send me Friendship books in most of their letters.

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Some Friendship Books

Friendship books come in all shapes and sizes with various looks.  They’re usually quite small, 4 x 6 inches or smaller, so they can easily be tucked into a letter envelope.  Inside the little Friendship book people put their names , addresses, a list of their favorite things, and they either say “Hello, just passing through”, or they say, “Please write me”.

The book is signed and then is sent off  in a letter to another  friend who signs the book and passes it on again.  The last page of the book will say “When full please return to”…. and the name and address of the creator will appear.  It’s really fun to see how these little books get around, and all along their travels  they give letter writers the opportunity to connect.  I have found many delightful correspondents  with the help of these little jewels.

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Some people design darling little Friendship books.  Here’s one created by my pen friend Tamra.  She lives in Portland, Orgeon.

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Take a look inside.  People fill the little books in as they please.  There are no rules.  You can create your own Friendship books any way you like.  If you  get in the habit of inserting one in each of your letters you can feel proud that you’re helping  to spread love and friendship around the world.  It’s fun, especially when, like a boomerang, your Friendship books start returning to you filled with new perspective letter friends.

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I like to create my Friendship Books using ribbon and polka dots.  If you’re one of my correspondents it’s just a matter of time before a Friendship book will arrive in a letter from me to you.

There are so many things to enjoy in life and many of them can be shared in letters.  Tasty recipes and Friendship Books are two things I especially enjoy sharing in my letters. I wonder what you like to share in your letters.  Maybe you’ll write and tell me.  I’m always open to new ideas.

So write a comment on this post.  Write a letter to me. Write a letter to someone else.

Just Write!

A letter of Joy

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One of Joy’s letters

I’m a lucky girl.  I have some wonderful pen friends, and wonderful pen friends are essential  to the full enjoyment of  the Art of Letter Writing.  This could be part of the reason why some people never fall in love with letters.   They lack quality correspondents, quality correspondents like my friend Joy.  Joy is a treasure.  She shares my love and appreciation for beauty so each of her letters is a feast for the eyes and a feast for the spirit.   Even before I read what Joy has to say I’m delighted by the sheer look of her letters.

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Joy’s letters always contain some visual surprises.  Take the envelope above.  When was the last time you received a letter addressed  to you with the individual letters of your name cut out from a magazine? Now there’s a fun idea I may have to copy in one of my next letters.  Creative pen friends give each other all sorts of fun, artistic ideas.

 I’m always saying “sharing doubles the joy’, but as you can see, sharing also doubles,  or at least stimulates, our creativity.

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Joy had been living in Switzerland until recently so she  subscribes to a Swiss magazine and she shares it with me in bits and pieces.  The above picture posted at the start of her letter, with the inviting table setting, ( which inspired me to create my own pretty table) bears the inscription – Life is beautiful,  See what I mean?  Joy is always sharing beauty in her letters – literally!

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Joy and I both enjoy cooking and baking so we’ll often exchange recipes in our letters, recipes we’ve tried and liked.  The salad above was one of Joy’s favorites.  Don’t you love cookbooks with pictures?  I sure do, so I appreciated the picture of this salad  every bit as much as its recipe –  and now I share both with you.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles the joy!

GRILLED VEGGIES WITH  MOZZARELLA

You’ll need: 3 red onions, 4 small tomatoes, 1 yellow bell pepper, 1-2 zucchini, olive oil, 2 mozzarella balls, lemon juice (fresh), freshly ground pepper, salt, fresh basil

To Prepare: Peel onion.  Wash veggies.  Wash basil and dry.  Slice tomatoes and onion into halves.  Slice the peppers into quarters.  Slice the zucchini.  Brush the veggies with olive oil and grill.  Leave the tomatoes off for last.  Cut up the mozzarella into small chucks.  Mix veggies, cheese and basil together on a plate.  Sprinkle olive oil and lemon juice over top and salt and pepper to your liking.  ENJOY!

Naturally a great pen friend like Joy deserves good letters in return, so I try my best to reciprocate with pizzazz.  I’ll sometimes look through my collection of art books to inspire my stationery designs for Joy’s letters.  Children’s books are especially delightful sources for inspiration.  Take this one:

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“The Little Hands Art Book” by  Judy Press.  This book may have been designed for 2 to 6 year olds, but it has lots of wonderful art ideas for those of us who happen to be a wee bit older.  Consider paper dolls.  Have you ever made paper dolls?  I hadn’t.  Somehow this skill escaped me till I recently came upon this great little book.

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Once you learn the technique of making paper dolls you can make paper anything to decorate your personal stationery – paper snowflakes, paper music notes, paper houses, or how about my paper flowers?

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These flowers were so fun and easy to make – I drew them, cut them out, painted them and then affixed them to my paper using a glue stick, allowing their petals to flutter freely in the breeze.  A little  grass drawn beneath the flowers and voilá!

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 one- of -a- kind art work for my special penfriend’s letter

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And before I seal the envelope on the letter I’m sending off to Joy I just may tuck in one of my new tested recipes.  After all, one good recipe shared deserves another, and I discovered  a great recipe for baked yeast doughnuts recently.  Here you see the donuts raising on parchment paper.  Maybe you’d like the recipe too. I’ll add it to this post.  It comes from  a wonderful blog called Maggiesonebuttkitchen or was it Poppy’s Patisserie?  Both blogs have great recipes.  If you visit either one tell them Carol Ann says hello.

IMG_4645[1]No Fry Doughnuts

Ingredients:  2 pkg. active yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, 1 and a half cups whole milk, 2 eggs at room temperature, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/3 cup shortening, 4 1/2 cups flour, 1/4 cup melted butter

process:  Dissolve yeast in warm water and mix, add milk, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, eggs, shortening and 2 cups of flour.  Mix at low speed i minute scraping bowl.  Beat 2 minutes at medium speed scraping bowl.  Stir in remaining flour and mix till smooth.  Cover.  Let rise till double.

Turn dough onto floured board.  Roll dough around to coat with flour.  The dough is soft.  Roll to 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut with floured doughnut cutter. (2 1/2 inch with 1/2 inch hole in center.)

Place two inches apart on parchment paper, cover and double in size.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes till golden.  Brush with butter and then glaze as you wish.

Glazes

Cinnamon sugar:  1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (toss in bag)

Chocolate glaze:  4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, 1/3 cup butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, hot water (Melt butter and chocolate, add sugar and vanilla and stir.  Add enough hot water to make glaze.

Vanilla Glaze:  1/3 cup butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla, hot water

Note:  The chocolate glaze is nice with sprinkles and the vanilla glaze is nice with coconut

Happy Baking!

And so I come to the end of another visit with you.  It’s been a pleasure sharing my joy – my friend Joy, the joy I receive from her letters, and the joy I find every day in The beautiful Art of Letter Writing.

Till we meet again

TAKE JOY!