Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas time at Brumby Hall

Last October 2014 we visited the Archibald Smith Plantation in Roswell, Georgia, built in 1843.  I wrote a post about it - click here to see it again.  In one of the rooms was exposed an old trunk which had been found in the attic in 1987.  Inside the trunk were the personal possessions of William Smith (1834-1865,)  called Willie, and his letters.  These letters and other family letters were gathered and published in a book entitled "The Death of a Confederate" edited by Arthur and James Skinner.

I found the book, second-hand, and started to read it.  In the preface I read that Willie's brother, Archie (1844-1923) had attended the "Georgia Military Institute" in Marietta, Georgia.

I had vaguely heard about this institute before but was not sure where it had been located.  I found out that classes started there in 1851.  The institute was acquired by the State of Georgia in 1858.  Townspeople were proud of this institute, the first collegiate level of higher learning in northwest Georgia.  They came to watch daily drills and dress parades.  By 1861 there were 150 Cadets there who later left for active duty in the Confederate Army.  During the Atlanta Campaign of the Civil War, the Federal Forces of General Sherman occupied the institute and on November 13, 1864, when they departed, they burnt the buildings down.  The house of the first superintendent of the institute, Colonel Arnoldus V. Brumby, a West Point graduate, was spared.

In 1915 a private country club, with a golf course, was established on the site of the former institute but moved years later.  It became a civic center then was purchased by the Hilton Corporation and turned into the Hilton Conference Center and Resort.  Pictures below courtesy of the Hilton.

But what had happened to the superintendent house which had been saved?  I called the Hilton and was told that the house located on their property, was owned by the city of Marietta and leased to the Hilton.  They use it now for special events and weddings.  I asked if I could take a tour of the house and was told that someone would call me back.  A gentleman called me in the evening and said that if I wished to visit the house, I needed to be there the next morning at 10 am, the only time the house would be available for viewing.  The next morning, Thursday December 11, 2014, my husband and I drove to the Hilton.  The facility cannot be seen from the street.  We drove around the parking lot but could not find the house.  Finally we saw a gate with an historical marker in front of it.  (Please click on photo to enlarge.)

At the end of the footpath was the house.  I realized then that I had been driving in front of this house for decades on my way home from work but had never known it was there as it cannot be seen behind the trees.

We were early, it was only 9:45 am, and the house was partially in the shade.  It was a bright, warm and sunny morning.  We stepped up to the porch and waited in one of the rocking chairs.

At 10 o'clock a gentleman appeared.  He greeted us and opened the front door.  He was Mr. L., a volunteer from the "Friends of Brumby Hall."  He gave us a brief history of the house.  I tried to take pictures with my Nikons while he talked.  I did not use the flash so some pictures are a bit dark and some are not too clear.  He told us that Brumby Hall, as it is now called, is a prime example of a Greek revival cottage.  It has five rooms and a solarium.  Each room is furnished with antiques and period furniture, mostly in the Victorian but also the Eastlake styles.  There are gardens behind the property - a rose garden, boxwood garden, topiary garden, and the Knot garden.  We will come back in the spring when flowers are in bloom.  This lovely house was built adjacent to the military institute for Colonel Arnoldus VanderHorst Brumby and his family.  Colonel Brumby was a West Point graduate and directed the institute, from 1851 to 1859, in the same manner as West Point.  The house was used as a hospital by Sherman's troops during the Civil War.  In the front hall is a portrait of Colonel Brumby.  The portrait of his wife, Ann Eliza Wallis Brumby, is in one of the parlors.  After the Civil War the house fell in disrepair, as you can see form the photographs below, but new owners restored the house to its former splendor.

Mr. L. is a volunteer member of the Friends of Brumby Hall, a group who furnished the house and maintains it as an event facility in conjunction with the Hilton Conference Center.  They also decorate this historic house at Christmas time.  We walked into the main parlor containing a Chickering square grand piano and enjoyed looking at the pretty Christmas decorations.

Then we saw the lovely ladies' parlor with sofas and armchairs covered in pink fabric.  I admired the grand chimney and mirror.

The small dining/tea room in the back had beautiful furniture and another Christmas tree.

There were so many antiques to see but Mr. L. was walking away and it was difficult to keep up and take pictures.  I took as many as I could, quickly.  Over one of the mantels was a period painting of the Georgia Military Institute.  Please click on the collage, twice, to see the photos better.

The large dining room was set up for a dinner that evening.  Mr. L.  told us that at Christmas time, families or groups will reserve this room for a period dinner with many courses, starting with oysters flown in from Savannah, Georgia - the same type of menu that would have been served in Brumby Hall in the mid 1850s.  That evening a family, with members coming from a variety of US states, was going to gather here for their Christmas dinner - an event they shared every year.  Mr. L. told us that the house had many such dinners booked during the month of December.  He told us to notice that the pineapple, symbol of hospitality, was well represented on the table such as on the stems of the crystal goblets, the bottom of the name card holders and the brass centerpieces.

We walked upstairs to look at the bedrooms.  Again there was so much to see.

The front bedroom is large.  A tall Christmas tree was decorated with hand crocheted ornaments and cotton balls.  I took a photo of Mr. L. in front of the tree.  It turned out that he had taught the children of my late best friend, Colonel Daniel.

The children's beds were decorated with dolls and toys.  One of the beds is an original 18th century portable crib.

The back bedroom has been converted into a "bride's room."  It is the room where brides can get ready or can rest when the house is booked for a wedding.  The furniture is covered in a restful blue color.

I tried to take pictures of as many of the Christmas decorations as I could, like the 3 French hens, and the beautiful hall chandelier.

Then it was time to go.  We took a last look at the house.  It was past high noon now and the house was in the sun.  We walked to the back of the house to see the gardens, but of course they would look much nicer in the spring.

Listening to the menu served in the house gave us an appetite.  It was lunch time so we drove to the Marietta Diner and had a gyro.  My husband could not resist having a slice of one of their delicious cakes - he chose a chocolate cake.  I took a bite, but it was too sweet for me.  I would prefer a piece of Belgian dark chocolate!

 I hope to receive, hopefully, some good dark chocolates for Christmas.  In France groceries and supermarkets are full of large and beautiful boxes of chocolate at this time.  Adults do not give too many gifts at Christmas, apart from toys to children, but a box of chocolate is offered usually to family, friends and colleagues for the New Year.  I wish you all a happy holiday season - a Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it,

and a Happy Hanukkah, if you celebrate it, too.

Here is a beautiful Tree of Life from my friend Valerie-Jael who shows stunning photographs and her art work on her blog Bastlemania.

Be happy and enjoy yourself during these celebrations!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday Dishes

Holiday Dishes is the name of this post as I cooked some of these dishes for Thanksgiving, but they can be prepared anytime.  When we were near Nashville visiting our daughter and family last summer I used their new spiral vegetable slicer gadget.  Of course the grandchildren loved to help me and enjoyed cooking the vegetable - a good way for them to eat more vegetable!  Back at home, I ordered my own Spiralizer from Amazon - there are several brands offered and mine was under $20.  It works very well.

Zucchini noodles can be made very quickly.  With the grandchildren, we cooked them in the microwave, with a little bit of water and butter, maybe for 3 or 4 minutes, and this was good.  For Thanksgiving I tried something different.  I made the dish again this week-end so I could take some photos.  First I "spiralized" 3 or 4 zucchinis.  I also sliced a red onion and two green onions and briefly stir-fried them.

I'll try to write the recipe, but it can be changed, according to one's taste.

Zucchini Noodles

3 to 4 zucchinis, 1 red onion, 2 green onions, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon bacon fat, 1 teaspoon French thyme, 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence (or rosemary, or basil or both) Smokehouse ground black pepper, salt and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar - some chopped parsley.

Wash then spiralize the zucchinis into noodles.  Slice the red onion and the 2 green onions - separating the white parts and green parts.  Place the olive oil, butter and bacon fat in a large frying pan.  Add the red onion and white parts of the green onions.  Stir and fry for a minute or so.  Add the zucchini noodles, stir, then add the Smokehouse black pepper and salt.  (I like this pepper as it is strong and I usually cover the vegetables with it to get the dish a bit spicy.)  Then add the herbs, stir.  Add the balsamic vinegar - white or red balsamic.  Lower heat and cover.  No need to add any liquid as the zucchinis will render some liquid.  Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until tender but still crunchy (taste after 7 min. or so and stir.)  When ready add chopped green part of the green onions and chopped parsley.  That's it.

I have also made zucchini noodles, added some spaghetti sauce, basil and turkey meat balls - it is a lighter dish than made with regular pasta.

For Thanksgiving, I usually make my basic cranberry sauce - a recipe I found on a bag a long time ago and very easy.  Place 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup apple juice and 1/4 teaspoon allspice in a saucepan on medium heat.  Heat until sugar is dissolved.  Add 2 cups washed cranberries and stir.  Keep stirring until the liquid boils.  Lower hear and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cool.  I have some left as you can see below - it makes a thick sauce, not too sweet.

Since I had more cranberries I decided to make a cake - I made two - almost the same but with some variations.  Both were made like an upside down pineapple cake.  The first one contained 2 sliced apples, 1+ cup of cranberries and 1/2 cup pecans.  That was placed on the melted brown sugar and butter in a cast iron frying pan, then I poured the cake batter on top.  The batter had 2 eggs, sugar, butter, baking power, spices and 1 1/4 cup flour.  I baked it 40 minutes in 350 F oven.  My husband preferred that cake.

For the second cake I used only 1 sliced apple, 1+ cup cranberries and 1/2 cup pecans.  I used less flour (1 cup) but 3 eggs, separated - the white beaten stiff with white sugar, and 1 tablespoon Bourbon whiskey.  Baked it 45 minutes in 325 F oven, left it in the frying pan 10 minutes then placed it upside down on a plate.  I preferred the taste of that cake.

This cake looked quite different from the first one.  I placed the apple slices first in the number one cake and the cranberries and pecan first in cake number two.  Both cakes were good and not too sweet - if served warm, vanilla ice cream would be good with either cake.  Below is cake number 2.

Since cranberries were plentiful I also made some jam.  One of my daughters gave me a jar of jam last summer that she had bought at the Loretta Lynn's Ranch.  It was called FROG jam - which stands for fig, raspberry, orange and ginger jam.  This gave me the idea of making my own CROG jam - using cranberries, raspberries, orange peel and ginger.  The jam is delicious and not too sweet - good on toast but also can be used as a condiment with meat.

We went to a country restaurant some time ago and I enjoyed eating their steamed cabbage.  I have never made steamed cabbage, or any cabbage apart from placing pieces of them in my corned beef dish in the spring.  So I tried my own version last Saturday.  I quartered the cabbage and cut the stem off, then sliced it.  Shallots sounded right with the cabbage, so I chopped a couple.  I had half a bunch of fresh kale leftover from a turkey soup I made, so I sliced the kale as well.  It may not have been "steamed" cabbage, but it was very tasty and cooking it on low heat, quickly, it did not leave a cabbage smell in the kitchen.

Here is my recipe - 1 cabbage, washed, cored and sliced (add kale if available,) 2 shallots, sliced thin then chopped.  Place 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large frying pan.  Add shallot and fry briefly.  Add cabbage and stir for a couple of minutes.  Season with salt and Hickory smoke black pepper (or regular black pepper and some Tabasco sauce to give it a kick.)  Add 3/4 cup chicken or turkey broth in which 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke was placed.  Pour on cabbage and stir well.  Lower heat, cover and cook 6 to 8 minutes until done but still crunchy.  Voila!

Saturday was a good day for cooking as it rained in the morning.  It was cloudy and only 67 degree F (19 C.)  The back yard looked very golden with a thick cover of dead leaves.  The leaves had vivid colors as they were still coated with water when I took my photos.

On Sunday it was bright and sunny.  The colors in the backyard looked different.  It was warmer as well.

 With all the pine trees and ivy, the color green is still very present in our backyard.  I like  the way the sun plays with the dead leaves still standing on some of the trees.

Our cats were indoor, not even looking at the birds in the bird feeders.  Cody was asleep, hiding his eyes with his paws (maybe from the scent of the cut shallot...) and Mitsuko was watching TV - an old I love Lucy rerun - such was last week-end.

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