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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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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Spiced Apple Cider Bites

Ingredients for batter                                                                                                               5c.flour                                     spicedappleciderbites            2 t. cinnamon                                      ¼ t. nutmeg                                          1 t. salt                                                 ½ t. baking soda                                   1 c. butter, softened                             1-3/4 c. sugar                                       4 lg. Eggs                                             1 T. vanilla                                             2 lg. Apples, peeled, chopped (2 cups)

Apple Cider Buttercream Frosting                                                                                          1 packet Spiced Apple Cider Instant Mix                                                                                1/3 c. milk                                                                                                                              ½ c. butter, softened                                                                                                              4 c. confectioner’s sugar                                                                                                      ½ t. vanilla

Prepare a 11”x15”baking pan by lining it with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and spices.  Set this to the side.  In another large bowl, using a mixer, cream butter until light.  Add sugar and cream for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.  Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl to fully combine.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture, about a third of the mixture, at a time, beating just enough to combine with each addition, until almost incorporated.  Finally, mix in the apples until just combined.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan, working it out until evenly spread.  Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Place pan on wire racks until completely cooled.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting.  Measure the milk in a one cup liquid measuring cup.  Add the cider mix and dissolve it in the milk.  Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating with each addition.  Alternate adding the milk mixture and sugar, ending with sugar, and beating until all is smooth.  Add the vanilla and if necessary for spreading consistency very gradually add additional milk.

When the cake bar is completely cooled frost with the buttercream frosting and allow to set.  Cut into bars.  Makes approx. 60 1-1/2 inch bites.

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Simple Scones

simple scones

Guests have been asking for my scone recipe for some time.  This is my favorite recipe and using different additions will give you a variety of scones.  One trick is mentioned below, freezing.  I also start with frozen butter and grate it in the food processor.

 

2 c. all-purpose flour                              ½ c. butter, frozen                                                   ] 1 t. baking powder                                 ½ c. fat free sour cream                                          ¼ t. baking soda                                   1 large egg                                                             1/3  c. sugar                                         1/2 t. salt                                                                       ½ c. raisins*

Directions:  In a medium-sized bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt.   Grate the butter into very small pieces.  Work into dry ingredients with your fingers.  This mixture should resemble coarse meal.  Stir in raisins.*

In another small bowl, beat the egg and cream until smooth.  Using a fork stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until large clumps form (do not over work the dough.  Pressing the dough into the sides to pull together to form somewhat of a ball.  Divide into two or three clumps and dump on a floured board.  Press each into a thick disc.

Cut disc into 6-8 triangles (or cut with round cookie cutter).  Put pieces on parchment lined cookie tray, approx.. 2” apart.  Bake in 375 degree preheated oven until golden around the edges. To serve dust with powered sugar or make a glaze with confectioner’s sugar and water, milk, or juice, approx. one tablespoon liquid to one cup of sugar.

The secret to the James Manning House is to freeze the preformed scones before baking. Once frozen wrap tightly and store for up to one month.  Bake as many as desired from frozen state, do not thaw.

*Alternate additives:

Mixed dried fruit                  craisins and orange zest                                                         Lemon-blueberry                dried cherries and almonds                                                   Butterscotch chips             dried apricots and white choc. chips                                 Chocolate and coconut      hazelnuts and toffee                                                                 Pecans and caramels        craisins and white chocolate                                                         Be creative!!

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Experience the Northern Poconos

I often wonder how to answer the question when asked, “Can you see the mountains from your B&B?”  Is this person expecting to look out every window and see snow -capped peaks like in the Rockies?  Perhaps they feel like they will be surrounded by craggy rocks poconodeer to climb and all the other land is a flat plane with houses looking into other house windows?  How do you explain that the Pocono Mountains are an experience?

First the Pocono Mountains are modest in elevation, the point highest is just under 2,700 feet.  But there are highs and valleys, and hills and dips.   Now it is the summer season, as one drives the roads, you are surrounded by green.   The trees are green, and there are many, many trees, abundant, tall, branching and filling the view.  The grasses and plants that stretch into the woods are green and dotted with wonderful colorful wildflowers.  In the Northern Pocono region the roads wind up and down the hills and houses are amply spaced on several acres of ground.  Farms, with fields of green hay are mixed into the landscape and where people have chosen to live now or long ago, trees have been removed leaving beautiful views of mountain ridges in the distance, dark blue, continuous along the horizon.Northernpoconos

The mountains have many streams, and creeks that flow over rocks and tumble along through the trees making small rapids and waterfalls.  Eventually these streams wind their way to the small rivers that fill the Delaware River on the Eastern edge of the Poconos.    They make DyberryCreekUpperPoconoswonderful places to take a picnic lunch or a fishing rod.  The landscape of the Northern Poconos is dotted with small ponds and pristine lakes, wonderful places to “throw in a line”.  The water provides sources for wildlife, the greens for food, and the trees for shelter.  Deer, squirrels, groundhogs,poconolake raccoons, opossums, chipmunks all find the wooded rolling and sloping terrain dotted                                                with human population to be a                                                  comfortable home.

The Northern Poconos have small towns with quaint stores and friendly restaurants.  People say “hi” on the streets and cars stop to let pedestrians cross.  Honesdale, the county seat of Wayne County, has special events on their Main Street with local craft vendors throughout the year.honesdalemainstreet  Here’s America as it was, where there is free entertainment in the park, country fairs, and pride in their history.  You can even help the townsfolk welcome Santa for the season with a parade and singing in the park. Hawley, another small Americana town located in Pike County also hosts several special events and has an indoor local marketplace of specialty items and local goods.

Visiting the Northern Poconos is not the tourist trap kind of place.   Take a train ride through the country side and notice more of this relaxing pace of life in the mountains.  Take a beautiful drive along our wooded roads, snap a picture of a deer, or capture the view over the clearing.  It’s an experience.  Wake up relaxed, take a walk in the woods, sit by a stream and listen to the birds.  Unwind, Rejuvenate!

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Get Up, Get Moving!

herbgarnishIt’s mid-spring.  The great outdoors is calling.  It’s time to renew that connection with the outdoors.  Many of us, and here at the inn included, are thinking about planting.  Maybe it’s flowers, perhaps some vegetables, and here I always like to have some fresh herbs for cooking, well er, at least to garnish the plates.  (I’m looking forward to the new herb guild and learning more about recipes and cooking with herbs.)  The perennials are up, including a favorite around here, rhubarb. The maple leaves are opening and the flowering                                                       trees are gorgeous.

Activities are definitely also “waking up”.  Downtown Honesdale is kicking off the tourist season with Train Day, May 7.  There are activities for young and old alike.  There will be street vendors and fun, not to mention riding the Stourbridge Line. stourbridge line If walking Main St. and shopping is your outdoor activity there’s a special treat in store (no pun intended!) for you.  The Greater Honesdale Partnership is kicking off its Partnership Passport.  Shop all summer long visiting participating merchants and qualify for prizes.

For those of you who want more strenuous outdoor activities, how about Biking Wayne County?  Ride from Honesdale to Hawley through beautiful rolling hills.  Then enjoy a bikehonesdalerelaxing ride back to Honesdale on the historic Stourbridge Line train.  End the day with a complimentary beer tasting at Irving Cliff Brewery.  It sounds like a great day, and you could relax at the James Manning House for the night and enjoy a wonderful breakfast in the morning!

Sshh!  I know another secret, for you anglers……….the streams and lakes have been stocked with trout again this week.  There’s some great fishing around these parts!

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