Any time of year is the right time to welcome guests to The 1853 Jeremiah Brown House, but when my work schedule slows down in Summer I’m even more ready to entertain. On Country Inn Days I sometimes like to imagine I’m the Innkeeper of my old house. I take great pleasure in getting the place ready for guests – fluffing, polishing, preparing the menu and planning the agenda so my guests have a pleasant visit. Yes, it’s a bit of work but very delightful work.
It’s fun looking through my cookbooks to choose the recipes I’ll be serving. It’s also fun reviewing my china and linen cupboards. What items haven’t been used lately?
I just love to collect pretty things, don’t you? But what’s the point in having pretty things if we don’t put them to use. I think we should use our pretty things every day, but sharing them doubles the joy. Sharing is like that.
Depending on the weather or my mood I’ll entertain guests in various rooms and settings. I also like to move guests around through the course of a visit. Variety is the spice of life, right? So as I plan the food and the serving pieces I also plan an agenda for where we’ll do what. A very short visit works well in one location, but if guests are to be with me for a longer period of time I think it’s fun to move them around a little.
So all this goes into the planning of any sort of event at The Jeremiah Brown House.
For today’s Summer luncheon I decided to start things off with coffee and pastries in the formal dining room. I’ll use my antique cutwork placemats which look pretty against the dark wood of the table.
I’ll also use my Laura Ashley china. It’s the Clifton pattern. Rather than bringing the coffee, tea and pastries to my guests I decide to set up a buffet in the Butler’s Pantry and let guests help themselves.
And here it is !
Because this food is meant to be just a little nibble before the main luncheon is served I’ve presented only two items. They are . . .
Cinnamon Coffee Cake
and Cheese Strudel.
The cheese strudel is always a big hit at my gatherings so in case you might like the recipe here it is – quick and easy.
Ingredients: 2 pkgs. Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, 2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, 1 c. sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 tsp. vanilla, (2 Tbsp. warm milk, 1 c. powdered sugar mixed together for the glaze).
Process: Beat cram cheese, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla together. Spread one tube crescent rolls in a 9 x 13 inch pan. Pinch perforations together. Spread cheese mixture over dough. Unroll the second package of rolls, placing them on top of cheese mixture (you may pinch the edges together). Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Brush on the glaze immediately after removing strudel from the oven. Refrigerate.
The buffet is ready as is the table. Now for the guests . . . and here they are!
Marilyn and Evelyna
Connie and Jackie
See the bright, happy smiles on girls who want to have fun. These gals are a few of my wonderful friends. Girlfriends are the best! They’re in the right place for a fun day too because as host I will do my very best to make everything as pleasant and delicious as possible for them. After all, that’s my job as Innkeeper, isn’t it?
The girls make their way to the Butler’s Pantry and they help themselves to the goodies I’ve prepared. At this point I can transform myself from Innkeeper to just another Inn guest – at least for a few minutes. That’s the magic of a Country Inn Day.
Happy guests, chatting away. I pour myself some coffee. Yes girls, I’m coming to join you.
But after a while I excuse myself because I have to get ready for the next stage of this visit.
There’s snow on the ground and the temperature is 16 degrees. It seems like a good day to stay all cozy and warm indoors, a good Country Inn “in” Day.
“Of all the places I’ve been to wine in, to dine in to have a good time in you can’t beat an old Country Inn.”
This poem was found in an old Red Lion Inn scrapbook penned by an anonymous guest and I quite agree. I’d love to enjoy today’s Inn stay at my favorite Red Lion Inn, but alas, it’s 500 miles away and I just can’t zip over to Massachusetts – so the next best thing is to experience an Inn stay in my very own historic home, the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House. Here I will step out of regular routines just as I would do at The Red Lion Inn and I’ll treat myself to a nice escape. Everybody needs a break from routines now and then. Don’t you?
My day begins with breakfast in bed.
If you plan ahead as I did the Inn kitchen is stocked and the breakfast tray is standing ready. This morning it’s set with Laura Ashley ‘Tea for two’ china, a warm croissant, raspberry jam, orange juice and coffee. My husband was invited to join me, but today I’m on my own here at the Inn.
When my husband does join me for breakfast in bed he can order off the menu which the Inn cook (me) created for him. Little touches like this menu are fun to create and make Country Inn “in” days special. I like nothing more then taking an ordinary day and dressing it up with little treats. To me this is more enjoyable then elaborate holiday festivities.
After a leisurely breakfast I make my way to the dressing room and put myself together for the day. I may not have a lady’s maid (though that would be nice) but just to take my time with a little primping feels delicious. No rushing – for rushing destroys grace, just time to sit quietly and think about the day ahead as I put myself together.
Once dressed I leave my room and go downstairs to the public areas of the house. A walk would be nice. I usually take a walk when I stay at The Red Lion Inn, but looking outside at the snow on the ground and remembering the 16 degree temperature I decide on another favorite activity.
There’s never enough time to read and one of my New Years resolutions is to read much more this year so now is the perfect time to get comfy by the fire in the Inn library and honor that resolution. In preparation for my Country Inn Day I visited the Hudson library yesterday even though the Inn bookshelves are bursting with my own books. Oh, so many books, so little time, but if we take control of our schedules, step out of our work routine, we can find at least a little time for favorite things – things like reading, and reading is a perfect Inn day activity.
I love all things English so today’s reading consists of back issues of “The English Garden” magazine. Perhaps the Inn gardener in me will discover some great ideas for the grounds around the Jeremiah Brown House. And Country Inn Days are the perfect days to dream of such things. You know what Oscar Hammerstein II said, don’t you? He said, “You’ve got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream how you gonna have a dream come true.?”
After a little garden dreaming I’ll then push on to begin reading the novel, “Villette” by Charlotte Bronte. I’m very fond of all the Bronte sisters. I met Emily first when my dear pen friend, Bruce Youngblood, sent me one of her poems at the time of my father’s death, but eventually I got to know Emily’s sisters, Ann and Charlotte, also great writers in my opinion. I consider all three women to be favorite “dead friends”. What is a “dead friend” you wonder? They are people of the past who I get to know through their letters, their biographies and/or their works.
Charlotte wrote “Villete” when she was at the height of her artistic power. She drew on her loneliness after the death of her three siblings. I’ve heard this book is her most accomplished and deeply felt work even though it’s not her most popular creation. You’d think reading about the struggles of Charlotte’s heroine would be depressing to me, but somehow it’s not. In fact, I gain strength from Charlotte’s characters who persevere through tough times.
But time flies when one is having fun and reading on a Country Inn Day or on any day is my kind of fun, still I must leave the library now because it’s Tea Time. And what a wonderful invention Tea Time is. P.G. Wodehouse, an English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century said, “The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which … I particularly enjoy.”( and that goes for me too!)
If you have a tea table there’s not much to setting it up for a daily afternoon tea – a cloth, some flowers, a candle, a pretty tea pot, china, and of course the tea. The food need not be fancy. Today’s afternoon tea treat consists only of cinnamon toast, but “The mere chink of cups and saucers turns the mind to happy repose”. That’s a well known tea quote from George Gissie. And yes, that sound is music to my ears too.
On Country Inn Days I like my house, my Inn, to be filled with guests. Sometimes I host teas or dinner parties for my personal friends and relatives, but other times I fill the Inn with other sorts of guests, my “dead friends”. It’s very easy to come up with these guests for all I have to do is use my imagination. I have so many great “dead friends”. I never know who will be popping up next. Guess who is seated at my tea table waiting patiently for me to join her?
It’s Mrs. Emily Whaley formerly of Charleston, South Carolina, but now residing in heaven. Emily’s spirit will be joining me for afternoon tea today by way of her book entitled, Mrs. Whaley and herCharleston Garden. I’m absolutely delighted she’ll be sharing her stories with me because I remember touring her garden and other gardens in Charleston some years ago. Now thanks to her book I’ll not only learn about her garden but also about her life, a life lived in a grand house of the old South. What could be more fun at tea?
Emily’s garden was famous. Back in the day the New YorkTimes sent reporters to interview her. Southern Accent magazine did a layout. Two or three thousand visitors toured her garden during Charleston’s garden festivals and as I said I was one of those people. I have a feeling Emily enjoyed lots of afternoon teas at her own historic home and now she’s here with me all through the magic of books and a little imagination.
But time moves on as it always does and I must morph from Inn guest into Inn chef because my husband will be joining me for dinner at the Inn before long and someone must prepare that dinner and that someone is me. Luckily I love to cook. The menu is set. Leek and potato soup, simple chicken tenders prepared in olive oil, butter, herbs and white wine, fresh green beans and a special Red Lion Inn rice.
I’d love to share the Red Lion Inn’s rice recipe with you because sharing doubles the joy and I think you’ll like it as much as I do.
Red Lion Inn Rice
Ingredients: 1/2 cup butter, 2 stalks celery, finely chopped, 1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped, 1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and finely chopped, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, bay leaves, dash of salt and pepper, 4 cups chicken stock, 2 cups white rice
Process: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the vegetables and seasonings, and cook for 7 minutes over medium heat until the vegetables are wilted. Remove the bay leaves. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, and cook over medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and it has absorbed the stock.
And here it is – Red Lion Inn Rice.
with Potato Leek Soup
and Chicken tenders accompanied by fresh green beans.
Oh yes, and a dessert of Grand Marnier Crepes.
The Inn cooks job is done. Now it’s back to being Inn guest.
It’s now time to enjoy that dinner by candlelight in the Jeremiah Brown House dining room.
It was fun creating tonight’s Inn dinner but even more enjoyable devouring it and I am not ashamed to admit it for as William Makepeace Thackeray wrote in his Memorials of Gormandizing, “If you like your dinner, man; never be ashamed to say so…remember that every man who has been worth a fig in this world, as poet, painter, or musician, has had a good appetite and a good taste.”
And what to do after dinner?
I’ll settle in here. The Inn recently added new rooms to the old house and this is one of them. It’s a pleasant place to watch a movie, entertain other guests or in today’s case, sit comfortably doing needlepoint with a good classic movie. Country Inn Days are all about simple pleasures.
I love needlework and it’s time I finish this needlepoint design picturing a crossing guard on the streets of Bermuda, a design I purchased there and started years ago. Needlepoint and most types of needlework are very relaxing and relaxing activities are just right for a Country Inn Day or a Country Inn evening.
And after an hour or two of needlework the evening turns into night and before bed I think a bubble bath would be just the thing to end a lovely Country Inn Day. Bubble therapy I call it, another simple pleasure that is not to be underestimated for the delight it offers.
And so this Winter’s Country Inn Day ends where it began.
I would’ve enjoyed a visit to The Red Lion Inn today for sure, but this faux Country Inn Day was quite delightful too for I accomplished most Country Inn Day goals, the goals being: To refresh body, mind and spirit; To relax; To enjoy favorite things without interruption; To exercise imagination; To take time to dream; To focus on beauty in all of its forms; To enjoy spa activities; To read fun materials, watch interesting films and spend time with interesting people; and To capture Inn Day images for my own future reflection and for sharing because…
Sharing Doubles The Joy.
Thanks for coming along. I hope you had half the fun I had today.
“Our life is nothing but a winter’s day; Some only breakfast and away; Others to dinner stay and are full fed. The deepest age but sup and go to bed. He’s worse in debt who lingers out the day. Who goes betimes has all the less to pay.”
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.
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 morefun 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Using a fork mix everything together and press into place.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I can tell you from experience receiving can be pretty delightful too, especially when that receiving refers to letters delivered to your mailbox, letters addressed “just to you”. Why there’s practically a radiance to them!
Big ones, small ones, in all colors of the rainbow, with artful postage stamps decorating their envelopes. Ah, commemorative postage stamps. They are like miniature paintings, lovely works of art. Notice the postage stamps in the picture above. Do you recognize all of them? Some come from Scotland, The Netherlands and Germany. I’m happy to have plenty of pen friends in the United States, but I also enjoy corresponding with people from all around the world. These people come to visit me by way of their letters.
I love company, don’t you? There’s nothing quite like it, but when letter friends come a-calling you don’t have to clean the house, dress up, or prepare any refreshments unless you’d like to enjoy those refreshments yourself. Of course you probably won’t be getting any of this company, these letters, unless you’re writing letters. And why wouldn’t you want to be writing letters? It’s such lovely fun to sit quietly reflecting, visiting with a friend via pen and paper. The Art of Letter Writing provides joy in both the giving and the receiving.
Every morning I have a few letters and postcards ready for my postman. He picks them up and off they go – north, south, east and west. Messages can travel by way of the internet, but there’s something very special about a handmade letter. I write one every morning with my first cup of coffee and then I write another later in the day as a reward for a constructive morning.
And when my friendly post man comes around I’m rewarded for my efforts for he brings me more letters, replies to those letters I’ve written. What fun!
Today was a slow mail day – only three letters and one post card, but every day can’t be a terrific mail day. Luckily I have a backlog of letters to answer from good mail days in the past. I’d love to share a few of the highlights from those letters with you on the off chance that you may not have any of your own letters to enjoy, but if you don’t all you have to do is join The Letter-Exchange, a most wonderful letter writer’s organization. I’ve been a member of this group for years. If you join you’ll have scores of your own wonderful pen friends in no time. But till then let me tell you a little about some of my pen friends and about the goodies they share with me in their letters.
There’s Joanna who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Joanna is always sending me lovely artful postcards, many with a Scottish subject. I share her delightful day trips to places like Dundee. Joanna says Dundee has to be one of the coldest places in Scotland which she says is really something for I guess Scotland is a colder country then I ever imagined. Joanna tells me Dundee is set on a hillside on an estuary of the river Tay which flows out to the North Sea. It encounters a particular east coast climactic phenomenon – a sea fog that is blown inland. It’s fun to imagine I’m there with her. Joanna tells me Dundee is not a wealthy place and has few restaurants, but surprisingly it does have a Mexican restaurant. She enjoyed a dinner there for $12 and to give you an idea of how this price seemed low to her she said her friend enjoyed a Mexican dinner in London at about the same time, but that dinner cost $80.
Some day I just may travel to Scotland and meet Joanna in person because my husband is an avid golfer and Scotland is one place he’d really like to play some golf. Thanks to Joanna I now know we must take along our woolen underwear if we make the trip. She’s full of information about where to stay and what to do in her country. She’s my personal Scottish travel agent. I bet she has a great recipe for tea time shortbread.
Then there’s Cindy… Cindy lives in Milford, Connecticut. I love New England having lived in Boston. Massachusetts myself. Cindy shares pictures of her Connecticut neighborhood and the flowers she grows in her garden. She’s one of my ” girl friends”. We talk about motherhood, gardening, cooking and daily life things. Cindy is an artist and it’s fun to share ideas for our artful projects. Girls need lots of girl friends. And since my town of Hudson is in a part of Ohio known as The Land of theWestern Reserve (It was Connecticut’s western land holdings back in the late 17th and early 18th century) well, I feel a kinship with Connecticut people like Cindy.
But I also enjoy West coast people, people like Almita. Almita lives in Menifee, California. She and her husband are avid bird lovers. They love nothing more than traveling around in their RV and bird watching. Thanks to Almita I’m learning a lot about birds. Did you recognize the birds in the pictures from her last letter? Both birds are Black-crowned Herons, but the lower picture features a mature Heron whereas the upper shot reveals a juvenile Heron. Thanks to Almita if I should run across any Black-crowned Herons in the future I’ll now be able to name them. Letter friends are full of knowledge and enthusiasm for all sorts of things and in sharing they not only double their joy, but they also educate and inspire us.
If you have a passion for literature, particularly the literature of Mark Twain then you would love Greg as your pen friend. This is because Greg lives in Hannibal, Missouri, the same town where Samuel Langhorne Clemens (who became Mark Twain the author) lived from the ripe old age of 4. Greg is a Mark Twain enthusiast. All of his letters bear the Mark Twain commemorative stamp and he even sent me many of these postage stamps so I could use them on my letters to him. Though he writes about all sorts of other interesting subjects too (especially astronomy) you can count on him for information about Mark Twain. All you have to do is ask him.
I did, and before I could say Tom Sawyer there was a large white envelope in my mailbox. It was filled with post cards and brochures about Mark Twain and his town. He also sent me a very nice booklet entitled, A River, a Town and a Boy. After I finish digesting all this information Mark Twain will surely become another of my “dead friends”, one of the interesting people from the past who entertains and inspires me. And to think Mark Twain and I might never have had the opportunity to connect if it weren’t for Greg.
We may only have one life to lead, but if that life includes a lot of interesting pen friends then that one life becomes so much more. Pen friends turn the whole world into a friendly neighborhood. I can’t imagine life without them. Another time I’ll share more of my pen friends with you and if you join The Letter Exchange you just might develop a friendship with some of these people yourself.
But before I leave you and because Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner I must share a recipe that my good friend Mary sent to me. Mary lives in Forestville, California. She’s an old college friend and a retired Colonel in The United States Air Force. Though Mary lived in various parts of the United States as well as Germany and England, places far from me, we kept in touch through letters and these days we’re still writing letters to each other.
Often we share recipes in our letters because Mary and I both enjoy cooking. Well, today one of my three letters was from Mary and a little yellow post- it-note in that letter said, “My friends made this and it was excellent, very moist. I plan to make it soon.” And I, Carol Ann, plan to make it soon too… it being a Turkey while you sleep. My turkey is defrosting in the fridge as I write. Maybe now, thanks to the wonderful Art of Letter Writing, you’ll be making thisrecipe in the next few days too. If you do you can thank my pen friend Mary for sharing.
Turkey While You Sleep
Ingredients: 1 uncooked turkey, 1 tsp. salt, 2 stalks of celery with leaves, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, 2 cups boiling water.
Process: Sprinkle salt inside turkey cavity and insert celery stalks. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place turkey on rack in roasting pan and rub with melted butter. Pour boiling water around turkey, cover pan tightly, and cook for 2 hours for 14 pounds or less, 2 and 1/2 half hours for more than 14 pounds. After cooking time, turn off heat, but DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR. Leave turkey in closed over overnight (8 hours). Turkey will be ready to slice and refrigerate the next morning, with plenty of drippings for gravy.
So ’til we meet again I leave you saying
“Happy Letter Writing” and “Happy Thanksgiving” too.
On some Country Inn Days when the weather is cold and snowy it’s nice to stay all cozy and warm at the Inn not venturing out at all. That’s today! Though it’s a bit gloomy outside, inside the Inn is bright and buzzing with activity for the Innkeeper, the Inn chef, the Inn maid, the Inn gardener, and the Inn guest are all keeping quite busy… and all those people are me!
As you may or may not know the magic of Country Inn Days has the power to transform me into all these characters as I use my imagination. What fun I have! I hope you are in the habit of using your imagination too.
The Jeremiah Brown House, my 1853 Country Inn of imagination, is where I spend much of my time, and its been undergoing an addition ever since last Summer. The Innkeeper, me, has been busy buying furniture and designing the new rooms. Today I stroll this and other rooms imagining how it soon will look for workers are coming in a day or two to sand, stain, and finish the floors and once the floors are finished the furniture will be delivered and then it won’t be long till guests can be entertained at the Inn once again. I’m anxious for that day to come because I can’t wait to host my sharing teas and dinner parties once more. This place is not for me alone. It must be shared with friends and family. Sharing doubles the joy.
As Innkeeper I study the new rooms, but as Inn gardener I have other things to do. A gardener can’t work outside when the snow is a few feet deep and the temperature is only 29 degrees, but she can study the gardens found in books to give her ideas and that’s exactly what I’m doing on this cold Winter day.
One particular book with lots of lovely old fashioned garden ideas is “Grandmother’s Garden” by May Brawley Hill. It features gardens popular from 1865 to 1915. Though my Inn was built earlier, it was still around in those later years too, so this book just might have some fine ideas for me. I do love old world ways and the Jeremiah Brown House needs old world ways to keep hold of its historic character.
There’s never a dull moment on a Country Inn Day. So many things to do. As Inn maid I always seem to have ironing waiting at the Ironrite, the ironing machine I inherited from my mother. It makes ironing table linens a breeze. And of course the Inn always uses fresh, crisp linens in its dining room.
The linens have to be prepared but the Inn cook, me, has other work to do in the kitchen. Busy, busy, busy! A new kitchen is being designed here, but until the new kitchen is ready the old kitchen works just fine. It will become a butler’s pantry when the new kitchen is finished. I’ve always wanted a butler’s pantry.
Here in the old kitchen I’m preparing a menu of chicken with wine accompanied by a pasta containing carrots, mushrooms, and caraway seeds. This pasta is seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika. There’s also an asparagus flan in the works.
This flan combines asparagus, bacon, eggs, milk, and heavy cream, with parsley, salt and pepper. It bakes in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees – very French!
I hope the Inn guest, me, enjoys the meal. I’m sure she will. After all, she’s been enjoying the whole day free from her usual music work. All regular daily activities are aborted on Country Inn Days in favor of other playful and relaxing Inn experiences. One of the Inn’s wonderful relaxing experiences is snuggling up with a good book. Today that book is Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park”.
And another favorite activity at the Inn, or anywhere at all, is letter writing. I am an avid letter writer. Today I’ve written two letters – one to my pen friend Amelia in Minnesota and another letter to Susie in Virginia. As my dear “dead friend” Lord Byron always said – “Only in letter writing do we have solitude and society simultaneously.” How true that is. I relax all by myself at the Inn but I’m able to connect with friends through letters.
How nice it is to get away from it all without packing and traveling long distances. Of course I would love to bop over to my favorite Red Lion Inn in the Berkshires of Massachusetts every week, but that’s not possible. Having my Country Inn Days really helps keep me amused between my visits there. Just a little imagination makes the simple things in life great fun.
What was it Mary Poppins said? – “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and then the job’s a game”! She was so right. My Country Inn Days truly make ordinary life a sort of game. And adults have to play too.
The dinner bell has rung. I must leave you now. Linens, candlelight and a yummy meal just for me, well, for my hubby too. He always joins me on my Inn getaways. Others check into the Inn too, but I’ll tell you about them another time. So I have to run.
After dinner perhaps a bubble bath and then hopping into a warm and cozy bed with sweet dreams ahead.
There’s nothing like a Country Inn Day, a day to hibernate at the Inn and escape from the world if that’s what I need or it could be a day out in the world exploring favorite places and looking for adventure.
I’m happy you joined me today because sharing doubles my joy. It really does. Maybe now you’ll go off on your own Country Inn Day adventure. If you do, let me know. I’d love to hear all about it.
“Some people like to paint pictures, or do gardening, or build a boat in the basement. Other people get a tremendous pleasure out of the kitchen, because cooking is just as creative and imaginative an activity as drawing, or wood carving, or music.” Julia Child
Some people like to go it alone, be by themselves. They feel most safe and happy when they are thinking their own thoughts and keeping those thoughts to themselves but other people get a tremendous pleasure out of friendship.
I happen to be one those people who enjoys cooking. I am also one of those people who values friendship so it’s only natural I would enjoy hosting dinner parties
So naturally when I received a letter from one of my oldest friends who now lives very far away announcing that she was coming to town and wanting to get together, well, having a dinner party for her and her husband seemed like the right thing to do. There was talk of meeting at a restaurant, but we decided restaurants could be noisy, not the perfect place for a long, relaxing rare andspecial visit and you know what they say – there’s no place like home, or in this case, there’s no place like my personal Country Inn where I enjoy playing the quadruple role of Innkeeper, Inn Chef, Inn Maid And Inn Guest.
So here’s what transpired.
As Inn Chef the menu needed to be planned so I looked through my notebook of tested recipes and selected a few, but the menu needed to be approved by my guest because she was on a special gluten free diet. I didn’t want to make her sick after all. It was decided that baked chicken with rosemary, green beans, roasted new potatoes, salad, and fresh fruit for dessert would be just fine.
Inn Chef (me) went off to the market and returned to the Inn with a variety of fruit and a bag full of other ingredients needed for the dinner.
But before cooking could begin all the copper pots needed a once over with copper cleaner so they would sparkle.
Meanwhile the Innkeeper (me) had much to do in order to create a lovely table. There was silver to polish,
flowers to arrange,
linen to select
plus china and crystal to make ready.
All this was a labor of love and hosting a dinner party is even more than that. Hosting a dinner party is an ART!
Inn Chef got busy creating the marinade for the chicken. It consisted of the juice of one lemon mixed with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Four garlic cloves were chopped and added along with fresh rosemary sprigs.
This marinade was poured over the chicken, salt and pepper were added and in the oven it went for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. To be sure the chicken was cooked properly an instant -read food thermometer would test the chicken to be at an internal temperature of 165 degrees before serving.
Chef prepared the vegetables for the salad so at the last minute salad plates could be composed
and the green beans were set into the copper pot ready for cooking.
The table was ready for our guests and it was time to transform myself into one of those Inn Guests for the dinner party was about to begin.
Nancy and Ken arrived bearing gifts.
Nancy made a hand-quilted trivet for me. I think she knew I liked to cook and entertain. The trivet was lovely.
We went out to the porch for some drinks and nibbles and then it was time for the main event – dinner.
My husband was ready for food and good conversation with my old friend and her husband, but they were brand new friends to him.
Dinner was served.
Nancy and Ken seemed quite pleased with the presentation. I was pleased that they seemed pleased.
Hours past as we talked and laughed and devoured our dinners. It was so grand to be with my old friend once again and in the comfort of the Jeremiah Brown House, my personal Country Inn, not an impersonal restaurant.
Dessert was served – raspberries, blackberries, strawberries with mint from the Inn’s herb garden. Coffee and tea followed . Time flew by. Before we knew it the time had come for good byes, but not before a few pictures were taken to record our happy event.
Nancy and Carol Ann, friends for the last fifty years. Wow! Where did the time go?
We captured our handsome husbands on film, men who have taken such good care of us over the years.
And then one last picture of Nancy and Ken before they headed way back to the state of Washington. I was so glad to see them and be able to offer them hospitality.
The Inn Maid (me) had her work to do after the dinner party was over, but she was happy to do her part. Cleaning up from such a fun evening is a small price to pay for so much delight.
So if you like to cook and if you enjoy friendship I hope you also enjoy entertaining. Invite your friends over for a dinner party. It’s a wonderful way to share the joy!
“The pleasure in giving a dinner is mostly the pleasure of giving yourself. The effort you take is your way of showing your company that you care about them enough to give them a good time.” MargueriteKelly and Elia Parsons
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.