Small Town America visits the Holidays

oldfashioned Christmas reRemember back to the days of your youth?  Holidays were a time that we simply loved.  What made it so endearing? I think it was the memories we created, the warm and fuzzy feeling deep inside.  Are we taking time to recreate those memories, and make new ones for our children and grandchildren?  Living in a small town, I think my family is lucky to have the opportunity to slow down and have the experience of old fashioned holiday spirit.

Our town, Honesdale,  has a wonderful weekend they like to call “Honesdale for the Holidays”.   Stores are decked out in their holiday spirit and many stores and businesses will host “Open Houses” with seasonal warmth for their shoppers and visitors.  Christmas music rings from the town pavilion making the shopping merry as vendors dot the sidewalks with their wares.  The high school choir and Victorian strollers walk main street for all to enjoy.  ticketsresAll the while the Stourbridge Line train will be blowing its whistle inviting young and old to hop on the train and take a ride with Santa and some elves, trains and Christmas it doesn’t get any better.  As the sun sets and the decorations light up the streets the sidewalks crowd as the little ones get ready for Santa to come to town.  What a festive spirit as the parade marches by, ending with the “big guy” himself.  The people follow the parade into Honesdale’s Central Park and activities continue.  Led by Rudolph and Frosty songs are sung and the star on Irving Cliff brightens the horizon for another holiday season.  Children visit with Santa and everyone enjoys hot chocolate and a wonderful small town America.  For more information: http://www.visithonesdalepa.com/honesdale-event/1526/

We, at the James Manning House, love to keep this Holiday Americana feeling going, and that’s why we invite everyone to a Holiday Open House.  This spirit spills out into our little village of Bethany in another event we call “Christmas in the Village”.  This year we are celebrating, Saturday, December 2, from 2-4 PM.  At the inn we will have the Honesdale High School Chamber Choir delighting us with Christmas songs and carols.  13cookiesOur friend and author of three books, Will Wyckoff, will be here signing books and chatting with visitors.  The house will shine in all its holiday splendor and we delight in showing visitors all around and share with holiday cheer.  Of course, the kitchen has been busy for days ahead of this event and a huge platter of homemade cookies will be available for tasting.  Bethany Public Library joins in the fun with an appearance of Mrs. Claus who helps children write letters to Santa.  They enjoy stories and hot chocolate, too.  Bethany Methodist Church will also be hosting visitors in the holiday spirit.  Bethany Village invites everyone to stop by for their tree lighting and a Tricky Tray raffle. For more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1499957440086260/

We hope that you can take some time and visit us to enjoy the little things that make us appreciate the wonders of the season.  But most of all start some of your own traditions and sweet memories will be yours.Antiquecollage

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Oatmeal Jam Cakes

1 c. butter flavor shortening                                                                                                    1 ½ c. firmly packed brown sugar                 oatmeal-jam-cakes                                                                          2 lg. Eggs                                             2 t. almond extract                               ½ t. vanilla                                           ½ t. white vinegar (keeps cookies soft)                                                        1 t. baking powder                                1 t. real salt                                         ½ t. baking soda                                   2 ½ c. rolled oats, uncooked (can use quick-cooking in a pinch)                      12 oz. fruit jam, our favorite is raspberry                                                                                                                                 Sanding Sugar

Whisk together the flour, salt, soda and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.  Beat the shortening and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well blended.  Beat in the eggs, extracts and vinegar, blending well. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and mix at a low speed until just combined.  Stir in the oats.  Cover the dough and refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or grease.  Roll out about a fourth of the dough on a floured surface to about 3/8” thickness.  Cut out circles of dough with your choice of min. 2” to max. 2-1/2” inch round cookie cutter.  Put half the circles 2” apart on prepared tray, place ¾-1 t. of jam in center of base cookies.  Using a very small hole cutter punch holes in the remaining circles, then place on top of bases over jam.  Press the edges of cookie sandwiches to seal.  Sprinkle with sanding sugar.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake one tray at a time at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on edges.  Do not overbake or cookies will be hard.  Cool 2 minutes on trays, then move to cooling racks to cool completely.  Makes about 2-1/2 dozen cookies at 2-1/2”.

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Five Days of Holiday Traditions

Springerle boards and rolling pins

Tradition #3 is Baking Springerle.  These traditional anise-flavored German Christmas cookies deserve their own spot on our list of holiday traditions.  On Warren’s mother’s side of the family they are the all-time favorite.  Gather the family and bring a container of Springerle and you will see eyes light up and lips licked for a taste of Grandmom Ruth’s specialty, for you see the tradition has almost died out with only Warren and a cousin still making the treat.springerle

By definition, Springerle are white, anise-flavored cookies, made from a simple egg-flour-sugar dough. Usually rectangular or circular in shape, they have a picture or design stamped on the top. The images are imprinted with specially carved rolling pins or flat molds (Springerle presses, or boards).  Warren has been collecting these molds for over ten years.  His great-grandmother’s rolling pin is proudly displayed in our kitchen and was given to her by her husband as a gift brought from Germany in the late 1800’s.  The history of Springerle dates back into the 15th century and started to honor church holy days.  Many of the impressions on the molds are religious,  but in more recent history depict animals, flowers and the modern resin molds even have decorations for holidays such as Halloween.

Most times these cookies are baked for Christmas, as a special treat as the process is springerlecookiestime consuming.  After all in the cookie’s history they were used much as we send Christmas cards today.  Over 40 years ago I was introduced to making these embossed gems.  Warren’s grandmother taught me, using her recipe (Written in handfuls and pounds instead of cups and teaspoons! At least it was English) and all beat and mixed by hand.  The traditional leavening agent in the cookies is Hartshorn, or baker’s ammonia.  This is what makes the Springerle recipecookies “spring up” when baking.  After pressing the design into the cookies they must rest for 24 hours to set the pattern in order to hold it during baking.  Because these cookies have no fat in them they dry out and harden even if sealed tightly, but hardcore Springerle fans will just dunk the cookie and enjoy!

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Five Days of Christmas Traditions

Tradition #2  C is for Cookies!  That’s right there are a few cookie monsters that live      cookiecollagearound here.  We’ve been enjoying baking (and eating) cookies as a family for a very long time.  I think every family has their traditions when it comes to the sweets.  I know I have very happy memories of helping my parents cutting out sugar cookies then sprinkling colored sugar on the frosting my mother spread over those tender morsels.  The whole time Perry Como was crooning out the Christmas melodies on the record player.  So tasty were some of those cookie recipes that they need to be made again and again each year.  Then when my favorites were joined together with Warren’s fond favorites that  also had to be made the list of recipes kept growing.  As my daughters’ started their families they of course made their favorites, or even more fun we might get together to bake.  This is especially true with the sandtarts, those wonderfully buttery thin delights that only my daughter can roll to perfection.  DSC_0551  Now there’s Pintrest and more recipes to try, but the favorites can’t be forgotten, so the list of cookie types that must be made just keeps growing, and growing. Dare I say, so do the waistlines during the holidays!  So what is your favorite cookie?  See if it’s on our list, I’m always game for trying the recipes of others just send it our way. This year our cookie platters include: Frosted Sugar Cookies, Sandtarts, Chocolate Tassies, Butter Spritz Cookies, Raspberry Danish, White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Squares, Oatmeal Jam-Up Cookies, Peanut Butter Cups, Peanut Butter Blossoms, Macaroons, Apricot Foldovers, Chocolate Chip, Candy Cane Cookies, Red Velvet Ooey-gooey Cookies, Chocolate Mint Pinwheels, Cinnamon Bun Cookies, Gingerdoodles, Snowman Shortbread, and German Springerle.  13cookies

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Reconnect with the Warmth at “Christmas in the Village”

Mid –November; pumpkin recipes have been cooking;  a turkey waiting  in the freezer; some Christmas cookies baked.  Well, maybe all this is complete in my dreams………..  At least I know one thing for sure……Christmas is around the corner and we are once again excited to host our annual Christmas Open House as part of “Christmas in the Village”!  IMG_3699This year the event is December 5 from 2-4PM.  It is a wonderful event at the James Manning House.  The Honesdale High School Chamber Choir will be entertaining us with Christmas carols.  There will be plates of those luscious, delicious Christmas cookies, and our author friend, Will Wyckoff, will be here signing his new book, Rabbit Trails.  Best of all the house will be bright and merry with the twinkling of lights, the wonder of decorated trees, adorned with greens and bows, and all those Santa Clauses to see! IMG_3698Our lovely little village will also be alive with activities to celebrate the season.  Santa Claus will be visiting with children in the library, and the library is one of the historic buildings that is a must see.  Be sure to get more of a taste of colonial Bethany in the Historical Society’s room upstairs.   Tour the 1829 Bethany United Methodist Church and make a Christmas craft.  Perhaps decorate your own live wreath at the E. Kellogg B&B.  There will be tastes of the season everywhere you stop.  Of course the memories of the smiles and warmth of the season are the best gifts to take from the day.2014-01-01 11.59.30 HDR

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