It’s Holiday Time at the Jeremiah Brown House

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The Jeremiah Brown House buzzes with activity all through the year because guests are constantly coming and going making the house a very happy and lively place to be.  As Innkeeper I’ve always felt this house was  created not for us alone (us being my husband and myself) but rather a house to be shared with others. Everyone knows sharing doubles the joy.

Anyone who takes care of a home realizes how much there is to do in order to make that home cozy and inviting, but in December with holidays around the corner, special touches seem to be needed in order to create a  festive atmosphere.

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Mother Nature has pitched in, doing her “Wintery” job, of dusting snow all around the grounds  creating that “White Christmas” look.

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Now it’s for me to add a few touches to the entrance and all around the house continuing that holiday/festive look. As guests come to the door…

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and as they continue into the foyer of the house.  A Christmas tree with lights and a poinsettia can do wonders to create a holiday atmosphere.  Simple, timeless decorations.

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I move through the house.  The library is small so it doesn’t need much.  A gold poinsettia in the window and as Christmas cards arrive they will be tucked into the books on the shelves.

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 Have you ever seen a gold-colored poinsettia?  This color is new to me, but it looks quite at home in my gold-colored library.

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I love Christmas cards, don’t you?  Of course I’m a letter writer so I love cards sent all through the year, not only in December, but at Christmas it seems most people indulge in snail mail as I do and I’m so very glad they do.  The cards we receive  will decorate the shelves of the Jeremiah Brown library in a most friendly way.

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Moving to the living room the banister gets a twist of evergreen roping

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so guests taking tea in this room can enjoy a little more holiday decoration.

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A Christmas tree has also been added here for extra holiday spirit.

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And the dining room of The Jeremiah Brown House which will be busy with guests this month has a twinkling tree too.

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It will add a touch of Christmas to all the dining room events this month.

There’s so much more to show and tell you about as Innkeeper . . .

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And there’s plenty to tell you about as Inn Maid too, for example, all the table linen that needs to be ironed in order to be ready for holiday entertaining, but. . .

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let me switch gears, put on my chef hat, and as Inn Cook tell you about a few of the things that I made in the kitchen lately. You might like to make some of these recipes yourself.  This month a certain someone’s been keeping me company in the kitchen, a someone you may know.

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Yes, It’s Santa.  Isn’t he cute?

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  He’s not actually much help except to inspire me as I try new recipes for  Inn guests and I have three of these recipes to share with you.

This first recipe is a French Potato Pie with Comte Cheese.

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  It’s a beauty, isn’t it?

Here’s the recipe!

Cook a few strips of bacon till crisp.  Remove the bacon and in the drippings cook  3 sliced cloves of garlic and 2 thinly sliced onions for about 2 minutes.  Mix these things together.  Create a batch of your favorite double pie crust dough.  Line a pan with the bottom crust and then add a layer of thinly sliced potatoes, season with salt and pepper, followed with layers of the bacon/onion mixture and then cheese.  You’ll be using about 2 pounds of russet potatoes and 2 cups of diced Comte cheese.   Layer these ingredients and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. of thyme. Dot all of this with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Place the top crust on all this pie and brush with an egg wash (1 large egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of heavy cream.)  Bake the pie in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Cover with parchment or foil if the pie browns too much.

It’s delicious!

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Cabbage Charlotte

Charlotte de Chou et de Pommes de Terre

Here at the Inn we like French food and both potato dishes are as pretty to look at as to eat.  To make this Charlotte you need a Charlotte pan that is deep and round.  The only ingredients you’ll need are a Savoy cabbage, a medium onion, 1 and 1/2 pounds of potatoes, an egg, plus salt and pepper.

To make the Charlotte soften about 5 cabbage leaves in boiling water for a few minutes.  Line the buttered pan with these leaves saving one for the top.  Meanwhile boil the potatoes and when they are soft mash them with the egg, a bit of milk aplus salt and pepper.  Chop the remaining cabbage and fold it into the mashed potatoes.  Place this potato mixture into the Charlotte pan and cover the mixture with the remaining cabbage leaf.  Wrap all this tightly in foil and place the pan in another deeper pan so boiling water can be placed half way up the Charlotte pan.  Bake this at 375 degree for about 45 minutes.  Unmold and you have  a Cabbage Charlotte to dazzle your friends.

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I served this Charlotte recently to Inn guests along with breaded pork chops, buttered corn, homemade apple sauce and  yeast rolls.

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Oh yes, and for dessert –  Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Squares

Should you want to make these yummy squares you’ll need the following:

2 sticks of unsalted butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 large egg, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 and 1/4 cups quick-cooking oatmeal, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.

The process:  Cream butter and sugars, add egg and vanilla, then add 3/4 of the flour, with oatmeal and salt.  Press this into a prepared 9 inch square baking pan.  Scatter the chocolate chips over this dough.  Combine the nuts with the remaining flour and crumble this over the chocolate chips.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean when done.  Cool and cut into squares.

Yummy.  These squares melt in your mouth.

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So though there’s lots more to tell you about  that’s happening at The Jeremiah Brown House I think it’s time for me to take a break with afternoon tea.  The weather outside is frightful, but the porch (which as a gas heater) is delightful, so I’ll take my leave from Inn duties for a little while, bring out a tea tray and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Maybe I’ll be seeing you here at the Inn, but if not have a wonderful holiday wherever you are making lots of inviting settings, yummy treats and romantic moments in your very own home.

Until next time . . . be happy!

A Country Inn Day Summer Luncheon

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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.

Cheese Strudel

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

Marilyn and Evelyna

and

Connie and Jackie

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?

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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.

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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.

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Remembering a Summer Tea from Days Gone By

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When birds are singing and flowers are blooming and all of nature is bursting out in lush greenery it’s lovely to move Afternoon Tea outdoors. We in the North have plenty of opportunity to sip our tea in dining rooms, living rooms and libraries during the cold Winter months, but in Summer it’s important to take advantage of outdoor living spaces.

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Nature is so marvelous and here at The Jeremiah Brown House I care about the grounds outside the house as much as I care about the settings indoors.  I try to enjoy and use every inch of the property and sharing it doubles my joy.

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It’s been this way since my husband and I purchased the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House some seven years ago. This house and grounds had good bones but additions and improvements were needed. Way back when I’d look out the kitchen window at a trellis room, old and romantic, and though  I loved it, the years had taken a toll on its untreated wood.  The Trellis  room was beyond repair.

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But I loved looking up in this open-air room that had no ceiling.  There was nothing to block the view of puffy white clouds and blue sky. We knew this room’s days were numbered though.  It had to go in order to make way for the house addition we were planning.

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The old stone patio just beyond the Trellis Room with its view of the side yard would have to go too.  Sad, but necessary. The stone was crumbling and needed too much repair.  The years had taken its toll on the patio too.

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Plans were drawn up for a new addition  and work was soon to begin, but first a few final events were held in these old spaces.

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One such event was a simple tea for two old friends.  The  old Trellis Room teamed up with lovey old friends.  This seemed right.  Afternoon Tea served here was a simple affair.  After all, every tea does not need to be an elaborate event.  I wish more people would realize this for maybe then they would enjoy hosting teas of their own.  The Art of Entertaining seems to be a dying art. (Whoa is me!)  People say they’re too busy, but I think there should always be time set aside for gracious hospitality no matter how busy people may be.  That’s just me.

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After all, how much work is involved in making tea?  Not much work at all.

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And if one is not a baker that presents no problem for super markets and bakeries provide all sorts of cookies that will please guests. Afternoon tea is mostly about intimate sharing.  The food and tea are nice accompaniments to the sharing, but not the most important things.

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Of course if one does enjoy working in the kitchen, baking and cooking up goodies, all the better. Food is art and most of us love it!  I like to experiment with new recipes.  I think it’s fun, but as I said, one doesn’t have to do this. To host a tea one simply needs to tidy up the house or tea setting, set a few refreshments out, and then enjoy the afternoon along with their guests.

The recipe I prepared for my Trellis tea was Chicken Salad Puffs, elegant sandwiches with a crunchy, sweet pecan topping.  If you’d like to make these sandwiches for yourself here’s the recipe.




Chicken Salad Puffs

2 and 1/2 c. cooked chicken; 1 c. celery, finely chopped; 4 small green onions, chopped; 1 c. mayonnaise; 2 tsp. Dijon mustard; salt and pepper to taste; frozen puff pastry, thawed; caramelized pecans, chopped.

Process:  In a mixing bowl, combine chicken, and green onion.  Mix together Dijon mustard and mayonnaise.  Pour this over chicken mixture along with salt and pepper.

For the caramelized pecans: Heat 1/2 c. sugar until melted (about 4 minutes on medium heat stirring constantly).  Stir in the pecans.  Pour mixture onto waxed paper to cool.  Use whole or coarsely ch0pped nuts for garnish.

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Chicken puffs, cookies, and a little fruit –  a very simple and easy menu for any Afternoon Tea.  Just add a warm and friendly spirit, some friends, and all are bound to have a very pleasant afternoon, you especially.

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Caring and sharing with old friends and with new ones,  adding a few tea treats,  some smiles and conversation, all in a relaxed manner, is a surefire recipe for a happy day.   It’s also the recipe for gracious entertaining and gracious living.

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The Trellis Room and stone patio are now gone and in their place is this addition built onto the old house.  New gardens are in the plans. These plans will keep our creativity activated.

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I’m thinking of something like this design set in the side yard.  It was pictured in the February/March issue of “Traditional Homes” magazine.  A stone path could connect the new porch to this wooden structure creating a new and very Romantic setting for future Summer teas. I’ll always miss the old Trellis Room and stone patio but I have my memories and my photographs to remember my fine times there.

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Until the new garden structure is added a Summer tea for three or four can take place on this new porch. Here, with a roof over over heads, we won’t even have to worry about birdies dropping surprises on our chicken puffs as we did in the charming but slightly dangerous Trellis room.

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Yes, I miss the old Trellis Room, but onward and upward we all must go.  Cherish the past but keep looking forward to the future and all its possibility.  I hope you have some nice things to look forward to in your future, maybe a nice tea of your own.  If so, I’d love to hear all about it. Do share.  Sharing doubles the joy.

I love the old world, but I’m glad I was not born before tea.

Tea in the Outbuilding

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Ah tea!  

Afternoon tea is all about enjoyment, relaxation, and taking the time to refresh your spirit.  I love tea and its trappings.  I love to take a break each afternoon enjoying a cup of tea either in my library with a good book, at my tea table with some needlework, or perhaps if the weather is lovely I might take tea in the sun room where I can sip and commune with nature. But once a month I invite others to join me in this gracious ritual.  After all, the 1853 property which my husband and I  call home is “not for us alone”.  Sharing it and sharing tea doubles the joy.

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I like to alternate the location of my tea parties each month because changing locations means different tables to dress with different china. I’ll experiment with different recipes and invite different friends to each tea.  Variety is the spice of life you know.  Entertaining with tea is a wonderful way to reach out to others in friendship while also having the creative fun of designing each event.  My last two teas were held in our Outbuilding.  Come along and I’ll share a bit of those tea experiences with you. Up  the driveway we go…

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 approaching the circle…

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passing the circle…

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and there it is, the Outbuilding, once a chicken  coop back when the estate was a big old farm, but thanks to a few previous owners the building is now  a detached family room where I can get away from it all – or if not everything,  at least I can get away from the house if I need a change of scenery without going too far away..

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We pass the old barn which is now a three car garage and walk around to the front of the Outbuilding…

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and here we are!

Come on in.

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The beamed ceiling gives me the feeling I’m off in the mountains

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and the wood-burning fireplace is especially cozy on a cold or rainy day.

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We have seating close to the fireplace plus two other sofas and there’s a long built-in bench along the wall, plenty of seating in this old Outbuilding if we decide to have cocktails here before a dinner party at the house.  But for a tea I usually serve at the table, a table that was my maternal grandparent’s table once upon a time.  Ah, memories.

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I enjoy coming here on quiet days, sitting in my rocker that also once belonged to my maternal grandparents.  It’s the same rocker that held me on my father’s lap as a child, as I sipped his coffee sweet with sugar and milk, back in the day…  memories and more memories.  I love things old.

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But on the day of a tea there’s no time for daydreaming about the old days.  Instead there’s much hustle and bustle in the butler’s pantry where goodies are prepared and assembled to serve to my guests.  It is a little challenging carrying everything back and forth to and from the Outbuilding, but now and then this extra work is necessary if I’m ever to share the Outbuilding with others.

What will I serve my guests?

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  Meringues with strawberries and whipped cream?

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Shortbread and cookies?

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A simple coffee cake?…

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or perhaps a fancy cake I purchase from the bakery shop?

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I purchased  special antique tea china for the Outbuilding and I like to use a handmade crocheted tablecloth that my mother made a long time ago.

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Or sometimes I use a set of tea china that belonged to my parents.

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Of course we need some tea.  I offer a variety to my guests

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And candlelight is always nice…

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especially on a cool, rainy day.

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When the food is made, the table is set, the candles are lit and everything is ready all that’s needed are some guests…

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be they lady friends, old and new…

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or sweet children who happen to be my music students.

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It’s such a joy to do for others.  I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t enjoy entertaining, especially hosting afternoon teas.

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It is my hope that by sharing my afternoon tea experiences I may inspire you to invite others to your own home and share some tea with them…make it coffee or hot chocolate if you prefer, but reach out to others and share in your own intimate setting.  Make your tea your way, as simple or elaborate as you like.  It’s not the tea, or the food, so much as your  personal outreach and hospitality.

Share Joy.  Share Tea!

Country Inn “Family”Day

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That’s my mom, Lottie, the little girl with the bow in her hair who is standing between her mother and father along with her 8 brothers and sisters.

“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have past at home in the bosom of my family”…  Thomas Jefferson

Some Country Inn Days are meant for relaxing,  taking time out to lounge and enjoy simple pleasures. Some Country Inn Days are much more active.  They take me out and about offering adventure and enrichment.  And then there are still other Country Inn Days that put me to work. On these days I assume the roles of Innkeeper,  Inn chef  and Inn maid inviting friends and relatives over to join me at the Inn where I try my best to entertain them.

My spiritual lessons keep advising me to do things for others and what are my favorite things to do?  I love hosting afternoon teas, intimate dinner parties and casual get-togethers.  I have learned when I give good things come back to me so it is my pleasure to give of myself often by entertaining others.  My husband and I have worked hard to create a pleasant place in which to live but we have discovered sharing this place doubles our joy.  This place is not for us alone.

I was blessed with a big close family.  My Mom was one of 8 and my Dad was one of 10.   I have more cousins than I can count.  Growing up my aunts and uncles were forever popping in for a cup of coffee, a sandwich ,or the out-of -towners would come for a weekend stay.  I loved this company and so did my parents. They always seemed extra happy when their sisters and brothers came to call.  Now, all these years later, my parents are gone as are all my aunts and uncles – all 32 of them, but I have first cousins and second cousins and third cousins and first cousins once removed and first cousins twice removed etcaetera etcaeterorum.

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I’m happy to say I still have a great family and any time of year is a great time to invite them over to the Inn, but especially when the roses are in bloom

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and the day lilies grace us with their presence. Of course I can’t host my whole huge family at any one time.  It’s a lot easier for me to invite my relatives over in small groups, so now and then I send out the call to see who’s in town and available for a visit.

On this particular Country Inn “Family” Day these are the folks who came to call.

Relatives from 18 to 80 years of age filled the Inn with smiles,  fun, and conversation. There’s something special about young and old coming together, sharing and caring for each other even though we’re all leading distinctly different lives.  Cultivating love, interest and understanding in family life encourages  love, interest and understanding in relationships outside our immediate circle.  And besides that, it’s just fun to get together.

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And that’s why some of my regular Country Inn Days are declared  Country Inn “Family” Days where I have fun playing the part of Inn Chef as I prepare a little food for my guests and Innkeeper as I welcome everyone to the Inn attending to them.   After that I just let the love between us take over.

It’s all great fun.  Creating the event is artplay, like creating a painting or a piece of music. Socializing with loved ones warms the heart as nothing else can…

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and when the event is over I don’t even mind playing the part of Inn Maid as I clean up for I’m filled with a contented feeling knowing I did my part to keep the family together and close.  I’m also left with memories and pictures too that will last my whole lifetime and beyond.

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That’s my dad, Joe, standing in a dark suit along with his parents and his nine brothers and sisters.
I think my parents would be happy that the love they had for family is being kept alive by those of us who have come after them.  It’s my hope that one day we’ll all be together again, but till that day, as the old song declares, we must love the ones we’re with, and that’s exactly what I do on Country Inn “Family” Days.

Country Inn “Dinner Party” Day

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“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

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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 and special 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.

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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.

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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.

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But before cooking could begin all the copper pots needed a once over with copper cleaner so they would sparkle.

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Meanwhile the Innkeeper (me) had much to do in order to create a lovely table. There was silver to polish,

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flowers to arrange,

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linen to select

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Chef prepared the vegetables for the salad so at the last minute salad plates could be composed

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and the green beans were set into the copper pot ready for cooking.

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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.

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Nancy and Ken arrived bearing gifts.

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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.

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My husband was ready for food and good conversation with my old friend and her husband, but they were brand new friends to him.

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Dinner was served.

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 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.

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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.

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Nancy and Carol Ann, friends for the last fifty years.  Wow!  Where did the time go?

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We captured our handsome husbands on film, men who have taken such good care of us over the years.

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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.

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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!

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“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.”    Marguerite Kelly and Elia Parsons

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