Thanksgiving Projects

Yes, I’m a little early, but nothing compared to the retailers pushing Christmas in August!!  I feel like Thanksgiving gets lost among the leaves…or rather holidays of Halloween (is that technically a holiday?) and Christmas.  That being said, I’m here to hopefully encourage you to do something a little special this year.  Invite somIMG_1430eone new to your dinner table, try a new recipe or craft or better yet, treat every day like Thanksgiving.  We all have something to be thankful for, even on the grayest of days.

Here’s an idea for a Thanksgiving dessert and a centerpiece all in one.

Take a look at the date on the bottom of the copied magazine page…Country Living October 2006.  Do you think I saved this recipe long enough?  I finally pulled it out last weekend and made the pumpkin-shaped cake.  It turned out pretty good, albeit a tad dry.  We really liked the combination of chocolate and pumpkin, but agree IMG_1415it was not quite strong enough.  If I were to make this cake again, I would increase the pumpkin to 1 full cup and the pumpkin pie spice to 3 teaspoons.  I used two smaller (6-cup) bundt pans and they worked fine.  I only had to do a little trimming to get the cakes to stack evenly.  In addition to the drizzle icing, I spread a very thin layer of chocolate icing between the layers and mixed the leftover icing with the cake trimmings and shoved them down in the middle of the cake; I knew the family would want more icing, and I needed something to support my leaves and stem. I took the easy way out and used artificial leaves and stem (chenille stems twisted tightly together).  I just didn’t have time to make marzipan, although I highly recommend it because it looks so much better.  If you try this cake, let me know how you make out.

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Easy Pumpkin Spice and Pecan Cake

1 Devil’s Food cake mix

2 t pumpkin-pie spice (increase to 3 t)

2/3 c pumpkin (I suggest increasing to 1 c)

1/4 c softened unsalted butter

3 whole large eggs

1 cup finely ground pecans

3/4 c water

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter and flour or use baking spray to coat two 6-cup bundt pans, 1 large bundt pan or three 6, 8, or 10-inch round cake pans if you want to do some serious carving.  Double the recipe if using the round cake pans.

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat using a mixer on medium-high speed until batter is smooth.  Fill the cake pan(s) and bake for approximately 25-35 minutes.  Watch closely and test with a toothpick.  Do not over bake.  Cool cake(s) completely on a wire rack before assembling.  Trim the pumpkin cake halves flat on the side that would be the bottom of the bundt pan before stacking together to form the pumpkin.  If you are using round cake pans you will need to carve the cake into a pumpkin shape after stacking the layers.  Decorate as desired.  Viola!  Easy peasy!

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My grandson loves to make name cards for special occasions, so I decided to try to make pilgrims hats.  This turned out easier than I expected and I’m including the instructions for you.  Names and/or artwork on the hats can be provided by the little pilgrims in your life.   All you need is white paper (you can use copy paper), black and yellow construction paper, scissors, glue and Scotch tape.

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Cut a piece of white paper (8-1/2 x 11 inch copy paper in half) to 5-1/2 inches x 8-1/2 inches.  Fold one of the longer edges back 1 inch; this is the front of the bonnet. On the opposite side measure in 2-1/4 inches on each side and then up 1-1/2 inches toward the center of the paper.  Mark the center of the same edge with a pencil dot.  With your scissors, cut up to the 1-1/2 inch marks and then down to the center dot.  This looks like an “M” when it is cut out (see picture).

Bring the 2-1/4 inch sides together and tape front and back to secure; it looks like the Flying Nun’s hat at this point.IMG_1417

Now, pull the center point down to the bottom of the back shaping it to fit as you go.  Secure with tape.  Punch a small hole in each side of the front of the bonnet.  Tie a knot in the end of a 6-inch piece of string or ribbon and pull the unknotted end through the hole.  Repeat on the other side.  Tie a bow with the ribbons to hold the bonnet in place.  All done.IMG_1419

Man’s Hat

From black construction paper cut a 6-inch diameter circle for the brim of hat.  Cut a 4″ x 9″ rectangle of black paper.  Cut a 1-1/2 inch x 8-1/2 inch piece of white paper and a 2-1/2 inch x 3-1/4 inch piece of yellow construction paper.  Look at the picture above for the finished hat to use as an example for the man’s hat.IMG_1414

Glue the strip of white paper 1/2 inch above one long edge of the large black rectangle.  When glue is dry roll the rectangle into a cylinder and tape inside and out to hold in place.  Do not fold or crease this piece.  Poke a hole in the center of the round piece of black paper and then cut pie-shaped wedges, approximately 2-1/2 inches, toward the outside of the circle.  Fold these wedges up into the center of the cylinder and tape.  Cut the center out of the yellow rectangle leaving 1/2 inch borders on all sides and glue on top of the white band at the front of the hat.  I did not cover the top of the hat, but you can if you like.  All done!

 

 

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COMING NOVEMBER 30, 2015

WINDWARD SECRETS

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

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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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Happy Valentine’s Day

Many, many years ago when I was in elementary school we didn’t have teacher’s aides or traveling teachers who taught music, art, and physical education.  What we did have were teachers who did it all and still found time to give us parties, Christmas programs, and really fun projects.  It was those special things that we looked forward to.  One of my favorites was making a valentine box.  I distinctly remember looking at a plain shoe box and having no idea where to begin.

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I can’t throw away an oatmeal container without feeling guilty that some child needs it!

 

In those days, we had only the basics materials with which to work; colored paper, glue, and if you were lucky a paper doily and crepe paper.  Mommy Note: Crepe paper color runs when it gets wet and using glue makes for sticky, colored fingers.  I felt inferior because the other kids’ boxes were more beautiful than mine.  Happily, I have gotten over that with no psychological damage.  Surprisingly, the boys really got into this project and came up with very inventive designs.  There was one little girl who always out-did everyone else with everything she made.  To this day, I’m pretty sure her mother hired an artist for her projects because I’ve yet to see third grade work that equals hers. I didn’t know until I Googled valentine boxes that the tradition has continued.  If I was amazed at the boxes in my elementary school, I was speechless at the pictures of boxes made by children today.  They’re valentine boxes on steroids!  And, I must say, more creative than ever.

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The best part of the Valentine’s Day tradition was giving and receiving valentines.  Poor Dad had to make a special trip to the store so that we could pick our valentines to give friends.  They were inexpensive and not fancy, but I loved the little envelopes.  Again, that little girl who always had the best valentine box had the expensive valentines, urrrrr…okay maybe I’m not over it!  Before signing my name, every valentine was carefully chosen for a particular friend by the cute little animal or in the case of boys, the least romantic message on the card.  Separating the valentines in this manner made for a large pile of questionable valentines that eventually had to go to someone or I would not have enough!

 

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I swear I remember these exact valentines.

The teacher would give everyone a list of the names of all the children in the class to make sure no child was forgotten.  On one hand I wanted a valentine from someone special, and on the other hand I knew if a boy wrote anything other than his name on the valentine my brother would never let me forget it.  Thankfully, the boys had no interest in doing any such thing; well, maybe one or two.  There were two boys named “Jimmy” in our class which made for a bit of confusion at times like this.  Yes, you know the feeling…which one was it…the one you wanted it to be or the other?  Most exciting were the special items tucked inside the envelope; heart candies with messages like “Be Mine,” or if you were really lucky a stick of gum which you were not allowed to chew in school.  If you got one of those heart shaped candies that said anything close to being “mushy,” you had several options.  You could quickly shove the little heart into your mouth and destroy the evidence or you could reveal it only to your very best friend and hope she kept her mouth shut about it.  I usually chose the former.

When my children brought home valentines with minuscule heart confetti, that I picked up for weeks, I found that less than clever.  Whoever came up with that idea obviously didn’t have children or had a cleaning lady. Those little hearts rank right up there with Easter grass and Christmas tree needles!

Going back even further than my childhood, as hard as that is to believe, the Victorians had beautiful, romantic, over-the-top valentines.  These were very typical of the Victorian saying, “too much is not enough.”

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 Look closely, they too used paper doilies!

 A Little History On Victorian Valentines

In the language of St. Valentine’s Day, a red heart symbolizes a holiday of love and romance.

Lacy valentines of the Victorian era reached their peak in the years 1840-1860. On delicate lace paper hand-painted motifs such as; cupids, birds, flowers, hearts, and darts may be enhanced with chiffon, silk, satin, tulle, or lace. Novelty valentines might feature a tiny mirror, an envelope, a puzzle purse, or a slot to hold a lock of hair. There were valentine checks drawn against the Bank of Love, and valentines printed to look like paper money. One of these looked too much like a real five-pound note and was quickly recalled.  Some valentines were decorated in watercolor or in delicate pen and ink. Often the handwriting was a thing of beauty as fine penmanship was considered a form of art.

I found the puzzle purse valentine very unique.  Following are the instructions for you to make one at home.  Using your very best handwriting, write a message or a poem and/or draw pictures of your favorite things.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to make one for Mom and Grandma.

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Google Valentine’s Day projects for more ideas.

Happy Valentine’s Day

 Don’t forget International Book Giving Day also on February 14th.

Happy Groundhog Day

Happy What?

If you’re not from Pennsylvania or surrounding states you may never have heard of Groundhog Day.  However, that’s a little hard to believe since even the national news networks get excited every February 2nd, the day we here in Pennsylvania call Groundhog Day.  What exactly is Groundhog Day?  Every February 2nd, since 1886, a groundhog rubs his sleepy little eyes, stretches out his legs, and lumbers to the door of his hutch.  Or, more realistically is awoken from a sound sleep at dawn by a bunch of human beings making a lot of noise and shinning Kleig lights in his face.  Poor little guy, can you imagine how he feels about all this pomp and circumstance.

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This beloved little creature is known as Punxsutawney Phil, named after the town in western Pennsylvania where he lives. Not one to type big words of which I don’t know the meaning, I looked up Punxsutawney.  All of the translations were pretty much the same.  Punxsutawney, prounounced “ponksad-uteney” or my version Punk-so-tawn-e, was an Indian village originally settled by Delaware Indians in 1723 before Europeans came to America.  The name Punxsutawney means “sand-fly place” or  “town of the sandflies.”   The vermin were so small they couldn’t be seen and their bite as hot as sparks of fire.  Neither of those translations does the town of Punxsutawney justice.  I have never seen any sand in Punxsy (as we locals call it) or a sandfly for that matter.  What is there is a charming town that still has a busy main street, lots of community pride, and polite inhabitants who say hello to strangers.

Back to Phil…Phil is the big celebrity in Punxsy because he has a very important job.  He is the most famous of all weather forecasters, at least in Pennnsylvania, and it’s his job to let us know whether we are going to have an early spring or six more weeks of winter.  If you know western Pennsylvania, you know you don’t need to get up at dawn to watch a groundhog tell us we going to have six more weeks of winter.  And so, I have never bothered to get out of bed in the wee hours and drive to Punxsy in freezing weather to watch a rodent meander around his fenced yard.  Yes, I’m sorry, a groundhog is a rodent,of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots.”

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I love this statement taken from the Groundhog Day website.  “This is the main event where Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, the Prognosticator of Prognosticators, the worlds most famous groundhog and the only real weather predicting groundhog will greet his true believers and will reveal to Bill Deeley the president of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club his prediction for the end of winter.”  Don’t know about Bill, but I wouldn’t hold that varmit too close to my face!

On February 2nd, with the members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club dressed in tuxedos and top hats, and thousands of “true believers” standing around watching their breath freeze, it’s time for the little guy to make his appearance.  Some years this is fast but most of the time, like any smart Pennsylvanian, Phil does not want to leave his warm little hut.

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Cameras roll, speeches flow, breath continues to freeze, and eventually they coax Phil into doing his thing.  Legend has it, that if Phil sees his shadow (I never really noticed how much attention Phil paid to actually looking for his shadow), he will scurry back into his hole and we have six more weeks of a typical Pennsylvania winter.   If, on the other hand, Phil does not see his shadow he may stay out and frolic with his faithful followers and we might get lucky and have six weeks of milder weather, but it is still going to be winter.  Frolic?  Don’t count on that.  At any rate, Punxsutawney has certainly made the most of ancient folklore.

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There are variations of the legend but they are all basically the same, “if the sun comes out on Candlemas (also known as Imbolc) the hedgehog will see its shadow and as a result six more weeks of winter will follow.”  Early German settlers brought the practice over with them and used groundhogs rather than hedgehogs.  Here’s a tidbit about Pennsylvania, we are not short on groundhogs!

Punxsutawney has done a great job marketing Phil’s forecasting abilities and building an entire weekend of celebration around his early morning prophecy.  There are breakfasts, banquets, crafts, food vendors, chain saw carving, story telling, any multitude of things to do.  You can visit the Groundhog Museum, listen to music, and even taste a little wine (I’m pretty sure there’s actually a lot of wine tasting going on).  Not to be forgotten are the ever-present souvenirs including adorable stuffed Phils to take home to your friends and family who preferred the comfort of their homes to stamping their cold feet on a mountainside in Western Pennsylvania.

This extraordinary event became so well-known that a movie entitled, what else, “Groundhog Day,” was made in 1993 featuring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.  You better like this movie because it airs non-stop the week before Phil’s party.  I love the movie but have to tell you, I’m very disappointed it was not actually filmed in Punxsutawney.  It was filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, which I’m sure is also a very nice town.  The big news, however, is that the film was selected by the National Film Preservation Board for preservation in the Library of Congress in 2006, and added to the United States National Film Registry  being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  Now that’s cool!

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So, if you’re looking for something to do this weekend you need look no further thanks to the citizens of Punxsutawney.  Bring the family and come on down, up, or over, to visit “Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, the Prognosticator of Prognosticators, the worlds most famous groundhog” and celebrate the 129th year of Groundhog Day at Gobblers Knob, Monday, February 2nd 2015, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania!

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Not really a groundhog!

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