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Month: December 2008

Holiday Appetizers

This is a busy time of year for chefs. Everyone is scrambling for quick, easy holiday recipes. This time of year I get asked more questions than a doctor at a hypochondriac’s holiday party. I am most often asked for “simple” recipes. This is difficult since I consider Coq au Vin and Cassoulet dishes that can give a nervous breakdown to the novice simple dishes.

Can good party food be simple without venturing into the carrot-raisin, Jell-O mould zone? The key is using the right pre-made products, menu planning and time management.

There are good and bad shortcuts that can be taken in a kitchen. My general rule of thumb is – if the final product is as good or better and it saves you time and/or money then take the shortcut. One good time-saving item is pre-made piecrusts. These can be used as a base for quiche or other savory tarts as well as your traditional holiday pies. There are pre-made pie crusts without the tins, use these to line mini-muffins pans for small bite-sized treats that are perfect for cocktail parties. Frozen bread dough can also be used to good effect to create gourmet pizzas or turnovers. Sauce mixes and pre-made sauces should be avoided since they tend to have a taste more reminiscent of the chemistry lab than of the kitchen.

Be creative in your menu planning. Store bought rotisserie chicken can be shredded for barbeque chicken, pizzas or sandwiches. But don’t combine too many store bought items. Add your own touches and doctor it up a little. Fresh herbs can do wonders to jarred pizza sauce and salsas. Plan your menu with a time frame in mind. Casseroles, warm dips and dishes that can be made days in advance and reheated at the last minute will allow you to serve good food and still be able to play host/hostess. Forgive me if I seem to be channeling Martha Stewart. A good party does take some planning.

The quick easy items I have in my arsenal include warm dips like an artichoke dip I improvised at a recent party. Jarred or supermarket, salad-bar, marinated artichokes can be roughly chopped and mixed with cream cheese in a bowl over a double boiler. (Hint: Or you could place the bowl over an already simmering sauce or soup if you are limited on burner space.) Add some grated parmesan, Worcestershire sauce and chopped chives and you will have an instant hit. Eat your heart out, Rachel Ray. Serve it in a hollowed-out gourmet bread bowl and people will think you’re a culinary genius.

Not all quick, easy dishes should or need to be doctored store items.

Bacon wrapped scallops or shrimp can be made ahead and will cook in 10-15 minutes. Crab cakes can also be mixed and shaped ahead and cooked at the last minute.

Hummus can be made in ten minutes with a food processor and can be seasoned in variety of ways depending on what other items you may be serving.

Skewered items like chicken sate, sesame tuna with wasabi mayonnaise or grilled vegetables can also be made ahead and are light and healthy. If your party is a casual get together have all the components cut and arranged on platters and have your guests assemble them. It makes for a great icebreaker. Besides, everyone knows that around the holidays the kitchen is where all the fun and action is located. Enjoy the following recipes.

Have a Merry Christmas and Bon Appétit in the New Year.

Artichoke Dip

  • 1 Jar (approx 6 oz) marinated artichokes
  • 1 Package Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 1 Cup sour cream
  • 1 Cup shredded Locattelli cheese
  • Splash Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash Tabasco

Combine all ingredients in stainless steel bowl. Place over double boiler. Stir occasionally until warm throughout. Serve with crostini.

Crostini

  • 1 Loaf crusty artisan bread, slice ¼” thick

Brush bread with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with sea salt and smoked paprika. Bake on oiled cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 7 minutes. Flip if necessary.

Sesame-Tuna Skewer

  • 12 Thick rosemary branches, trim all but top third of the branch. Save remaining rosemary for another use. Soak branches for 10 minutes in ice water
  • 36 Half-inch sushi grade tuna cubes
  • 36 Shiitake mushroom caps brushed with sesame oil and sprinkled with soy sauce
  • ½ Cup each of black and white sesame seeds
  • 1 Cup soy sauce mixed with ¼ cup honey, 1 tablespoon ginger and 1 teaspoon garlic brought to a boil and cooled

Take rosemary skewers and alternate tuna and mushroom caps. Use 3 pieces each per skewer. Brush lightly with soy mix and roll in sesame seeds. Sear in hot sauté pan 2-3 minutes per side.

Wasabi mayo

  • 1 Tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 1 Cup mayo
  • 1 Ounce or more wasabi to taste

Mix well. Serve with Sesame-Tuna skewers.


The First Lady of Stained Glass

Text by Karen Fox. Photographs by Dottie Rogers. The original article, Jewels of Cape May, first appeared in Cape May Magazine, Winter 2007.

There’s a special glow this holiday season at Cape May’s First Presbyterian Church.

Taking down the Hughes Street windows. The glass is taped to prevent it breaking

The congregation is celebrating the restoration of the church’s 110-year-old stained glass windows. Thirty five windows, including massive 17-by-17 foot Gothic arches, have been painstakingly, lovingly, professionally reworked. The antique art glass was saved, while repainting and releading new pieces in the brilliant colors and fine hand-painted features that make the windows so special. The work is similar to resetting thousands of pieces of rare gems in custom-designed jewelry, but on a massive scale.

It was just two years ago that Dick and Dixie Barab met with 11 church members to discuss the worsening condition of the windows, and what to do about saving them.

Located at Hughes and Decatur streets, just a couple blocks from the sea, and stressed by a century of storms, the windows suffered severe cracking and bowing. The antique paint was flaking, the lead deteriorating and the wooden frames were weakened by invading termites.

Removing the Decatur Street windows.

The concerned church members called their mission Save Our Stained GlassWindows. They learned the windows were created by Wilheim (William) Reith, born in Baden-Baden, Germany, in 1844, arriving in America in 1867 at age 23. His studio was located at 134 North 7th Street in Philadelphia.

The windows he designed for the Cape May church depict scenes from the life Christ and stories from the Bible. The glass was painted with brilliant reds, golds, purples, greens and blues with generous amounts of silver stain. The paint was composed of ground glass, metallic oxide coloring agents and flux to lower the temperature of the glass when melted.

The brilliant art windows struck awe and inspiration among congregants at the first service in the new stone Gothic-style First Presbyterian Church, held May 21st, 1899. And now, almost 110 years later, these same restored windows filter the light of the sun and the reflection of the sea

Cleaned glass pieces assembled and waiting for leading

upon members and visitors at religious services, theatrical and musical events. The church has a cultural mission offering monthly Jazz Vespers and is home to most performances of the East Lynne Theatre Company.

For Dottie Rogers, Cape May’s First Lady of stained glass, the completed restoration is a victory of a lifetime. She is on the committee to save the windows. A retired school teacher and resident of West Cape May, Dottie’s goal is to photograph every stained glass window on Cape Island. In five years, she has organized almost 2,000 photos of stained glass windows, their histories and locations on her computer. And she’s always looking for more.

Lead work artist

Jewels of Cape May

Dottie says a small town like Cape May is unique to have such a variety of stained glass. She explains “the great fire of 1878 destroyed so many structures that in the aftermath, there was a giant building boom in the Victorian era when stained glass was very popular in America.” During this period, Americans developed an appetite and appreciation for this art form. Architects and builders eagerly installed stained glass into homes, churches and public buildings. Dottie’s most recent photos show the process of restoring the stained glass windows at her church.

The window restoration committee chose the J&R Lamb Studio in Clifton, New Jersey, to bring new life to the Reith windows. Lamb is the oldest continuously

Artist William Reith's signature.

operating stained glass studio in the United States.

Don Samick, owner, says that the Reith windows were a challenge because of the great amount of fading paint. First these fragile giants needed to be removed, loaded on a truck and transported to the studio. There each window is cleaned (“just with water,” says Samick), evaluated, disassembled and laid out like pieces of a puzzle. Detailed rubbings are made of each layer of glass. Artists recreate faded and damaged colors and images to their original brilliance and detail. Those new pieces are fired and then laminated in double leading beneath the antique glass so that you see through the original glass into the more brilliant restored glass, all blending seamlessly into one vision.

“When we arrived at Lamb,” says Dottie, “several of our windows were laid out in pieces on tables, lead gone and pinned.” It took a leap of faith that the artists could put these precious antiques back together again. “We had done our homework

The restored Decatur Street windows.

picking a studio,” says Dottie. “We had no fear.”

The restored panels were reassembled and transported back to the church for installation. The windows are trucked at 75-degree angles, between Styrofoam pads, secured with straps. The large mural windows are held in place at the church with steel T-bars anchored in the wood frames.

All of this was accomplished over 13 months and at the cost of $206,000. Meanwhile back at the church, the committee members were busy elves coming up with inventive ways to raise the money.

A special Jazz Vespers was held to benefit the restoration project. Local world-class jazz musicians, pianist George Mesterhazy and singer Lois Smith, contributed their talents. The event raised $15,000. The church members hosted bake and yard sales and Fornight Feasting dinners, card parties, a July 4th barbecue. Christmas bazaar profits went t

The restored Hughes Street windows.

o the windows. The East Lynne Theatre Company donated a production’s proceeds.

The most productive idea came from Bruce Jeffries-Fox and his wife Zan who created a price-per-window list for purchase by a sponsor. ”Whether a person contributed $1 or $1,000,” says Dottie, “every one will be acknowledged.”

Among the contributors is Lamb Studio itself. Don Samick, his artists and craftsmen gifted the church with a window over the Decatur Street entry. “It’s just a small piece of gratitude for a wonderful project,” says Samick. By the way, the Cape May spirit has captured Samick and his wife Donna. They were frequent B&B guests, but recently have purchased a home of their own in Cape May. The Presbyterian congregation couldn’t be happier than to have their stained glass artist in residence. “The windows will be good for another 150 years!” says he.

About Stained Glass

References to stained glass reach back to the 4th and 5th centuries, the art form reaching its peak in the 10th – 13th centuries, especially in cathedrals. Glass was colored by adding metallic salts while in a molten state: copper to produce green, cobalt for blue, gold to create red, silver nitrate to color yellow from pale lemon to deep orange.

The colored glass is crafted into stained glass windows in which small pieces of glass arranged to form patterns or pictures are held together by strips of lead or copper and supported by a rigid frame. The term stained glass also is used to describe windows in which all the colors have been painted onto the glass and then made permanent with heat.

Stained glass creation is both an art and a craft requiring the artistic skill to develop the design and the engineering skills to assemble the decorative piece be it a window, lamp shade, or free hanging art piece. In the case of a window it must be constructed to support its own weight and survive the elements sometimes for hundreds of years.

Religious conflicts and wars destroyed many complex stained glass windows over the centuries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

The most prolific stained glass period in America was in the Victorian era from the 1850s to the 1920s.



Holly, Winter’s Berries

It’s beginning to look a lot like winter, with berries everywhere!

Colorful berries are one of the joys of a winter landscape and garden. They sparkle like jewels on a sunny day or when there is a snowfall. I love to collect them for holiday decorating and also enjoy seeing them outside my window. Birds love to roost in the evergreen boughs of holly making the idyllic scene look like a Christmas card.

Pyracantha, also called fire thorn, has bright orange berries that are relished by bluebirds. These also can be used in flower arrangements and wreaths. Cardinals are fond of nesting in these very protective shrubs. They need almost full sun to do well and look really great against a brown, beige, green or white building. They also will make a nice privacy hedge if allowed to grow naturally.

A little used but very easy-to-grow native plant is red chokeberry. It is so hardy it will even grow as far north as zones 4 and south to zone 9. It is a deciduous shrub it often is wider than its four feet height. It might grow a bit taller if in rich, moist soil. It will adapt to almost any soil type. The beautiful white blooms of spring produce profuse red fruits in fall and the foliage has excellent red autumn color.

‘Brilliantissima’ is a great variety of aronia that has the most flowers and fruits. The bright red fruit of the red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) is a good source of winter food for birds.

A fantastic easy to grow plant that also has berries is the Viburnum. Several species of this deciduous or evergreen shrub will grow in sun, part sun or even shade and a few are fragrant. These versatile plants are really wonderful to naturalize and are very attractive to gardeners and birds alike. The blooms are usually in spring, followed by fruits or berries in red, blue or black. Finches, game birds, mockingbirds, thrushes, waxwings, Cardinals, and woodpeckers relish them.

Another colorful native shrub that is among my very favorite is the deciduous native holly called winterberry (Ilex verticillata). These shrubs lose their leaves following the frost. This seasonal change however reveals outrageously beautiful red (or orange) berries. The most handsome stand of winterberry is across the creek and only accessible by canoe.

For years when our sons were growing up they would take turns on wintry days paddling a canoe over so I could precariously lean over into the shrubs and cut branches for Christmas wreaths and arrangements! Luckily we never capsized.

Now we have planted them along this side of the stream, as well as in our other gardens. By the looks of the ample berry crop, the bees are bringing lots of pollen from the nearby swamps. Even the shrub out by Delsea Drive that is planted in a low, damp spot near the old swamp maple in our driveway is covered with berries. Although they often grow near a stream in the wild, these plants adapt well to most any garden situation as long as they are watered well during a dry spell. These are one of my very favorite winter plants as the colorful berries last long into late winter, giving beautiful color to the garden.

Nandina, one of the most beautiful of all the shrubs in our garden, is just beginning to wear its winter dress. This is a shrub with shiny, mostly evergreen compound leaves that often go from a youthful coppery/purplish red to deep green in summer and then often back to red or burgundy in late fall and winter. Glistening bunches of shiny red berries set like luxuriant clusters of jewels among the leaves are awesome this time of the year.

A colorful display of pinkish buds open in spring to white blooms that are less than 1/2-inch size but grouped in large 8-15 inch panicles or clusters. These in turn give way to spectacular clusters of red berries that ripen from September to October with their biggest show being holiday time through the early spring.

Although the plant is a longtime favorite in the states south of us, especially in Colonial Williamsburg, it has been rather under used in the Delaware Valley. When people see the ones near the front doors of both our house and the shop, they ask what it is. Since it is one of my favorite plants, I have been planting Nandina here and there in semi-shady or morning sunspots so I can enjoy the colorful, unique foliage and the sparkling clusters of red berries to use in my holiday decorating. But most of all, I love the show the plant puts on all winter. It isn’t till early in the spring that the birds eat the berries of this pretty plant.

These plants are easily transplanted from containers into your garden and they’ll adapt to most extremes of soil. They do, however, prefer moist, fertile soil and will become most awesome in this type of environment. In moist situations with good organic soil they can take full sun, but will also do quite well in part shade. They will grow under oaks, in beds of ground cover or in natural boarders and make a wonderful showing. Since the foliage, the flowers and the berries are so outstanding, they are best showcased where they can really be seen and enjoyed.

Hollies are always a winter favorite.

I love to write each winter about one of my favorite families of trees, the hollies. They are so glorious this time of the year and they grow so well in our area they deserve a yearly applause.

There are many types of hollies and most are evergreen. The ones that do loose there leave really showcase their brilliant berries in winter. All hollies have the common name Ilex. One of the natives found growing here is the towering American Holly, whose botanical name is Ilex opaca. Most hollies like a well drained but moist soil with lots of woodsy humus. They do fine in acid soil and will grow in full sun or light shade. Large groupings of holly are often found deep in south Jersey swamps. In your yard mulch will simulate a woodland environment and keep these woodlanders’ roots cool.

One lesser-known holly that is just becoming popular our area is the awesome Foster holly. It is glossy and shiny with tons of red berries. One good thing about it for most homeowners is that it does not get as large and bulky as the huge American holly.

Foster Holly is a hybrid that occurred between a narrow-leafed form of the Dahoon Holly as the female parent and American Holly as the male in the union. The trees grow 15 to 30 feet tall with a spread of 5 to 7 feet, giving them a narrow, conical form. The thin leaves have very soft spines so they do not pinch like the American holly.

The female produces an abundance of red, pea-sized fruit even on young plants. The male pollinator can be either a ‘Foster or a more common American Holly.

Foster Holly is an excellent plant for planting near an entry or off the corner of the house to provide vertical accent. Like most plants with this strikingly conical form, it can be grown as a freestanding specimen or massed together. It also makes an excellent tall evergreen screen. One of the prettiest ones ever is just outside the disinter center at the National arboretum in Washington D C.

Most hollies do best in a reasonably good garden soil where they receive some water during dry periods. The soil pH should be on the acid side. While full sun is best for berry production they will do well in medium shade too.

All holly trees can be sheared as needed or left to grow. If plants ever get too large, they can be stubbed back severely in the spring just before new growth starts. Many hollies will even come back from the root if cut down.

A deciduous holly, like the winter berry (Ilex verticillata), loses its leaves to reveal outrageously beautiful red berries. These are real show stoppers in any garden. I cut armfuls of branches and add them to my wreaths and arrangements all during December. The birds don’t eat these till later on in the season.

Most hollies are dioecious, which means that that the male and female flowers are on separate plants. Thus you will need at least one male for every five female plants for a good show of berries

When the leaves have all fallen and the landscape becomes bleak, hollies really stand out and commandeer our appreciation. As I write, I look out of my window and notice the glossy holly now filled with songbirds. More distant are huge old pines, spruce and hollies around the perimeter of the property, as well as a native cedar covered with blue berries. These trees all give color and life to the garden in winter. My Dad and my uncle Ed, who both loved hollies, planted many of these more than 40 years ago.

As a child, I spent many summer hours watering hundreds of hollies. My Dad collected hollies. He would find small ones in the woods and move them to our yard. He would also buy unusual ones wherever he could find them. He always took great care of them. The summer he moved the trees a block or two from our old house to our new house, my brother and I had to water them every few days. We would take a pile of comic books and a sturdy wooden milk box to sit on as we moved around the perimeter of the large property and waited for the hose to thoroughly soak each large American holly. We did a through job and every holly lived. They are all still majestically gracing the property.

It was then that I noticed the hollies did not all look alike. I realized that even though he found many of his American hollies in local fields and woods, because of the bees and genetic variety they all had their own unique characteristics. The coloring of both the leaves and the berries often differs from one American Holly to another. Today many of theses same hollies are lofty giants all around both my mother’s and our home.

There are still many other hollies that can also be planted if you like berries and evergreen foliage. Plant a holly and enjoy this ‘Down Jersey’ treasure this holiday season and for years to come.

Triple Oaks will feature their own natural wreaths and arrangements using fresh greens and berries. The above-mentioned plants are also available to plant now. Check our website for wreath classes and other holiday events.

Berry Christmas!!


Visit Lorraine online at www.TripleOaks.com


Cape May on Paper

When you think Cape May what comes to mind? Diamonds? Victorian Sand Ladies? Piping Plovers? America’s original seaside resort has been dazzling new and veteran visitors alike with her charm, beauty and history; many to the point of bringing pen to paper.

This collection of inspired authors brings different views—some fantasy, some spooky, and some factual—on and about Cape Island. Collect the nine books as part of your library or wrap a ribbon around a few for anyone in love with our seaside town.

The Sand Lady

by Corinne M. Litzenberg
Illustrations by Bari A. Edwards

Natalie loves Cape May as much as you do. One day, as she plays in the sand, she creates a Victorian lady. When she places an egret feather in the lady’s hat, the feather becomes magical and makes the Sand Lady come to life. They then begin a wondrous journey as she takes Natalie back through time to Victorian Cape May. Beautiful illustrations make the book as timeless and whimsical as the resort itself.

The Legend of the Cape May Diamond

by Trinka Hakes Noble
Illustrations by E.B. Lewis

Love hunting for Cape May Diamonds? Author Trinka Hakes Noble tells how the legendary Cape May Diamond came to wash upon its white sandy shores. With this children’s tale is also the story of Cape May’s development from early Lenape settlers to Cornelius Jacob Mey’s discovery, through Victorian times to current day. Full page illustrations make this book a keepsake for any Cape Mayan or honorary one.

Ghosts of Cape May Volumes I, II, III

by Craig McManus

If you’ve gotten goosebumps walking down Jackson Street or have seen something amiss in the third floor window of Martini Beach, it may be time to learn about the ghosts of Cape May. Author Craig McManus is a psychic medium and paranormal investigator who has been visiting the island since he was a boy, always attuned to and fascinated by the ghostly presence on the Cape. Each of McManus’ volumes is broken into well-written chapters detailing different research experiences. Happy haunting.

Sentinel of the Jersey Cape: The story of the Cape May Lighthouse

by John Bailey

Was Cape May dark before 1823? It’s this question that begins John Bailey’s story of the Cape May Lighthouse with intriguing evidence that there most likely was a lighthouse keeping the shore lit prior to the three known of today. Using new and vintage photos, sketches and maps, Bailey’s book weaves a detailed history of the tall sentinel standing over Cape May Point and insight into its future.

Early Architecture of Cape May County, New Jersey;
The Heavy Timber Frame Legacy

by Joan Berkey

Architectural historian Joan Berkey is on a mission to prove there’s more to Cape May County’s architectural landscape than Victorian-era gingerbread houses. The county is home to a significant collection of heavy timber frame (post-and-beam) buildings, many of which are still standing today. The impressive structures are explained using photographs and details to glimpse into daily lives of the people who lived in the homes. Floor plans and building specs allow for more architectural interest.

The Shorebird Guide

by Michael O’Brien, Richard Crossley and Kevin Karlson

With nearly half the book made up of fabulous detailed photos of shorebird species, this reference guide is a treat for the eyes. It’s as perfect for anyone intrigued by the Sanderlings being chased by waves as it is for a Cape May beach homeowner or visitor. Photos and information are broken down by species, making the guide easily read and organized. And, bonus, Richard Crossley’s column, Brit’s Eye View, appears in this magazine monthly.

Cape May Point The Illustrated History: 1875 to the Present

by Joe J. Jordan

When Jordan’s curiosity was piqued about his Cape May Point home being identical to a few others nearby, he began researching for an answer. Well, an answer didn’t come, but a book on Cape May Point’s history did instead. The photos throughout the hardback are impressive, as are awe-inspiring views of buildings and people from the rich history of the Point.

Postcard History Series, Cape May in Vintage Postcards

by Don and Pat Pocher

If you’ve been fortunate to spend a few minutes (or a few hours) going through Don and his late wife, Pat, Pocher’s vast vintage postcard collection, you know the feeling of peeking into the senders’ lives even just for a brief moment. It’s a bit voyeur-intrigue, a bit history seeker, and well, just plain fun. All these feelings arise when flipping through this local book filled with images of wool-suited bathers and crowded white sands, the Cape May Lighthouse, Convention Hall and beachfront hotels.

The Summer City by the Sea

by Emil R Salvini

Using first hand accounts from various publications throughout history, Salvini’s Summer City by the Sea recreates the past in such a way that you feel you’ve gone back in time, whether it’s getting to Cape Island in 1823 by way of Bridgeton or realizing the inadequacy of the fire fighting service during the inferno that rocked the city in 1878. Sketches and photographs help to tell the story of cool Cape May and its history as the Queen of the Seaside Resorts.


What’s happening this December?

What’s that sound? Can you hear it? It’s the sound of sleigh bells. And you know what that means. It’s the 43rd West Cape May Christmas Parade coming your way December 6 starting at 5 p.m. in front of the West Cape May Borough Hall. The parade winds its way along Broadway and up West Perry Street toward Cape May, finishing at Carpenters Lane and Ocean Street. Generally the parade lasts about two hours and is worth every minute. Locals often fight for the perfect parade position. Friends you haven’t spoken to all year are suddenly at the top of your speed dial if they happen to own a house along the parade route. The Pilot House, which has that large dining annex facing Carpenters Lane is jammed pack that night with parade observers. So stake out your position early – don’t forget the judging stand by CVS, clearly the best view without shelter.

A couple of other events also begin Saturday, Dec. 6 like breakfast with Santa at 10 a.m. at Aleathea’s at the Inn of Cape May and Cape May’s 35th annual Christmas Candlelight House Tours. It’s the 35th anniversary of Cape May’s oldest and most beloved holiday tour—the Christmas Candlelight House Tours, sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC). Experience the sights and sounds of an old-fashioned Christmas on the first Christmas Candlelight House Tour of the holiday season on Saturday, Dec. 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Catch the spirit of the season on this self-guided tour as Christmas carolers and strolling musicians fill the streets of Cape May and homes, inns, B&B’s, and churches welcome tourgoers into the decorated interiors of their architectural gems, complete with all the trimmings and the chance to see collections of vintage holiday decorations.

Christmas Candlelight House Tours also include a visit to the Emlen Physick Estate at 1048 Washington St., Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, authentically decorated for the holidays, and “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” exhibit in the Carriage House Gallery, which features holiday traditions through the years complete with vintage Santas, model trains, trees, toys and more. For information on these tours as well as reserving your lunch (1:30 p.m.) with Mrs. Claus on Saturday, December 13 at Aleathea’s (The Inn of Cape May) contact MAC call 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or visit www.capemaymac.org.

Want to do something different? Do you like miniature trains? This holiday season come and see Canal Toy Trains, located at 1013 Batts Lane Cold Spring. This 28 ft. x 32 ft. layout of toy trains shows them in all scales as they travel through the villages Adventure Park. Get in the spirit. All are welcome. Bonus: It’s free. Open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. until December 27 and 28th. For more information call 609-898-7776. Enjoy the family holiday fun. ChooChoo!!  The current Winter issue of Cape May Magazine features a closer look at the man behind Canal Toy Trains.

If you couldn’t make it down for the West Cape May Christmas Parade come on down the next weekend – or come both weekends – because Candlelight Hospitality Night on The Mall is December 10 and 11 from 7-9 p.m. Merchants on The Mall open their doors to offer customers – local and semi-local – hospitality and cheer. It’s a good time to see old friends and to help along a sluggish economy by patronizing independent shop owners.

Speaking of cheer, you came to the right town if you want to imbibe in style. You can begin with a Holiday Wine Tasting Dinner sponsored by MAC. Enjoy a five course dinner of holiday cuisine paired with little known varietal wines at the Mad Batter Restaurant on historic Jackson Street. 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 12. Limited to 60 people. Admission is $70. The next day, Saturday Dec. 13 at 1 p.m., you can attend cooking class and learn how to cook like the pros. Holiday Cooking Class and Lunch is also at the Mad Batter. Join the chef for a quick class on cooking for the holidays. Includes lunch at the famous restaurant. Limited to 30 people. Admission is $40.

The following weekend (Friday, December 19 through Sunday, December 21) MAC and the Washington Inn are offering one of their Spirited Cape May Weekends. Triple your enjoyment by combining a Wine Tasting Dinner, Winery Cellar Tour and Wine Tasting Class for a weekend of total indulgence. The weekend begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19 with a four-course dinner at the Washington Inn, 801 Washington St., with wines themed to the Sunday Wine School Class. Guests will be treated to individual attention from the wine steward. On Saturday, Dec. 20 at 3 p.m., visit the award-winning Cape May Winery for a tour of the vineyard, an introduction to the winemaker’s art, and a barrel tasting with cheese and fruit. On Sunday, Dec. 21, learn the finer points of fine wines at a 1 p.m. Wine School Class at the Washington Inn. The complete package is $125 per person.

Don’t have time for an entire weekend for wining? Cape May Wine School will be held Sunday, Dec. 21 at the Washington Inn from 1-3 p.m. Enjoy an informative class on judging and appreciating fine wines from around the world. $25 per person. For more information, call 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or visitwww.capemaymac.org.

In the world of arts and entertainment, Cape May’s two equity performance theaters are still going strong. Cape May Stage presentsThis Wonderful Life by Steve Murray, Conceived by Mark Setlock. Share the hope and humor of Frank Capra’s adored Classic Christmas film It’s A Wonderful Life in this delightful stage adaptation. The plight of George Bailey is seen in a fresh light as one actor portrays Clarence the Angel, Mary, Old Man Potter, and twenty more of Bedford Falls’ finest citizens. Make this heartwarming family experience a part of your holiday tradition this season. Shows run Wednesdays through Sundays at the Robert Shackleton Playhouse at Bank and Lafayette Streets. Please call 609-884-1341 or visit www.capemaystage.com for more information.

East Lynne Theater Company presents the world premiere of O. Henry’s Christmas Stories. ELTC’s Artistic Director Gayle Stahlhuth portrays 20-plus roles as she spins O. Henry’s tales. For reservations please call 609-884-5898 or visitwww.eastlynnetheater.org for more information.

You can visit CapeMay.com’s events calendar for more detailed information on tours and special events, but hey, you don’t need a calendar to enjoy Cape May all you needs is a place to stay. From there find a cozy place to have dinner, a cocktail and settle in for some easy listening music – Aleathea’s at the Inn of Cape MayThe Merion Inn on Decatur, The Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel and The Brown Room at Congress Hall often offer musical entertainment on the weekends through the end of the year. Then take a walk about town. The Christmas decorations on The Mall, Jackson Street and Columbia Avenue are storybook-like in their warmth and quaintness. And don’t forget those spectacular sunsets – the colder the weather, the more beautiful they are.

So from all of us to all of you, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!!!