Tea for Two…or more

     IMG_1139At the top of my list of favorite things is having tea with friends either at home or at a tearoom.

No matter season, time or place, there’s nothing like a warm cup of tea and a good friend to feed your soul.

baker mansion

I first fell in love with having tea in storybooks and then was bitten by the bug over 25 years ago when I was a volunteer tour guide at Baker Mansion in Altoona, PA, and fund raising chair for the Blair County Historical Society.  Although I planned and enjoyed many different events, a series of summer tea parties was my favorite.  With no kitchen facilities we had to transport everything we needed, including fine china and silverware, to the mansion and then lug all the dirty dishes home.   It was an ordeal but well worth it.

Our adult teas included full tea service and an entertaining program.  My favorite of the season was a children’s tea served on the front lawn of the mansion with covered chairs and pastel tablecloths.  The menu was especially fun including cookie cutter sandwiches, gummy fish swimming in Jello, and cupcakes baked in ice cream cones.  The tables were decorated with antique soda fountain glasses with floral arrangements provided by the Blair County Garden Club.  Guests were serenaded by 13-year-old, harpest Rachel Eardley.  At 13 she already played like an expert.  I remember looking down the long, half acre lawn to see a daddy holding his little girl’s hand as they approached.  I nearly broke my leg running down the hill to meet him because I was thrilled to see a daddy escorting his little girl to tea.  He was the only dad there that day.  We concluded the event with a magician and sent everyone home with full tummies and smiles on their sweet faces.Bell wedding dress

Built in 1844 by iron master Elias Baker the mansion is open for tours and special events.  Reputed to be haunted, the mansion boasts the wedding dress of Anna Bell, of Bellwood, PA, that supposedly moves while enclosed in an airtight case.  I spent many an hour sitting in that room, but the dress never honored me with even a slight tap of a wedding slipper.

I make it a habit to visit every tearoom I can find, among my favorites is Tilly Mint’s in Souderton, PA (northwest of Philadelphia, Buck’s County) which is as English as you can get.  Although modest in terms of decor, Tilly Mint’s stands out with exceptional service and the most varied and delectable treats I have personally experienced.

Owner, Trish, British expat is happy to share stories of her homeland and tea with her mother who gave her the nickname of Tilly Mint.  Patrons and owner alike correspond with family and friends in England.  Trish proudly displays pictures of the newest Royals, George and Charlotte, that were sent to her personally by Prince William and Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.
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An especially unique experience was having tea at Meadowbrook Farm, the estate of the late J. Liddon Pennock, Jr, (1913-2003) a renowned Philadlphia florist and landscape designer.  Mr. Pennock is best known for providing the florals for the Trisha Nixon wedding at the White House.  The estate is now maintained by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society who welcome visitors for tours of the house and grounds.  The big surprise for us was a retail nursery on site.  The house is English Cotswold dMeadowbrook-image-garden-loweresign with the original furnishings still in place.

Our tea was served in a beautiful garden room by Chef Brenda Board, whOliver-and-Company-Tea-Room-3-640x426o at that time was catering teas in historical buildings in and around Philly.  We were not only impressed by our surroundings (after finally getting there because we got lost) but by the wealth of knowledge Chef Board had to share.  Did you know there is such a thing as a tea sommelier?  After completing culinary school, Chef Board returned to school to study tea.  She made me dizzy with what I didn’t know about tea.  Brenda presented an exceptional gourmet tea of a unique combination of sandwiches and desserts.  When in the Philly area, try to spend an afternoon enjoying this beautiful estate.

twinings3     If you are a Jersey Shore fan you must visit the Twinings Carriage House Cafe & Tearoom on the Emlen Physick Estate in Cape May.  You can dine outdoors on the tented patio or in the original horse stalls.  I know, that sounds unsanitary but there is no evidence horses ever lived there.  The carriage house is full of character and so unique it looks like an architect’s idea of the perfect carriage house with glossy wood and iron fittings rather than the over 100 year old building that it is.  A member of the Twining family personally visited from England and guided the opening of the tearoom nearly 20 years ago and it continues in popularity with wonderful teas and culinary treats.twinings 4

You’ll have trouble leaving the carriage house withtwiningsout making a purchase in the gift shop…but it’s Cape May and we all need a little token of our visit.

Cape May has boasted the top five restaurants in New Jersey for years and now they can claim the Carriage House Tearoom as one more jewel in their crown. This beautiful little town is the perfect destination to celebrate special occasions.  Stay in one of the many B&B’s, take a horse and carriage tour through the town, and be sure to stop for tea at the Carriage House.  Don’t forget to tour the Emlen Physick house while you’re there, I promise it’s worth your time.

 

 

I consider myseltea merchantf very lucky to have several fine tearooms within driving distance. Tea Merchant 101 located in Duncansville, PA, is a more contemporary tea room with literally over 100 teas to chose from.  Owner, Joe Doyle, offers a light tea on the premises or you can purchase any of his teas to savor at home.  Joe also offers tea accessories and gift baskets.

 

         If you are a lover of all things Victorian, then Bell Mansion Tearbellmansion3oom, in Bellwood, PA, is the tearoom for you.  Owned and operated by Pamela and George Wertman this is definitely the place for tea for two or special events such as showers and birthday parties.

     George’s chicken salad is the best!!!  Their tea selection is vast and worth trying a different tea each time you visit.IMG_20140329_143246

     The Wertmans were kind enough to host a launch party for my first book, Emerson’s Attic, The Blue Velvet.  We had a wonderful time with the mothers and daughters who attended.  Pamela encourages her guests to wear one of her fancy hats and chose their own teapots.  In addition to hostess extraordinaire, Pamela is a talented pianist and surprised me by playing the theme from Somewhere In Time at the event.  Her music was so incredible I had trouble holding back the tears.IMG_20140329_145507

     The Wertmans now offer Bed and Breakfast accommodations on the second floor of the mansion. Keep this in mind when you have too many guests and not enough bedrooms.bellmansion2

     If you don’t have a local tea room where you can buy interesting teas, then I suggest looking for Twinings and Stash brands.  If you cannot find them in your local store, go online.  I love all the different flavors, but am an Earl Gray lover at heart.  Time and time again I chose Lady Gray or Earl Blue.

     There are several things I am an obnoxious snob about, one of them is scones.  Many times I have been told that scones can only be made one way…of course that being the favorite of the speaker.  Well, I’m here to tell you after a month in England and several weeks in Ireland, there is absolutely NOT only one way to make scones.  Every town I visited had a different type of scone.  They run the gamut of rolled and cut, dropped, or in a round cut in wedges, sweet and savory in every flavor you can dream up.  The most surprising thing to me was the best scone I had was on the Virgin Atlantic plane on the way home…go figure, probably commercially made and frozen.  Who cares, it was delicious.

     Many Americans say they don’t like scones.  Yes, they can tend to be a bit dry sometimes and not very flavorful.  I personally think the problem is we Americans don’t do it right.  Scones are meant to be pared with clotted cream, butter, lemon curd and/or preserves.  The terms clotted and curd seem to scare Americans…okay, call it Devonshire cream and lemon pudding. Don’t let a term ruin a new experience.

    After literally years and dozens of recipes I finally found the scone recipe I like best and even my husband (one of those scone haters) likes.  I share it with you below, but I encourage you to test as many recipes as you can until you find your favorite.

My Favorite Scones

2-1/3 c all-purpose flour

3 T brown sugar

2 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1/2 c butter

3/4 c dried fruit of your choice

2-3 T grated orange peel.

8 oz sour cream

1 egg yolk, beaten (save the white for brushing tops)

1 T water

1 T coarse sugar

     Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl stir together dry ingredients.  Using a pastry blender (I use a food processor because it’s much faster) cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add dried fruit and orange zest and toss until mixed. Make a well in the center of the ingredients.

     In a small bowl combine sour cream and egg yolk, add all at once to the well in the flour mixture.  Using a fork, stir just until moistened.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Quickly knead by gently folding and pressing dough until smooth. Divide dough into two equal parts and shape into 8-inch rounds approximately 1/2 inch thick.  Cut each round into six wedges.  Place wedges one inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Brush tops with a mixture of egg white and 1 T water.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

     Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from baking sheet and cool or serve warm.

Mommies and grandmothers, take your favorite little girls to tea or have a tea party at home.

You’ll be starting a new tradition you will all enjoy.

Last but not least…here’s a special little craft project for tea lovers.

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Rainy Day Fun

umbrellaHere in Pennsylvania we’re caught in what feels like monsoon season, as is much of the country.  It’s hot, humid and raining buckets!  On these dreary days I get bored.  This is crazy because I have a ton of work, lots of hobbies, and of course there’s always cleaning, but rainy days zap my energy and fog my brain.  This morning I found myself wondering what I would do if we still had children at home.  I broke out in a sweat thinking about how I would entertain little people.  If I’m bored, think how they must feel not being able to play outdoors.  So, I put on my thinking cap to see what I could come up with.

We all have the tendency to plunk kids down in front of the TV or hand them an I-Pad.  Resist that urge and be creative. Hopefully, one of the following ideas will fit your family.

My first thought is always reading.  Snuggle up and read to your small children and hopefully you’ll all end up taking a long nap.  Encourage older children to read by offering a reward for the number of chapters they read in one day or a very special reward for the number of books they read over the summer.  If your child already enjoys reading, you have no challenge and many hours to yourself.

monopoly

Board games actually seem to be gaining in popularity and are fun for the entire family. Start a Monopoly marathon.  Set the game up in an area where it can be left for days without being in the way.  Call in the neighborhood kids, provide some snacks, and you have the afternoon to yourself.

Have contests of who can put a puzzle together the fastest.  Jigsaw puzzles come in all ability levels and are great for long hours of working together as a family.

Spend a few hours teaching and/or learning a new skill with your older children.  Sewing, knitting, crochet, origami, tying fishing flies, trying a new recipe…the sky’s the limit.

Bake cookies together and/or let them help with meal preparations.

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How about that treadmill or exercise bike that’s been gathering dust or pretending to be a clothes tree?  Clean if off and take turns exercising.

Make your own play dough!  This is an old favorite of ours.  Once the play dough is made, dig into kitchen drawers for a rolling pin, pasta cutter, cookie cutters, canape cutters.  A ricer makes great stringy hair for play dough animals and people. You can find all kinds of tools similar to the ones in play dough kits.

Homemade Play Dough

1 c flour

1/2 c salt

1 T oil

3 T cream of tartar

1 c water

Food coloring if desired

play dough

Heat and stir all ingredients until it can’t be stirred any longer and forms a ball.  It will still feel very sticky.  Allow the dough to cool thoroughly and then knead.    Divide as desired and knead in food coloring.  For a little extra pizzazz knead in some glitter. Play dough is nontoxic and can be stored in an airtight container for quite a while.

Turn on some music and dance with your children like nobody is watching.dancing

Set-up a “salon” where girls can do manicures, pedicures, and give each other new hairdos.  Moms can join in as well.  Great time to corral the little girl who hates to have her hair washed.

Pull out that old suitcase with dress-up clothes and jewelry.  If you don’t have one, this is a good time to clean-out closets and make a dress-up box.  Old costume jewelry is a favorite and don’t forget old shoes…a must.

If it’s your only day off and you have to run errands, call your local craft stores to see if they are offering any summer craft days for kids.  These are usually very inexpensive and sometimes free.  Drop the kids for a few hours while you get your errands done.

Have an indoor scavenger hunt.

Have the kids write a play and then perform it after supper.

Be prepared to offer rewards to get the kids interested…unloading the dishwasher or cleaning a bathroom.  Just kidding, but surprisingly if you catch a child at the right age they actually think it’s fun.  It took very little to convince my Goddaughter to dust the intricate design on the legs of my antique sewing machine.  I don’t think I could get away with that today.

Seriously, rewards work, can be fun, and don’t need to be expensive.  Let them bank minutes for TV and video games for future use.  You will still need to monitor what they are watching or playing, and the time should be limited on the day they use their points.  A trip to the ice cream store, library or perhaps a visit to a local amusement or historical site that you have never gotten around to doing.  A picnic in a local park or even the backyard…they do need to eat.  Let them add-up points toward a new item of clothing, a special toy or school supplies.

I keep a very small, decorated suitcase (the kind you see in craft stores) with “prizes” sometimes just for being good or sitting still for a few minutes.  This suitcase is filled with all kinds of “nothing.”  Dollar store trinkets, stickers that came in the mail free, old jewelry, freebies given away at stores and restaurants, and coupon books to fast food restaurants.  Many of these items I would normally throw away but kids are happy with surprisingly simple things.

girl in window

Plan ahead for the next rainy day by picking up craft kits when you see them.  These go on sale frequently and can be had for pennies on the dollar.  Try different crafts, your kids are bound to find something they enjoy and then the next rainy day will be a lot easier.

If all else fails…send them to grandmas!

rainy poem

 

 

 

Dollhouses, memories and more has been nominated for the Encouraging Thunder Blog Award.

Thank you Deanie Humphries-Dunne!

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Hopefully, you will have less real thunder and more creative thunder at your house.

Copy and paste the link below to your browser to see the book trailer for Emerson’s Attic, The Blue Velvet.

https://onedrive.live.com/?cid=313b437fb0a5648f&id=313b437fb0a5648f%2131325&ithint=video,wmv&authkey=!ADgGKEu8XzRN0xA

Collecting

IMG_0814The definition of a collection is pretty general in any dictionary.  Simply put, a collection is the action or process of gathering items of like kind.  I’ve read that having three or more of any similar object is considered a collection.  At any rate, collecting is one more way families can enjoy time together.  Pick an item of interest to all and start collecting.

 stamp-collecting

Postage stamp collecting is one of the best known hobbies.  Did you know it began at the same time stamps were first issued, and by 1860 thousands of collectors and stamp dealers were appearing around the world.  Stamp collecting is a less popular hobby today but it is still estimated that about 25 million people enjoy the hobby in the United States and 200 million worldwide.  Whew, that’s a lot of people not to mention stamps.

Some people collect memories in the form of matchbooks and napkins from favorite places, ticket stubs to concerts or movies, and most importantly photographs of family and friends.

I once did a bug collection for extra credit in biology.  Poor Mr. Yoder, I think he was sorry he ever suggested it.  His office was hidden in an obscure part of the school (probably to hide from students like me) where I would pop around the corner and stick my head in to see if he was there.   My sudden appearance startled him many times which hopefully was the reason for the look of disdain on his face, which equaled my feeling about the subjects of my collection and the process of mounting them.

Summer is the perfect time to start collecting…bugs, rocks, butterflies, fossils, and in the case of little boys just about anything that wiggles, hops or squirms. What mother of a boy hasn’t put her hand in a pocket on wash day to find something she would have rather not.

butterflies

 

Plan ahead for a leaf collection by identifying and preserving leaves this summer for school in the fall.  Start teaching your children to cook and make a notebook or special box for their favorite recipes.  The possibilities are limitless!

 

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Whatever you decide to collect, make it fun!

 

Copy and paste the link below into your browser to see my new video for Emerson’s Attic, The Blue Velvet.

https://onedrive.live.com/redir?resid=313b437fb0a5648f!31325&authkey=!ADgGKEu8XzRN0xA&ithint=video%2cwmv

 

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Kids in the Kitchen

I don’t know about you, but I change my recipes for the seasons like I change the clothes in my closet.  Summer is just around the corner and it’s time to think about easy, fun recipes.
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Thinking about this reminded me of the time our daughters, then in junior high school, made Peanut Butter Tandy Cake.  Call it what you will Tastycakes, Tandy Kake or Kandy Kake…my recipe calls it Peanut Butter Tandy Cake.   Yes, they are just like the ones you buy at the store.  I didn’t know there was a controversy over the name, to me, they always were and always will be Tandy Cakes (see the tweet below explaining the name change).

 

At any rate, when I got home…from wherever…the girls were upset because they had done something wrong and the end product was not like it was when I made the recipe.  It only took one look at the baking sheet to realize they had forgotten to add the baking powder.  However, in my opinion, they made it better.  Their Tandy Cake was EXACTLY like the original except cut into squares instead of the traditional round shape.  Without the baking powder the cake layer stayed low like the Tandy Cakes we all know and love.

tandy kakeThis picture shows the recipe with the baking powder.

Without the baking powder they are about half this high.

Peanut Butter Tandy Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease or use baking spray to coat the bottom of a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan (pan must have sides).

Cake Ingredients

2 c flour

2 c sugar

1/2 c oil

1 c milk

4 slightly beaten eggs

2 t melted butter

2 t baking powder

1 t vanilla

Mix ingredients together and pour on the well-greased 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  DO NOT OVER BAKE.

Peanut Butter Topping

While cake is baking, mix together:

3/4 c smooth peanut butter

1/2 stick melted butter

3/4 to 1 c powdered sugar

When cake tests done, remove from oven and immediately spread peanut butter topping

over the entire top of the cake while it is still hot.

Place in refrigerator or freezer until the peanut butter has hardened.

Chocolate Icing

When cake is cold, melt two 8-ounce Hershey bars in a double boiler on top of the stove.

Spread the melted chocolate over the peanut butter layer and return cake to the refrigerator until chocolate is set.

Before serving bring the cake to room temperature and cut into 2-inch square.

Enjoy, with or without the baking powder!

Is It a Tandy Kake or a Kandy Kake?

By

That’s Tandy Kake to you, sir

We knew there was a reason we were following Tastykake’s Twitter feed! Today they’ve revealed the answer to a mystery that’s been nagging us for YEARS. Why did they change the name of our beloved chocolate-covered peanut butter mini-cakes from Tandy Kakes to Kandy Kakes? Honestly, we’ve had arguments with people about this very subject, people who refused to believe they were ever called Tandy Kakes. People who made us question the validity of our own childhood lunchbox memories! Today, Tasty Baking Company solved the mystery in 140 characters (or less).

Via Twitter:

“Tandy Kakes were changed to “Kandy Kakes” to avoid confusion with the Tandy Candy Co. during the 1970s.”

Thank you, Tastyake, for making us feel whole again! We don’t know who this Tandy Candy Company is (or was, since we can’t find them via a google search), but we are going back to calling them Tandy Kakes, just because we can.

If anyone else has any burning Krimpet or Koffee Kake questions, they will be answering them via Twitter: @TastyBakingCo.

 

 

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Don’t forget your summer reading list!

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Kids in the kitchen

Beautiful miniature kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of every home where family and friends prefer to gather.  This special room is where families prepare and eat meals, do homework, play games, and create projects for school and leisure.   It’s the common ground for everything that happens in the home.  Most importantly, it’s where families share time.  It’s also the perfect place to teach teamwork and responsibility.  The story of The Little Red Hen is a perfect example for teaching the children to share the work in order to share the benefit.   Even the youngest children can help set the table, clear the table, and dry dishes. While you’re at it…teach them to cook.  More and more I see young people interested in cooking and baking.

I would like to share a simple recipe with you and your children.  Call it a starter recipe because it’s so easy.  I failed fudge 101 and even managed to mess up the “Foolproof Fudge” recipe, don’t know how, but I did.  After many years of not making fudge I was introduced to Peanut Butter Meltaway Fudge, which I can actually make perfectly every time.  Give it a try and see what you think.

 

Peanut Butter Meltaway Fudge

One 14 ounce bag of white chocolate candy melts

One 14 ounce bag of milk chocolate candy melts

One 12 ounce jar of creamy peanut butter

Spray an 8 x 8-inch or 9 x 9-inch pan or baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Place candy melts and the peanut butter into a large, microwave-safe bowl.  Place bowl in the microwave on high for 60 seconds. Remove, stir, and return to microwave for another 60 seconds.  Remove and stir again.  If lumps remain, return to the microwave for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until all the lumps are gone and mixture is creamy smooth.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and refrigerate.  When fudge has hardened, remove and place on the counter until it comes to room temperature (this makes it easier to cut).  Cut into squares and serve.  This fudge keeps very well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks.  Enjoy.

 Plaisier de Veniseminiature kitchen by Cinderella Moments

Do you like the pictures of kitchens?

They’re all dollhouse kitchens!

Books are best friends forever!Books! Artist: unknown

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Emerson’s Attic available at Amazon.com

http://www.kathleenandrewsdavis.com

When life gives you lemons…

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The October 1927, Reader’s Digest, attributes this idiom to Elbert Hubbard who said,   “A genius is a man who takes the lemons that Fate hands him and starts a lemonade stand with them.”

That being said, I would like to offer my own timely thought, “When nature gives you snow, make more.”  Crazy right?  The truth of the matter is, it’s winter here in the Northeast and you can either complain or you can find ways to enjoy it.  If you’re not the outdoors type, which is too bad because there’s nothing like breathing the pollen-free, crisp air from a mountain top or a frozen lake, then get creative.IMG_0529

There is no better time to read and play games with your family.  Dig out the old Monopoly game and have a Monopoly Marathon.  Teach a child to cook or bake.  Have fun with crafts and puzzles.   OR…MAKE SNOW!

Yes, you really can, and for children who have never seen snow this is as close as they might ever get without living in snow country.

Ingredients For Making Snow

500 g (approximately 2 cups) of bicarbonate soda

1 can of shaving cream

silver or blue glitter (optional)

Cover your kitchen table with an old plastic tablecloth.

Pour the bicarbonate soda and glitter into a very large, clean bowl.

Add most of the can of shaving cream and mix well.

This is not an exact science, measurements are approximate.

Mix and add shaving cream until

you get to a snow consistency that can be molded into a ball.

That’s it.  Dig in and make a snow man!

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If that’s not enough to keep the little people busy on a snow day try this:

Snow Ice Cream

1 gallon CLEAN snow

1 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 cups milk

The directions say when it starts to snow place a large, clean bowl outside to collect the flakes.  Hmmm….it would have to be a massive snow storm to collect a gallon of snow that way.  I would suggest scoping up as much fresh snow as possible.

I bet the jokes are flying about yellow snow about now.

Please, avoid yellow snow at all costs.

When you have your gallon of snow stir in sugar and vanilla to taste, then stir in just enough milk for the desired consistency.  Serve at once.

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And there you have it, a few ideas to help you get through snow days!

Have fun!

Don’t forget International Book Day coming up on February 14, 2015.

Give a child a book and you give them the world.

Visit me at http://www.kathleenandrewsdavis.com/

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Gifts From The Heart

So, what do you give the person who has everything or the friend who drops by with an unexpected gift?  Ah ha, always a dilemma this time of year.   As any mother will tell you, that little hand print preserved in clay or the homemade card are the gifts she cherishes the most.  I always loved the “make it, bake it, grow it” theme because it meant someone really put some time and effort into their gift.

This time of year is always synonymous with homemade cookies and crafts which I hope you enjoy as much as I do.  When I was in elementary school and most moms were stay-at-home moms, cookies were the big thing and still are today. Someone must have thrown a spatula into the street as the gauntlet for the cookie wars to begin, and so they did.  Before the Thanksgiving turkey was cold, women for blocks around were pulling on their oven mitts and eyeing up the competition.  As children we had to stand single file in a line, monitored by a “patrol boy,” until a certain time before walking to school.  While standing “in line,” the conversation or rather bragging, was totally out of control.  “My mom made 75 dozen cookies.”  “Well, my mom made 90 dozen.”  “Yeah well, my mom wins because she made 120 dozen.”  No, these numbers are not exaggerated, they really did make that many cookies.  I know this because as fast as my older brother would down 2 dozen cookies and a quart of milk, we still had Christmas cookies at Easter.  Hundreds of the cookies went to what we called “shut-ins” in those days.  These were the elderly or ill, who I’m sure re-gifted the cookies or fed them to their dogs because they received so many.  Plates piled high and covered with plastic wrap accompanied us on our visits to friends and family.  If we weren’t visiting another family then they were coming to our house nearly every night from the week before Christmas until New Year’s Day.  This was great fun when you knew and enjoyed the kids of the people you were visiting.  Unfortunately, I remember more times than I care to admit, of feeling hot and sweaty in my new, usually velvet, Christmas dress, sitting stiffly on someone’s sofa praying the adults would stop talking so we could go home.

I inherited the cookie gene and used to do the same thing; however, never to the extent my mother did.  Once I started working full time and a second job at Christmas, the oven was never turned on.  Can’t remember how the kids got fed!  This is when I learned the true meaning of “gifts from the heart.”   Every Christmas, as long as she lived, our dear friend Audrey baked as many cookies as the moms from my childhood.  She was envied by many for being the best baker in our church.  Without fail, the week before Christmas there would be a knock at the front door and Audrey’s husband or one of her sons would be standing there with a large box filled with delicacies and nestled in the center was one of her famous coffee cakes.  She didn’t just do this for us, she did it for everyone she knew and I’m pretty sure some people she didn’t know.  As a working mom, this was truly a treasured gift.  She treated my family with the tradition of cookies and helped me overcome the guilt of not baking.  None of us could resist the temptation of a cookie, or four, the day they were delivered, but her coffee cake was sacred and saved for Christmas morning.  Thirty-seven years later my kids still remind me not to forget to bake Audrey’s coffee cake for Christmas morning.

Mom stored her cookies in gallon size tin cans on closet shelves, in the laundry room, in the mud room anywhere she could find room and hide them from us.  We had to  search high and low to find them when we wanted to “sneak” a cookie.  I inherited the container gene too! I am a confessed container junkie (as you will see in the following pictures), glass, paper, tin, cardboard, doesn’t matter.  If it’s pretty, has an interesting shape, or is simply well-made I can’t resist.

Our oldest daughter, picked up that old gauntlet lying in the middle of a slushy street, and decided we should give cookies as gifts.  Interpreted this means, mom did all the baking.  However, she took it further with her famous spiced pretzels which filled the second tin.  I can’t remember what we put in the third tin, but we ended up with a tower of treats.  Shopping trips looking for beautiful Christmas tins became another one of our holiday escapades.  If the tins were on sale…we were there, along with dozens of other women grabbing for the prettiest tins.  You gotta love being tall, it gives you a longer reach and we always managed to get the tins we wanted and have fun with the other shoppers.

And so, I share with you a few simple ideas that are fast and easy that you can have ready for that last minute needed gift.  Display the finished product on your mantle, a table or a window sill and you’ll be ready.  Great for teachers, the unexpected friend, or the “shut-in” down the street.  Go for the cookies or try one of the following.

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 The small jars contain hot chocolate mix and the large jar contains turkey noodle soup mix.

Hot Chocolate Mix

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 c white sugar

1/2 c chocolate chips

Miniature marshmallows

One small mason or jelly jar

The jelly size mason jar is a little tight so go for bigger or cut down on the chocolate chips or marshmallows;

 a 12 ounce size jar is perfect.

Directions:  In a small mason or jelly jar, layer cocoa powder, sugar, chocolate chips, and as many miniature marshmallows as you can squeeze in.  Just picture those marshmallows popping out when the lid is removed…hehehe.  Tighten the lid and decorate as desired.  Attach a note with the recipe and the following directions to the jar.

To Heat:  Place the contents (all but the marshmallows) in a medium saucepan with 8 cups of milk.  Simmer and stir until the chocolate is melted and the cocoa warm.  Pour into mugs and top with marshmallows; add a candy cane as a stir.

Turkey Noodle Soup

3 T chicken bouillon granules

1 t pepper

1/2 t dried whole thyme

1/4 t celery seeds

1/4 t garlic powder

1 or 2 bay leaves

Noodles to fill jar.

Directions:  Layer the ingredients in the order given into a wide-mouth, 1-quart canning jar.  Slide the bay leaves down along the sides of the jar as you add the noodles.  Screw on the lid, decorate the jar, and attach a tag or card with the directions.

To Make Soup:  Place the contents of this jar (turkey noodle soup mix) in a large pot.

Add:

12 c water

2 carrots, diced

 2 stalks of celery, diced

1/4 c minced onion

Bring mixture to a boil.  Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Discard the bay leaf.

Stir in 3 cups cooked, diced turkey and simmer an additional 5 minutes.

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And there you have it!  Fast, easy gifts for everyone on your list.

There are tons of recipes on line and in books with similar ideas that you and your family can work on together.  Have fun.

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More gifts from the heart.

Hand knitted slippers and hats packaged with toiletries by a church youth group for a local shelter.

Gifts are even better when given to someone you don’t know.

Joy is in the giving, not the receiving.

Quote of the day:  “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Teresa

Winners of Emerson’s Attic, The Blue Velvet

                                                 Madison, Ohio

                                                   Amy, Pennsylvania

digitalbookcoverupdated (2)Kaylee, Virginia

Evelyn, Florida

Juanita, Maryland

Sophia, Oklahoma

Elizabeth, California

Eva, Pennsylvania

Alexis, Pennsylvania

Chloe – Massachusetts

Congratulations and thank you for entering.  Watch for future contests with questions from the book.

If you haven’t visited my website please do:  http://www.kathleenandrewsdavis.com/

Merry Christmas and may your New Year be filled with happiness.

Don’t forget to visit my site at:  http://www.kathleenandrewsdavis.com/

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