Holidays and baking are two words that have been inseparable since our Townsend, TN Bed and Breakfast near Gatlinburg, opened 15 years ago this Thanksgiving. Each year, with one or two exceptions, all my Christmas gifts are goodies I have baked. Normally I complete this by Thanksgiving and deliver my tins or baskets from Thanksgiving through December. This year I was sick the latter part of November, and I didn’t finish the “selection process” until late last night. Picture me looking like Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream. As of yesterday, I considered backing off a little with the variety to give myself a break, but then I began thinking about some of the cookies from my childhood that we hadn’t baked in 30 years, and we always try a couple of new recipes. At that point I’m thinking the 12 days of (Xmas) baking, one thing a day, until I added everything up this morning and realized I had picked out 22 different recipes.
On the list: one carrot cake (Louise’s finest recipe from Sweetberries B&B), blue ribbon muffins for Pete, Ginny’s mint brownies, apricot bars (which no Xmas would be complete), choc chip bars from my childhood, several loaves of apricot walnut and cranberry pecan breads, both blue ribbon winners at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center’s Blue Ribbon County Fair, Jan Whitt’s toffee, my all-time favorite sweet, Cheerio mix, John Wessell’s popcorn mix called Country Cottage and 12 double batches of cookies.
Of the cookies, six have made the list here for the last decade, two are from my childhood, (why has it been 30 years since I made almond crescents??) and four are new recipes. Of the four new ones, one is a potato chip cookie recipe from a cookbook I have. Reminded me of cookies when I was a kid. I thought maybe Great Aunt Margaret on the Janke side, but my mom just said she thought it was my Aunt Stephanie’s recipe on her side of the family. Good reason to give her a call and compare recipes!
The recipe I have in hand calls for 3/4 C ground up potato chips that you always find in the bottom of the bag. This morning for breakfast I made myself a lovely grilled cheese on sunflower bread, dill pickle and I opened that bag of chips that has been sitting on the shelf. So the laugh of the day? It contains the most perfectly formed chips, large and nary a one broken. What’s a girl to do? Maybe I’ll accidentally drop the bag in the next couple of days and then I won’t feel bad about breaking some up for the recipe…
My mom was never the cookies and milk after school type of mom, but I have to give her credit, she baked up a storm before Christmas. She’d run out of tins and start filling the turkey roaster and the soup pots. Most were double and triple batches. She said she wanted at least a few of each kind to put out on Christmas when the relatives came, and that was about all that was left as we Janke kids had sticky fingers for weeks before the main event. Or maybe is was only mizkathleen who had the sticky fingers. I spent some real quality time in the dark pantries of my various childhood homes.
I could run a contest to see who comes closest to guessing the total amount of butter used for the aforementioned recipes. Or, I might just pop a cookie and go and take a nap. I hope this month finds you all smiling with friends, family and the “reason for the season…” mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
After 14 years of taking just about every conceivable photo at Gracehill Bed and Breakfast, guests still surprise me. It puts a smile on my face to see how different people see my home in a way I never thought of. The photos are by Daniel Ray of his wife Paulette, staying for some needed R&R. Later that evening, he recorded a frog doing his thing croaking, and then played it back to the poor little guy who just went bananas. Said frog will probably need long term therapy…..Read More
When is food less about what we put in our mouths and more about a work of art? In a third world country there is no doubt about the answer, but here in the States, for some people, the answer is harder to discern. It’s not only how we present our food, but increasingly, where we buy it and where they bought it! (Think egg recall…) My mom, one of the world’s best cooks, can take a pot off the stove and plunk it on the table. God bless her, she did it for three meals a day for 25 years, and I am proof that we never went hungry. I, on the other hand, think first about what flowers I can pick from the garden, what china they go with, then what food would look good on that china! I’m glad I have the luxury of being able to think that way.
As the world becomes more and more aware of the origins of our food, I’m happy to say at age 11, Jake Molina, the nephew of my friend and Gracehill Wizard Extraordinaire, Julie, has started raising chickens. We are the grateful recipients of the product thereof! Jake’s mom Dawn says, “I don’t know if ours could be called free range chickens because they are not always free to range. We have lots of coyotes and neighborhood dogs that want to eat them. They have their big yard to roam and scratch in, but we only let them range when we are outside. They definitely could be called cage free though!” Beside the Americaunas, Jake also has Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Reds, Silver Laced Wyandottes and Golden Comets. They hope to get some Black Copper Marans that are prized by French chefs. Ooh la la! (Americanized version. My sister the French major says they would say, Oh la la la!)
In little ways, with our herb garden, veggies, and fruit we pick locally, we are trying to bring fresher food to the table. You all know my love affair with blueberries. I’m lucky the three couples who checked in a few days ago for four nights liked them also. I made a new recipe, Blueberry Cream Cheese French Toast in a 9X13 pan which I posted on my recipe page with a photo. This year we’ve put about a 100# in the freezer, but will continue using fresh for another couple of weeks. In the past two weeks, my five attempts to make a decent blueberry cobbler have been dismal. It’s nice that I have wonderful friends, who tell me otherwise, but alas, they are lying through their teeth, and I am moving on to try other things… blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
It’s been a heck of a year; the worst winter we have experienced since building Gracehill and the hottest, driest summer on record since… who knows, it keeps going further back with each week that passes. Our elevation gives us a little relief with temps 5 to 10 degrees cooler than what is happening in Townsend, Gatlinburg, or Knoxville plus the usual breezes. The dry weather has also made the zinnias look especially beautiful because we aren’t fighting powdery mildew this year, but the Peegee hydrangea bushes are not as lush as in years past, and we lost the marigolds. It’s a trade off. I’d rather fight the mildew than haul buckets of water. We should have hauled more often for the marigolds…
I bought a Flip Video Camera, and it took three months to get it out of the box. You know me with anything electronic. Click on the link for a video taken in the backyard of the dozens of butterflies that are hanging around. Don’t be concerned that I have developed palsy; I just need to get the hang of this moving camera business!
Since the main topic here is the weather, I’ve come up with a lovely excuse for not blogging more frequently this year. We were struck by lightning on Friday of Memorial Day weekend. It was a direct hit, and as bad as it was with all our electronic low voltage systems, we are extremely grateful the house didn’t catch on fire. Guests were coming up the hill 20 minutes after the fire trucks rolled down. Our guests were amazing, and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer bunch of people. That weekend TV’s were out and they had to use my laptop with the Verizon air card to check emails, but other than that, guest services were not really affected. It has taken me three months to get everything else replaced like the intercom, doorbells, phones, TV’s, alarm system, satellites, my computer, electronics for our water system, motors on a couple of the whirlpool tubs, etc…
I have been a little more regular with my posts on Twitter (theinnkeeper) or Facebook (Gracehill Bed and Breakfast) and our bi-monthly newsletter. You can sign up for any of these on the home page of our website. Blessings, mizkathleen@ Gracehill Bed and BreakfastRead More
While the Cades Cove loop road or Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail are big draws for our guests at this East Tennessee Bed and Breakfast, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is doing some needed repairs on these heavily trafficked roads starting March 1st, 2010. Roads affected and the targeted completion of these repairs are:
Cades Cove Loop (that will also close one-way Parsons Branch & Rich Mountain Rd) 5/21 (an update from the Park, the Loop Rd. will open a month early on 4/24!)
Clingman’s Dome 5/28
The Sinks parking area 5/25
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail 5/28
& Cherokee Orchard past the Noah B Ogle cabin 3/19
While these are some of the Park site seeing highlights, these closures will not affect normal “drive through” traffic on the artery roads. Trails accessed from the roads under repair will be closed also, but with 900 miles of trails in the Park, you have a plethora of choices to choose from. As always, for up to date information on closures call the National Park at 865-436-1200. Extension 631 will give you road closures, and extension 630 is the weather report.
So you might ask yourself WHAT IS A PERSON TO DO while we deal with the face lift? Jeepers, :-O not to worry! There are enough outdoor nature activities besides the shop till you drop experience in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to keep you busy for a week. Or, why not order a picnic lunch or appetizer tray and stay here? Come to breakfast in your robe and curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book, game, or watch a little satellite TV afterwards.
Several years ago on New Years Eve, guests Craig and Ashley stayed here while their friends Allen and Jodi got married in the area. The next year they came back and brought Allen and Jodi with them, appearing to have become a yearly tradition. (Lucky me…) After breakfast on New Years Eve this year, Jodi dug a 1000 piece puzzle out of the game cabinet and said she thought she would put it together. This was the last full day of their stay and honestly I was thinking she is out of her mind. It would take me the whole three days of their stay just to pick out the straight edge pieces and get the perimeter put together. A few hours later I took the middle photo you see on the left. They broke for dinner and went out and about; afterwards, with the four of them watching TV, Jodi continued. Occasionally someone else would plunk in a piece. By midnight she was down to the last couple of hundred pieces and had the full attention of all of us. I think we/SHE finished around 2 or 3 AM. I believe the government is missing the boat by not offering her a job. (“Should she choose to accept…”) I can see her sitting in a room with no windows, low light, and piecing together something that saves us from ourselves. With five minutes to spare. What a gift. mizkathleen@ Gracehill
Local Channel 10 WBIR TV held a contest to determine the top five bed and breakfasts in East Tennessee. Any one logging onto WBIR’s website could cast a vote for the several days the contest ran. By Friday at noon, Gracehill B&B was at the top of the list with four of the five winners belonging to the Smoky Mountain Bed and Breakfast Association.
This February, your not so intrepid innkeeper, moi, elected to take some vacation time, and for the first time in ten years, enjoyed the winter snowfall instead of obsessing about keeping the road open for guests and us to get up and down the mountain safely. It was a tough call because the month of February brings us Valentine’s traffic every weekend. By choosing to take some time off and let Mother Nature take her course, the up shot was, Mom and I were snowed in for nine days. Beautiful, absolutely, but as the level in the propane tank dropped by the eighth day, I decided it was time to start shoveling. Hans, our gardener, played a big part in this little 6/10th of a mile endeavor. I started at the top, he at the bottom, and thankfully the twain did meet! Besides, there was only one scoop of ice cream left in the freezer and we had eaten enough out of the pantry to see that I should probably repaint the shelves…
Twenty-four hours after getting the road opened back up I decided to ease on down the road into Maryville to run some errands. My phone rang while there with the news of the contest and asking if WBIR reporter Josh West could meet me at Gracehill for some photos. You might ask yourself just how fast can an old lady drive? I beat him with just enough time to pull the car in the garage and fluff my hair!
I was asked why did I think we won? My answers were bouncing all over as my mouth flapped, but to be honest??? Cause Gracehill has always been blessed with the very best of guests any innkeeper could ask for. Thanks from the bottom of this transplanted Yankee to Southern heart to ya’ll who took the time to vote. mizkathleen @Gracehill