Today we have opened our blog to a guest blogger!
Kendra Thornton is a Travel advocate, TV Spokesperson, PR Buisness Woman, a proud wife and mother of 3.
Kendra is an expert on travel, having been the Director of Corporate Communications at Orbitz prior to founding Thornton Public Relations ( http://www.thorntonpr.com/chicago-public-relations.html) in 2005.
You can find Kendra on Twitter at https://twitter.com/KendraThornton or Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/112730796896321228/ or Gogobot at http://www.gogobot.com/blog/2013/12/05/green-v-white-urban-winter-holidays/
Kendra talks about her Christmas Family Tradition in Chicago.
It is Christmas time again! Everyone has pep in their step and the music is more magical than any other time of the year. People are scurrying to put presents under the tree before Christmas morning. It is always a winter wonderland here in Chicago! There is an endless amount of fun and excitement to be had. Since my family is Norwegian, there are certain traditions that are part of our heritage. Some of the best are the traditional foods and drinks we serve.
The family gathers every year on Christmas Eve. We work together and make lefse and kringla. Everyone must ‘shoot’ a raw oyster down his or her throat simultaneously, which is always a laugh. We follow that with a hearty bowl of oyster stew. Then we have a toast with a shot of Akvavit, which is a Scandinavian spirit that is very strong and warms the stomach. No toast would be complete if we did not shout ‘Skol,’ which is the Norwegian way of saying ‘Cheers!’
There are many traditions that my kids enjoy as well. They like to go ice-skating and help decorate the tree in our bay window. They always help me prepare the huge Norwegian feast and we always leave a plate of cookies for Santa. Their favorite tradition is to make reindeer dust, which we sprinkle outside their windows to help the reindeer find our house. Once everything is done, we cozy up to a mug of hot chocolate and then we head to bed.
In a former job, I traveled all over the world. I know now that there is nothing that compares to being home for the holidays. What would Christmas be without my wonderful family and the beautiful Chicago snow? On Gogobot, there was an article talking about warm holiday and cold holidays. Since I have been to a variety of warm places over the holidays, I know that it does not do Christmas justice. I could not give up the snow, evergreen trees and ice skates for sand, palm trees and roller-blades. What is your hometown like for the holidays?
We grew up with a cold Christmas and that is what works best for the Thornton family. This year we are blessed to be able to stay home and welcome our wonderful family to our dinner table. Everyone came over for Thanksgiving and it was an unforgettable holiday. Hopefully you enjoy lots of good food, great laughs and wonderful people this holiday season. Merry Christmas from the Thornton family!
Tell us about some of your Family Christmas Traditions!
Over the past ten years, I have been collecting Santa Dolls at Christmas. Each year, we pull out our collection to display from the day after Thanksgiving to the day after New Years. The best part of this tradition is when we pull them out, it is almost like buying them new. You get to remember all the details that you purchased each for.
When I go out each year, I look for Santa’s with details in their face or in their clothing. And I am a sucker for glasses detail or a warm, kind face with true to life facial details. While I do try to buy one or two each year, there has been years that I didn’t purchase any. This was because I didn’t find one with the details that I want. For the past two years, we have not added any to the collection.
When we decided to decorate Belle Grove Plantation, I made a run back to Chesapeake to bring our Santa Dolls up to share with all our new friends! I knew exactly where to place them . . . in the Upstairs Grand Hall on the sideboard. They fit perfectly.
It was so much fun pulling them out, seeing those that have been with us for years. From our “Baker Santa” with his little helpers to our “Toy Maker Santa” with his little helpers, each has such meaning to me.
Santa Baker with his elf helpers
Santa Toy Maker with his elf helpers
Santa with a Fennel Shirt and Bunny Slippers
Elf Santa with basket
Elf Santa with birdhouse
Elf Santa in a fur coat
Elf Santa on a shelf
Elf Santa in a Holly Coat
My First Santa
Floor Santa in a Fur lined Coat
Floor Santa with lantern
Santa with glasses
Santa in a Fennel Shirt
When I made a run back to Chesapeake this last week, I made a stop to look for a Santa. I was well rewarded!
I found them at Michael’s Craft Store during one of their great sales. When I walked down the aisles, I noticed that the shelves were really bare. I got a little nervous that I might have waited too long. After two or three aisles, I found the last of the Santa Dolls on one shelf with several Angels. As soon as I walked up, these two Santa Dolls caught my eye. Each of them had such wonderful faces. They both seemed to be “talking” to me; asking me to take them home.
Each of their clothing details was wonderful. One looked like it stepped out of the movie “The Hobbit” or “Harry Potter”. The other just looked like a joy Father Christmas. So I started debating which was the right one. These Santa Dolls general run about $4o for each, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take both home.
I picked up each and examined them. When I picked each up, they seemed to smile bigger knowing that they may be going home with me. I finally placed both back on the shelf and took a step back.
Then is when I realized that they were on sale!
Who needed to chose? I could have both! They were 70% off!
Father Christmas and Wizard Santa
Wizard Santa from the side
New Father Christmas from the side
New Father Christmas
So welcome to our newest Santa Dolls! We look forward to seeing them among our others for years to come!
Belle Grove Plantation
Christmas Candlelight Tours
It is time to make history at Belle Grove Plantation as we celebrate our first Christmas at the plantation! We will be opening our doors to old and young to come and gaze upon this grand mansion and grounds that has seen so many Christmas past.
On Friday, December 6th, 2013, Belle Grove Plantation will celebrate their Official Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting. Come help us not only ring in the season, but celebrate officially opening our doors!
Saturday, December 14th from 5pm to 9pm, Santa arrives at the plantation! The last known visit from Father Christmas to the plantation appeared in the Free Lance Star dating to the 1890s! Come see him return once again and help us celebrate this return to tradition!
Each day, there will be entertainment and warm beverages to help you get into the Holiday Spirit!
Belle Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast will be opening its doors for the 1st Annual Christmas Candlelight Tour for the following dates:
Friday, December 6th and Friday, December 13th
6:00pm to 9:00pm
Saturday, December 7th and Saturday, December 14th
Daytime Tours – 12:00pm to 3:00 pm
Evening Tours – 5:00pm to 9:30pm
Sunday, December 8th and Sunday, December 15th
Daytime Tours – 12:00pm to 3:00 pm
Evening Tours – 3:00pm to 6:00pm
IMPORTANT – This tour requires several stairs. We are sorry, at this time we are not handicap accessible.
Tickets are sold for scheduled times. Please make sure you purchase them for the time you wish to visit.
Adults – $15
Children under 12 – $10
Children under 5 – Free
Night Time Tickets
Adults – $25
Children under 12 – $10
Children under 5 – Free
I am sorry, we do not offer discounts for this event.
Please go to our Online Store to Purchase Tickets!
As many of you that have been following us over the last year or two know, we had an Official Cookie Contest last March. It was a wonderful contest and we had some really wonderful cookie recipes offered!
After a very close race and the public vote on Facebook, it ended with a delicious cookie called “Modern Molasses Cookies” submitted by Alyssa D’Alconzo. Since we have opened, we have been placing these yummy cookies on a silver tray on each bed during turn-down service. They are wonderful and everyone really enjoys the added “midnight snack”.
Alyssa and Michelle – November 2013
This weekend we were excited to host Alyssa and her family for a couple days at the plantation! How wonderful to finally meet someone that we have been chatting with on our blog for so long. Alyssa isn’t the first from the blog to come by, but it was extra special to have her here to sample our “Modern Molasses Cookies”.
I think we passed the test!
But we would like to share the recipe with all those who are new or those who would like to know how to make them. Here at the plantation, I did make a copy of changes to the recipe. I don’t serve them with chocolate because there are those who may be allergic. I also make a batch and freeze the raw dough balls. Then in the afternoon, I pull out what I need and cook them so they are fresh and warm when our guests return from dinner. By freezing them, it helps give them a puffy center too. (A trick I learned from Mrs. Field’s cookies)
You can check out Alyssa’s blog and read about her adventures visiting us at
So make a warm batch and enjoy!
Modern Molasses Cookies – Alyssa D’Alconzo
Ingredients (4 dozen cookies)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 ounces dark chocolate
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil or shortening
In a medium bowl, combine first 5 ingredients; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together shortening and dark brown sugar. Beat in egg, molasses, and vanilla. Mix well.
Fold in dry ingredients and stir by hand.
Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets.
Shape teaspoonful of dough into balls; roll in sugar.
Place balls onto cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart.
Bake 8-10 minutes until set. Cool for one minute on cookie sheet and remove to wire rack to cool completely.
In a small bowl, break up chocolate into small pieces, add coconut oil or shortening, and microwave on medium heat until melted.
Using a fork, drizzle chocolate over cookies.
Allow chocolate to set and store in an airtight container.
On Saturday, November 9th, Belle Grove Plantation hosted the Victorian Ladies Society for an afternoon of tea and tours.
What a sight they were to see in their finest as they approached the grand mansion!
I could almost see days gone by as ladies during the Turner Family period would have hosted such gatherings.
Our Afternoon Tea was served in the Formal Dining Room on plates and cups that many of you have seen as we have collected them over the last year or two. Our menu included four flavors of scones. Pumpkin, White Chocolate Raspberry, Apple Cinnamon and Blueberry were served with traditional sides of Lemon Curd, Clotted Cream and Strawberry Preserves. Our tea sandwiches were a two layer, opened face Cucumber Sandwich, a two layer Olive and Pecan Spread on Wheat, Chicken Salad in a Puff Pastry and Asparagus with Virginia Ham and Dijon Mustard rolled in a crescent. For our pastries we served a Lavender Shortbread, Chocolate Rugula and a Puff Pastry Shell with Italian Orange Cream. Our tea select was Classic Earl Gray and Youth Berry with Wild Orange Blossom.
The ladies enjoyed their tea and conversations for the first hour. The second was spent touring the mansion and hearing the history of Belle Grove Plantation from the beginning in 1670 to the present. Our tour ended on the Riverside Balcony where the ladies enjoyed a moment of warmth as the sun shone down over the river.
Peering out the Turner Master Suite window where the Carrie Turner etching is located
We are so excited to announce that the Victorian Ladies Society will be returning in April, 2014 for a very special event with Belle Grove Plantation!
The Victorian Ladies Society and Belle Grove Plantation will be hosting our first Titanic Tea!
Be on the watch for the announcement and ticket sales!
Thank you to the Victorian Ladies for visiting with us at Belle Grove Plantation!
If you are interested in an Private Afternoon Tea at Belle Grove Plantation, please email us at email@example.com. We are sorry, but we do not serve tea to the general public at this time.