The Hatbox Letters

Novel Gathering Ideas


Design an invitation either in the style of an old leather diary, creating the book club as an entry or, my choice, design an invitation like a garden party.  I have several pictures of my garden so would upload one of my pictures to a free invitation site and continue from there.  Here is a sample of 'free' garden background to download and create your own invitation.  How do you envision Kate and Tom's garden? 


Is there a heritage garden in your area?  A beautiful city garden?  Why not meet here and have a picnic lunch? Ask guests to bring a quilt or lawn chair and thermos of their favourite beverage while you provide the cheese, salami and crackers?  Sounds inviting.  Do you live near a lake (go skating) or even a bird sanctuary?  Kate goes off to watch the sandpipers, is there a migrating bird in your area?

If you will host from home we have several suggestions to convert your modern day home into a 'Shepton'.  Here is a list of items that will assist you in setting the stage,

Ella Fitzgerald music
Tea Sets
The game Scrabble
Hatboxes filled with correspondence and pictures
Harper Magazines
Antique Frames and insert old photos
A table set up with art supplies
Binaculars, climbing gear, birding books
Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
Raincoat, umbrella, rubber boots
Gardening clothes
Gardening catalogues
Quilts, wide mouthed mason or glass jars with cork stoppers filled with beans, granola, rice, just like Shepton
Knitting or crochet items
Leather bound journals (Grandfather's diaries)
Kerosene lamps 
The Lord of the Rings (after Tom died Christy and Kate sat on the couch in sleeping bags and ate chocolate cake, made herbal tea and read aloud from the these books) 
Piano, piano music
B & B pamphlets......perhaps this is what Kate will turn her home into? 

**of course this book club gathering would not be complete without flowers, of any kind.  Fill mason jars with solomon's seal, asters, rhododendrons, roses, geraniums with blue lobelia......of course, any variety could pass.  I have hosta's.  I would line jars with the a large hosta leaf and add solomon's seal.


There was mention of many varieties of food in this novel.  Here are a few suggestions,

Maple Leaf cookies
Lots and lots of tea (earl grey for sure)
Gravenstein Apples
Lemon Tarts (in the time of Jonnie), lemonade
Strawberry Shortcake 
Tabouli Salad
Fresh Bread
Ginger Snaps
Rice, beans and an apple for each guest 
Oatmeal and applesauce, percolated coffee in teacups and fresh orange juice
Lamb succotash, mashed potatoes, apple pie with chunks of cheese
Smoked gouda and crackers
Portuguese bread, salami, apples and thermos' of coffee

**For this gathering, it would not be complete without an apple pie or apple crumble (Tom loved an apple crumble pie)

**Fill the house with baking smells, melting chocolate and hot sugar, or cinnamon and apples

My favorite Apple Crumb Pie is found in the cookbook by Bradley Ogden Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Apple Crumb Pie with Sour Cream Crust

Makes 8 servings

7 to 8 cooking apples like Granny Smith or Pippin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon, freshly grated

Crumb Topping:
½ cup sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
½ recipe Sour Cream Pie Crust 
Make the sour cream pastry dough and allow it to chill thoroughly.
Peel and core the apples.  Slice the apples about ¼ inch thick (you should have 6 or 7 cups) and toss the apple slices with the lemon juice.  In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon.  Use more or less sugar depending on your taste and the sweetness of the apples.  

Toss the sugar mixture with the apples and set aside while rolling out the crust.
To prepare the crumb topping:  In a medium bow, stir together the sugars, flour spices, salt and lemon zest.  Cut in the butter with two knives or a pastry blender until the pieces of butter are the size of oatmeal.  This may be prepared a day ahead.  Chill until you are assembling the pie.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll the dough on a lightly floured board to about 1/8 inch thick.  Fold lightly into quarters and unfold into a 9 inch glass pie plate.  Trim off excess dough to about ½ inch larger than the edge of the pie plate.  Turn the ½-inch of dough under the edge and press a decorative trim with your thumb and forefinger. 

 Pile the apples in the dough, leaving them higher in the center.  Sprinkle about half of the crumb topping on top of the apples.  Bake for 20 minutes, add the additional topping and continue baking for another 40 minutes or until the apples become tender.


Aside from Tea....

Red and White Wine 


As always, have fun, be creative and happy discussion!

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