Twelve Days of Decorating

snowy snowmanToday Mother Nature gave me the best starting point for twelve days of Christmas decorating.  You can’t beat the real thing, and now that the ground is covered, lights twinkle brighter, beauty glows stronger, and spirits are happier.  It is December and winter is here; “Let It SNOW!”christmas sign

 

Our open house has come and gone, but not everyone had a chance to stop by.  Some live to far, lives are busy this time of year, and we understand all the interruptions, so I thought I’d take some time to give you a peak around our Holiday House.  Each day I’ll pick a different theme and an explanation about the decorating “James Manning House” style.  Follow along and I hope it helps to get you or keep you in the holiday spirit.

comein from the coldDay One, and the snow keeps falling, so here’s a few more images with a pretty, fluffy white blanket of the season.  It’s the best decoration of them all, making everything so wonderfully Christmas.snow goose

 

 

 

country church

window snowbeauty

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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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Five Reasons We are Thankful for Our Guests

1. Our guests come in all personalities and experiences, a different way of looking at the proverbial “shapes and sizes”.  We enjoy the unique stories and life experiences they are willing to share with us.  Appreciation of different cultures, family traditions and occupations is developed.  There is always good conversation around the breakfast table keeping life interesting.friends

2. We are thankful to be able to share our historical house and its character with our guests, and so we are thankful for our guests who come and stay.  Let’s face it, it helps to pay the mortgage! More than that we honestly love to talk about the history and continue, as do our guests, to marvel at the handcrafted woodwork and look out through the wavy glass in the original windows. Even more we are thankful that many guests choose to stay with us again and again, they have become friends and “family”.

3. Link-Badge-75-x-75There has been a tremendous increase in our Travel Bucket List thanks to our guests.  Each guest has been somewhere they love and would love to return.  They are so happy to talk about these places and our interest peaks, too.  The guest will share insights as to what to see and do, and maybe where to stay away.  Then there’s hometowns, and you can tell who loves where they live, and hear the pride in their voices when they talk about those places, and the bucket list grows.

4. Thankfully our guests love to eat!  We like to cook, Warren experiments with casseroles and Janet prides herself with some tasty baking.  If our guests didn’t like eating we would never get to expand our recipes and skills.  And if they didn’t have good appetites, well, we’d be stuck with way too many leftovers!brek

5. This may be a stretch, but we are thankful our guests are indirect personal trainers.  They keep us hopping with all the chores that give us exercise throughout the day.  Keeping our grounds and gardens pleasing for guests gets us outside and moving for fresh air and muscle toning.  Many of you wear Fitbits, or Apple Watch (I know; we’ve discussed this, you remember).  I can tell you that making a bed can add ten active  minutes and over 1200 steps to                                                   your day.yard13

We hope this may have brought some humor your way today and do realize that we appreciate your support of our endeavors.  Many you have a blessed holiday season starting with Thanksgiving, and take time to appreciate all you have.

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Chocolate and Cherry Magic Bars

Crust:                                                                                                                                       1 – ¾ c. all-purpose flour                                                                                                       ½ c. granulated sugar                                                                                                            ¼ c. packed light brown sugar                                                                                                 ¼ t. salt                                                                                                                                  ½ c. butter, melted

Filling:                                                                                                                                        1 can cherry pie filling                                                                                                              ½ c. sweetened condensed milk

Topping:                                                                                                                                   ½ c. shredded coconut                                                                                                        ½ c. semi-sweet chocolate morsels

 

Directions:

Spray a 9” square baking pan with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl combine flour, sugars, and salt.  Add melted butter and blend in with a fork until crumbly. Spread the mixture evenly into the baking dish and press down firmly.  Combine the pie filling and milk, stirring until well blended.  Spread this mixture over the crust.  Mix together the coconut and chocolate.  Sprinkle evenly over cherry mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until set and coconut is slightly browned.  Cool on wire rack. Cut into 12 or 16 pieces when completely cooled.Choc n Cherry Magic Bars

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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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Anticipation and Preparation Usher in December

seasonalcookies hhschamberchoirDecember finds the inn to be bustling with holiday preparations.  Cookies have been baking and the decorating almost finished in anticipation for our annual Open House.  This year we will be once again hosting the local high school Chamber Choir to sing Christmas Carols.  Our friend and author, Will Wyckoff, will be on hand to sign his books, including the new “Slow Fire Burning”.  We certainly enjoy this time of year and the warmth we receive from those who stop by to wish Season’s Greetings.

After that excitement is over, there is still time to enjoy the building anticipation for the “big day”.  Traveling guests will find smiles and wonderful baked goods for breakfast, because we just feel like kids again this time of year.  And speaking of kids, as most of you know we are grandparents to four adorable grandchildren (yes, that’s grandparent talk!).  It sure will be fun when they gather for Christmas day!

It’s easy to forget that winter is just around the corner, with cold, snow and short days, with December ushering in the season.  We’re hoping for a snow cover this year so everyone can enjoy the wonderful outdoor sports.  There are lots of activities to enjoy in the area, skiing, sledding, skating, ice fishing, snowshoes, how about a good old-fashioned snowball fight?  snowfamilyWe’ve already had a few inches for some snowman building.  For those of you who don’t like to be outside, just bring along a good book the fire’s toasty warm!

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Should There be Spring?

Valentine rosesIf you have visited our inn, you know I like to decorate.  At Christmas that might even be considered an understatement.  January comes knocking on the door just as Santa Claus needs to take a rest until next December.  Snowmen take their places on the shelves and mantles, then add a few hearts, shades of pink, and roses, and romance fills the air as February hits the calendar.  What’s next?

Yes, it’s true a few shamrocks can be placed to make things St Pat's basketjovial, but the dilemma remains, February is still lingering and winter still has some claws holding fast.  This year is making the decision even more difficult, do I dare to display Spring so early?  But looking at the calendar, (wait, yipes!) Easter is fast approaching! Yes, the days are getting longer, but bunnies and tulips?  Can dreams come true? Could we skip this winter that wasn’t?  I’m ready. As February draws to a close, I have gotten used to not needing the boots to go outside, and those snowshoes can just keep their dust until easterbunnext winter.  I think I’m over not getting “the big snow” for this winter, I surely don’t want it mid-March. (Apologies to all our southern east coast friends who did get a big one this year, you can keep it.)  March will be a month of transition into Spring.  Easter will roll on by and so I suppose we can look at bunnies, ducks, daffodils and chicks, and by the time April arrives those sights and flowers will be here, real time, on the outside

Early spring daffodils

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Signature Springerle

I’ve talked about our tradition of making Springerle Cookies for the Christmas holidays, but we also enjoy making these favorite cookies for other times of the year.  Valentine’s day is one of those times.  With hearts and flowers, a bit of red food coloring, and raspberry flavor we have a beautiful specialty to say romance.

6 whole eggs                 Making Springerle                                                             6 c. powdered sugar                                                                 1 stick butter, softened                                                             1 tsp. flavoring                                                                           ½ t. baking powder                                                                   1 ½ – 2 lb. Flour                                                                          *optional: grated rind of lemon (nice with anise or lemon)

Directions:

Beat eggs in mixing bowl till they thicken a bit and turn lemon colored (about 5 min). Meanwhile measure out 6 cups of sugar into another bowl.  Add gradually to beaten eggs.  Mix well; add stick of softened butter.  Mix well, add flavoring of your choice, including citrus peel if adding.  Mix well.   Measure out about one pound of flour and whisk with the baking powder.  Gradually add flour to batter  until well incorporated., continue to add flour until consistency feels right; not too dry and not too sticky.  The best way to learn this is by repetition!  It should stick to your fingers but not too much.  When you’ve reached the right consistency, you can roll it out, rub a bit of flour into the surface and it feels pretty smooth.  Roll out to about ¼-3/8” thick.  This depends on how thick you want your cookies and how deep your mold.  Flour your mold and press your mold into the dough.  If you are using a springerle rolling pin (you will want your dough on the thicker side if using a rolling pin) flour the whole rolling pin, and using even pressure roll across the already rolled out dough, molding the patterns as you go.  Cut out each cookie after molding it, regardless of which style of molding used.  Place cookies on a greased or lined baking sheet.

springerlemediaBaking Springerle:

Let the cookies set up for at least 24 hours before baking.  Lay wax or parchment paper over the trays and place the loaded baking sheets on an out of the way table or counter.  After the resting period, bake springerle cookies in a 225-300 degree oven for about 15-25 minutes depending on the temperature used.   (225d. for 20 min.; 250d. for 18 min.; 300d. for 15 min.) The cookies should be just starting to show signs of changing color on the edges, and solid underneath.  Let cookies cool slightly, and remove them to cooling racks until completely cooled.  Store in an airtight container and enjoy!  This recipe can yield up to 3 – 12 dozen depending on the size of the cookie.  Until you have practiced, try halving the recipe.

This recipe courtesy of the Springerle House; www.springerlehouse.com                              Please take a look at our store (under specials tab) to see the vintage Springerle rolling pins and boards we have available for purchase.

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Five Days of Holiday Traditions

music

Tradition #5 Christmas music fills the air.  Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the sounds of carols, bells and voices ringing through the air.  Nothing makes the preparations seem more festive than our favorite Christmas songs on the record player, CD player, MP3, or whatever the latest technology.

wishyouMerryChristmasEver since I was a child I can remember the happy times when the Christmas records were playing, with Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Gene Autry and Montovani; yes, my parents had a strange combination of records.  My children remember, too, and got excited, when the Christmas music started to play.  First in the car coming home from Grandma’s on Thanksgiving night – not a day before, and not until after the turkey ‘d been eaten.  We all sang along with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman.  Later we tried to imitate Barbara Streisand’s Jingle Bells, and the camels’ version of Wee Three Kings from Claymation Christmas.  One of our traditions was to join hands in front of the Christmas tree each evening in mid-December and sing one Christmas song before bed.  It was and always is so rewarding and spiritual to join with a choir of voices in strains of the glorious Christmas Carols such as O Holy Night or classics such as The Alleluia Chorus.  HHSChamberChoir

I can’t begin to tell anyone my favorite Christmas Carol or song, there’s just too many.  I can’t even name my favorite album, being torn between Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Manheim Steamroller, but wait then there’s Pentatonix, and Straight No Chaser.  What about Josh Groban and “Believe”?  Whoever you favor, listen as the melody of the season fills your soul.  “Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart…filled it, too, with melody that would last forever.”
– Bess Streeter Aldrich (Song of Years)silent night

Merry Christmas!

 

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Five Days of Holiday Traditions

Antiquecollage

Tradition #4 Deck the Halls!  If you have visited us during December you know we like Christmas and decorating the inn might just be an understatement.  It’s the time of year when we all get out our special, once-a-year treasures; our family ornaments, fine china, and other types of festive decorations.  At the James Manning House you will find a bit of merriment in every room.

Welcome to each guest room and enjoy a jolly little tree.  Perhaps you will remember some of the vintage ornaments and dream of Christmases past.  Twinkling lights adorn the staircase adding a warm glow to the hall.  Did you see the old Shiny Brite glass ornaments shinybriteshanging from the greens?  The living room tree sparkles with antique ornaments of all sizes and shapes, indents and mercury, beaded and Venetian dew.  Some of these are from Germany and some from the early 20th century.  This is my favorite of nine decorated trees in the house.  I enjoy seeing all those beautiful colors, and fourth generation hand-me-downs.  I hope they survive several more generations giving joy to the holiday season for years to come.

nativity

When I think of our Christmas heirlooms my mind is focused on a very special Nativity Set.  This set has beautifully hand-painted ceramic figures.  The three wise men and camel even have some gold trim and jewels.  What really makes this crèche special to me is the story.  My aunt glazed and fired all the pieces and gave the set to my parents as a wedding gift in 1946.  The pieces are still in mint condition and I have set them up every year to tell the story of the birth of the Christ child since I was a young girl.

Entering the house you will encounter that magical belief; “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”.  And another Santa Claus and another, and another, in fact three years ago there were at least 350! (Of course none disappeared and more are added and I don’t think it’s cheating to count the ornaments on the Santa tree.)  Some are elaborately dressed, some made of wood, or metal, or glass, mink, beeswax, and so many more combinations.  There are some dressed in red, or green, there’s even a purple Claus.  I can’t imagine just how this special elf started to fill our rooms but now the tradition is there and there always seems to be a place to display a new addition.collector santa

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