Haunted Dollhouse

Get ready, it’s almost here!

Check out this haunted dollhouse.

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Trick or Treat!  We’re waiting for you…

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My friend (to your right) dieted a little too much this year.

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Candy anyone?

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Yes, I’m talking to you little girl.

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Please don’t step on the flowers!

 

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Pick a room and spend the night with us.

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How about a little treat?

 

Have you been “Booed?”  This is fun!  Our daughter and her family were “Booed” for the first time last year.  This involves making up gift bags, placing them at the doors of friends/neighbors with a note attached, ringing the doorbell and running! There are lots of fun things for Halloween already on sale, be creative and conjure up some fun.  You can use candy, but we preferred not to use edibles. My grandson and I packed little bags with Halloween projects for three families in his neighborhood.  When it started to get dark, he did the running and we strolled along behind him.

For details go to http://www.beenbooed.com/ for details.

Woohoo…….what fun.

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BOO!!!

This is a great time of year to tell stories and read.

Hot cider, donuts, a big fuzzy blanket, and a good book are the ingredients for the perfect Halloween potion.

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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.

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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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Autumn Approaches

back to schoolThe days are shortening, the leaves are starting to turn color, and anticipation grows for parents and children alike for the first day of school.

Stores are crowded with tired parents and children stressing about choosing cool clothes to make them fit in.  New school supplies are a thrill at any age.  I bought a new spiral notebook this year just to feel like part of the game.  school supplies

Backpacks make a garden of color on Target and Walmart walls with the selection getting bigger every year.  How did we ever manage carrying multiple books on our hips?  And, how come boys never had as many books to carry as girls?

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Covering our school books was one of my favorite tasks every year.  The kitchen table was piled with books, brown paper bags, and tape.  Being able to make a tight fitting book cover from a paper bag was a true skill and one to be proud off.  I remember the smell and the feel of the covers as I stacked the finished books.  In those days doodling on the book covers was an art form.  When your boyfriend’s name changed, you had to make a new book cover.

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Look at this clever book cover…woo hoo!

Oh…the excitement of going to junior high.  You thought you would never adjust.  Just when you loved junior high the most, it was time to move on to senior high and even greater anxiety.

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Stay-at-home moms will get to enjoy a few extra minutes of quiet time before trying to coordinate everyone’s new activities and starting the chauffeur game.   Working moms will look at their calendars in fear of having to work late and business trips that will take them away from the school activities they want to share with their children.

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Do you think this mom is ready for school to start?

I wish you all happy times and please do not text or talk on the phone while driving your children.

Which is more important, the phone call, or your child’s life?  No brainer!

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Fun Summer Read

This is the first time I have blogged about an adult book but I wanted to pass on an entertaining read that won’t depress you, address social issues, vampires or history we can’t change.  The book is called Pistol Fanny’s, Hank and Dililah, by Annie Rose Welch.  At first glance I thought it was a western and not for me…never judge a book by it’s cover!  I ventured into the first chapter which was okay, but then the second chapter showed the true creativity of this author.  I was hooked and hope you will be too.  I don’t do spoilers, but the following blurb will at least give you an idea about the story.  This is an entertaining book perfect for the beach or the pool.  Don’t forget the sunblock!

Pistol

Never fall in love with a bank robber.

Especially if she’s the one who robbed your bank, took you hostage, and dumped you unconscious at the local convenience store. And definitely not if you are the assistant district attorney of Tupelo, Mississippi.

This is the advice Hank Huckleberry Rivers would have given himself, back when he was a man who vowed to always walk on the right side of the law. The same law that had seemed sacrosanct ever since the day he and his friends watched as two men were murdered right below their tree house.

 Falling in love with a dangerous criminal can have life-altering consequences, though. And when the past and the present meet head-on, Hank finds himself in more trouble than he ever bargained for. He must run to save his life, daring to find answers to the questions threatening his safety and his heart, as the killer below the tree house comes after Hank—and his pistol-wielding bank robber.

It’s a simple case of love in the first degree.

Wimberley, Texas may be “A Little Bit of Heaven” but that doesn’t mean they’re not vulnerable

to a gang of beautiful outlaws.

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Wimberley

About the Author

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Born and raised in New Orleans, Annie has a habit of shortening her words and telling long stories. She speaks with a southern flair and cooks with it too. At the tender age of twenty- one, she hitched up her wagons (took her first plane ride) and moved out west to the big shake (California). Her writing career began one sleepless night when she imagined a gorgeous woman and a man with maniacal hair floating above her like lightening bugs falling from the sky. Curious about them, their story, and why they were floating around in her head, she sat down and penned (typed) her first novel, Marigny Street. A dream

come true for her, she hasn’t stopped writing since. She loves a damn good love story, always has, no matter what the genre. She is particularly moved by imperfect love that in its own unique way is perfect, the notion of love at first sight, soul mates, and things that are generally out of the norm. When she’s not writing she enjoys dabbling in photography and finding new, inspirational music to add to her collection. Deciding on a whim to hitch up those same wagons, Annie currently resides in Texas (where everything is bigger) with her husband, daughter, and their two peculiar dogs, Boudreaux and Tabasco (who, call her crazy, bark with an accent).

For lagniappe (a little extra), a virtual cup of café au lait and beignets, please visit Annie’s website: http://www.annierosewelch.com

She can also be found on Facebook & Twitter.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnnieRoseWelch Twitter: https://twitter.com/angelwriter11

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7159582.Annie_Rose_Welch Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Annie-Rose-Welch/e/B00DQSYDTM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

 

Tales of Tails

IMG_1093The lazy, hazy days of summer have caught up with me!  All I feel like doing is reading.  A perfect day for me is one spent under the pergola with a good book and listening to the hummingbirds buzz around my head.

I pulled out another one of my favorite childrens’ books, Brambly Hedge, Summer Story, by Jill Barklem.  If you have never experienced her books, I highly recommend you run right out and get one – OR – let your fingers do the shopping on the internet.

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Ms. Barklem is a British author and illustrator with incredible talent.  As a child she suffered an eye injury that prevented her from having an active life so she turned to art and books.  Her stories are about the Brambly Hedge mice who live in the bucolic world of the English countryside.  When reading you forget the characters are mice and feel like you are a member of their community.  The mice are too charming for words and the illustrations exquisite.

As much as I love her stories, I find myself spending more time studying her drawings.  The detail draws you in like a seek and find game.  I’ve tried to show some of her work here, but for better pictures google her.

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You can purchase her books individually, but I particularly like, The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge.  This book includes her four seasons books, as well as a conversation with the artist and studies of her art in progress.

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If you’re into sewing or crafts, you will enjoy The Brambly Hedge Pattern Book, which includes patterns and instructions for making the mice.  I’m considering making my dollhouse a mouse house…hmmm, do I really need another project?

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I wonder how Emerson would feel about living with a few mice in her house?

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Share these wonderful books with the ones you love!

 

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Don’t forget to encourage your middle-graders to read the Emerson’s Attic Series.

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Please visit the Blue Velvet book trailer.  Copy and paste into your browser:   https://www.youtube.com/embed/Jf_AkD1nG2g

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the trailer and the books.

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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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Build Your Own Library

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I first learned about roadside libraries from a cousin who sent me a few pictures and hooked my curiosity.  What a wonderful example of being neighborly!  The premise is simple, build or buy a weather-proof box, erect it close to the sidewalk or road in front of your home, and fill it with books.  TA-DA…you now have your own free library.  Post a sign telling passersby to take a book and leave a book.  Don’t fret if a few books go missing without replacements, just remember you made someone’s day a little better.library2Since the first one in Hudson, Wisconsin, the simple, yet profound idea of sharing books via these little structures has spread across the U.S., Mexico, Canada,and Europe.  The Little Free Library goal is to build more libraries than Andrew Carnegie, who built 2,510.  That goal shouldn’t be hard to reach considering how many of us love to read and love to share.

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This truly is the perfect project for the entire family.  Now’s the time to plan and build your library so that it’s ready for summer.  How big, what color, where to put it?  Fancy smancy or plain Jane, it doesn’t matter.  Let everyone help.  Go wild and crazy with your design and be sure to let the kids help.

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This old British phone booth has to be the ultimate roadside library.

These pictures evoke memories of warm summer days under a shady tree reading, talking to neighbors over the back fence and

riding a bike aimlessly along a country road.

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Wouldn’t it be fun to mark each book with it’s original location?

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How thoughtful to add a chair for a weary traveler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to check with your municipality or zoning board to be sure you’re allowed to erect such a structure.

Here are a couple sites you might like to check out:

littlefreelibrary.com and shareable.net

Send me pictures (emersonsattic@gmail.com) of your library and I’ll post them on my blog and FaceBook.

Happy Reading!

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