Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Polar Express Excitement in December!

As the first families began arriving for their Polar Express experience this past December, the Buttonwood Inn was decorated throughout as Bill and I had begun decorating the week before Thanksgiving.  Our own children are married and live in New Jersey, so we do not always get to spend the holidays with them.  We are transported back to those Christmas holidays we experienced with our own children when families arrive at the Buttonwood observing their excitement and wonder as the children “discover” all the Inn has to offer.  Cupcakes and hot chocolate await them on our Dining Room table at our afternoon tea service.  On Saturday afternoon, I put out my hand-decorated sugar cookies for the children and their parents to enjoy before they leave for the Polar Express train ride.  

The Polar Express event is a re-creation of the 1985 Chris Van Allsburg book and the 2004 animated movie starring Tom Hanks.  It originated in North Conway back in the 1990’s.  On Saturday, our families arrive at the Victorian Conway Scenic Railroad station located behind the charming New England green, which faces the decorated shops and restaurants.  The slopes of the Cranmore Mountain Ski Resort, which overlook the town, are all lit up and conjure up visions of Santa Claus and his reindeer’s impending arrival.  Everyone is ushered onto the train traveling through the forest to the North Pole where the magical journey begins.   

Back here at The Buttonwood Inn, when we are all alone, we can hear the train whistle blow several times marking the beginning of the Polar Express journey to the North Pole.  That train whistle always sparks my memory of our Polar Express experience several years ago.  We were caught up in the merriment of the passengers singing carols while hot chocolate and candy was passed out by the chefs on the train.   Upon arriving at the North Pole, we all filed off the train and proceeded up the lantern-lit path while being greeted joyously by elves.  When I looked back down the hill at the Polar Express lit up inside waiting for us to return, I felt like we were seeing the same vision of it as if we were in the movie. 

The next morning at breakfast, the children happily tell us about meeting Santa Claus and show us the bells that they received from Santa. There is joy in air as the children of the different families finish breakfast and head down to the Mount Surprise Room to play games with each other.  We had two fathers take turns on Saturday and Sunday mornings leading the children in playing “Cooties.”  The young children were laughing and squealing with delight so loudly that one of the mothers and I ran down to make sure they were happy noises…of course, they were.  This kind of merriment is what we take pleasure in most when families or other guests come stay with us because they are comfortable enough in our home to share their cheerful moments with us. 

Several families have come back to The Buttonwood Inn for the Polar Express.  If you are interested in coming back or you would like to reserve with us for the first time, please call us at 1-800-258-2625 for information and pricing.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Appreciation for freshly prepared foods all begins here...

...helping Mom with the holiday baking or preparing dinner for the family.  The photo is of my daughter-in-law, Lori, at the tender young age of five helping her mother, Gloria, roll out the pie dough for Thanksgiving pies.  It's a tradition that she still follows the day before Thanksgiving in her mother's kitchen.  Lori is quite a good cook who can make an awesome meatloaf.  She also likes to bake delicious cookies, cupcakes, and pumpkin breads that she gives out as Christmas gifts to her family and friends.  I enjoy cooking with Lori because she quickly and adeptly prepares the menu items based on her cooking experience while growing up.

My daughter, Alexandra, also helped me with baking and cooking also starting at age five.  As a teenager, when Alex came home from boarding school during the Christmas holiday season break, she couldn't wait to begin decorating the gingerbread house that she requested I make for her.  She happily spent hours piping royal icing onto it creating her own design and placing the various candies onto it.  After sleeping in late the next morning, Alex would come back into the kitchen and ask what we would be making for dinner. After deciding which menu items we would be preparing, I instructed her to read through the recipe to gather the ingredients, cooking utensils, and understand the step-by-step process of preparing the menu item.  Alex often amazed me with her zealous nature of wanting to cook or bake a complex food item without any fear of it not coming out right.  She had the advantage of me being a professionally trained chef.  She learned how to make fresh pasta, pie dough, pizza dough, butter cream icing, cakes, how to cook meats and fish, etc.  Since Alex had a strong interest in cooking and baking from scratch, she will prepare any type of cuisine.

I also began baking and cooking as a young child watching both of my parents lovingly prepare the meals for our family.  My mother prepared the daily meals since she was a stay-at-home mother for awhile and my father prepared the Sunday dinner meal.  He was happiest on Sunday morning singing along with the radio while preparing his typical roasted meat, gravy, potato, and vegetable dinner which was extraordinary.  This sparked my interest in cooking and looked forward to the home economics cooking classes I attended in grammar school.  Reading the recipe, organizing the ingredients, utensils, and mixing the ingredients in a specific process appealed to me.  I liked measuring and whisking the dry ingredients, then whisking the wet ingredients separately only to combine them to form a batter that yielded delicious muffins.  I couldn't wait to bake my first batch of muffins at home for my family!  When my mother discovered my culinary capability, she quickly assigned me baking duties helping her bake the numerous, huge walnut and poppy seed rolls for Christmas and Easter.  Our neighbors and friends were often the lucky recipients of our day long labor of love.

Now some of my favorite photos on Facebook are of my brother-in-law, Fred's, two young grandsons, Tyler and Evan, decorating holiday cookies with their mother, Holly, in their kitchen. I'm certain that these boys will continue their tradition of holiday baking with their mother and further develop their culinary skills in preparing good, wholesome meals as they grow up.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

All things "maple-y" in March...

It's maple sugaring time again at The Buttonwood Inn.  During March, we tap a few of our maple trees to boil the sap making our own maple syrup.  Bill drills five holes into three maple trees and then inserts his handcrafted spiles that are connected to empty, clean plastic milk and orange juice bottles to collect the sap.  The sap looks like water but has a slightly sweet scent and tastes slightly sweet.  Over the past two weeks, we've collected 15-1/2 gallons of sap and are hoping for more.  It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.  We boil it on our stove.

Our neighbors have a different method of collecting the sap from their maples.  They hook up a long, plastic hose line to the spiles running it from tree to tree downhill where it drips into a large vinyl drum.  Other neighbors still hook up the traditional New England covered metal sap buckets of yesteryear. 

During a recent snow shoe trek on the Buttonwood Trail, I spoke with neighbors who were pulling their daily yield of sap in a sled holding about 8 plastic gallon jugs.  Their maple syruping operation is a bit larger than ours because they have about 30 jugs collecting sap in the forest.  They are hoping the forest will be kind to them this year because their yield last year was half compared to 2011.  The winter of 2012 was unusually warm for New Hampshire and we also didn't have much snow!

As I write this blog, I'm watching the snow fall very heavily at times with an accumulation of one foot so far and we're just halfway through it.  Tomorrow morning is the first day of Spring!  I'm not complaining because as long as it remains wintry cold, the sap should continue to flow and we can make more syrup.

The maple syrup we make is for our personal consumption.  We purchase the best quality Grade A Amber from award-winning maple producer, Fuller's Sugarhouse, in Lancaster, NH.  They have a huge maple sugaring operation and supply their customers all year around.  They  conduct tours of their maple sugaring operation next to their store and fill internet orders shipping anywhere.

This weekend some of our guests will be participating in our annual March Maple Madness tour to other inns in Mt. Washington Valley.  They will sample maple treats while gathering points for a chance to win a $200 gift certificate for a future stay at any one of these inns, including other prizes.  You still have to time to reserve with us and join in on this fun and "maple-y" event!  Call us at 1-800-258-2625 or book online today.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Upcoming Valley Chili Cookoff and My Chili Recipe!

Come stay at The Buttonwood Inn and sample our local restaurants' chili and judge for yourself which one is the best!  Check out our special Chilly Chili Cookoff deal located on The Buttonwood Inn home page. 

For Super Bowl fare, I made a delicious beef and bean chili that incorporated a complexity of flavors and spices.  After researching several chili recipes on-line, I modified one substituting ingredients from another recipe to produce the best chili.

If you read through the recipe, gather your ingredients for food preparation, and follow the cooking instructions exactly, you'll impress your family and friends with a rich, thick, and comforting chili.  ENJOY!

Beef and Bean Chili

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more as needed
3 pounds 85% lean ground beef
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons of chipotle peppers in Adobo, pureed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1/2 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced scallions, and/or diced avocado, for topping


Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add half of the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown about 4 minutes, adding more oil as needed. Transfer to a plate; then brown the second batch and remove from pot. Discard leftover oil from the pot.

Reduce the heat to medium and add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pot. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Then add minced garlic for 1 minute. Add pureed chilis in Adobo, oregano, and tomato paste; cook, stirring, 30 seconds.

Return the meat to the pot and stir in the tomatoes with their juices, broth, espresso, and pinto beans. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the chili is thickened about 2 hours.

Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and cook 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Divide among bowls. Top with cheese, sour cream, scallions, and/or avocado.

Chocolate Festival Weekend at The Buttonwood

The Buttonwood Inn was full last weekend during the Chocolate Festival held annually on the last Sunday of February.  Ten of our guests toured various inns and businesses sampling chocolatey treats of all kinds. 

As a non-recovering chocoholic, I decided to bake chocolate treats all weekend for the afternoon tea service.  On Friday, I baked my all-time favorite cookies, Chocolate Chippers.  Not only are they easy to make, but I enjoy the buttery and vanilla flavor of the moist and tender cookies loaded with semisweet chocolate chips.

My second favorite treat is Chocolate Malted Cupcakes topped with Fluffy Vanilla Frosting that I served for the Saturday tea service.  Again, a simple recipe which yields a moist, tender, and chocolatey cupcake with a light and sweet vanilla flavored frosting.  Check out my recipe below.

For the Chocolate Festival tour on Sunday, I baked a Texas Sheet Cake which is a thin layer of chocolate cake iced with a chocolate ganache topped with chopped pecans.  It's similar to an iced brownie and very chocolatey. 

If you enjoy chocolate treats as much as I do, consider coming to The Buttonwood Inn next February for three days of chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!  Call us at 1-800-258-2625 to reserve your Chocolate Festival Tour or book on-line.

Yield: About 28 cupcakes


2-1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1-1/4 cups malted milk powder
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, both sugars, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk and malted milk powder until dissolved.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat flour mixture, milk mixture, and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl. Add sour cream and vanilla, and beat until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each two-thirds. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Fluffy Vanilla Frosting

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

With an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the confectioners’ sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of the bowl. After all the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla is added, continue beating for 5 minutes to aerate the frosting making it very pale and fluffy. Frost cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles, if desired.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The snowshoes are lined up on the front porch...

...waiting to be strapped onto your boots to hike the Mount Surprise and Buttonwood Inn trails on Bartlett Mountain in Merriman State Forest.  Our guests hike and snowshoe these trails by heading out our back yard through the field to the trails.  You can hike for 30 minutes or for hours on the many intersecting trails. 

The trail to the Bartlett Ledges can be reached in the warmer months because there is a steep trail towards the top and not easily accessible through snow and ice.   The Ledges is a wide rock outcropping affording views of the Moats, Cathedral Ledge, and The Presidentials.  You can also see the back of the Buttonwood Inn, Route 16/302, and the properties along it in North Conway.

Though we had two 50 degree days with rain one night this week that melted some of the snow, we are back to frigid temperatures due to a cold front yesterday.  Snow is also forecasted this weekend through next Tuesday, YES!  Mother Nature played a trick on us at the end of January, but it's back to wearing silk underwear and fleece to brace against the wintry weather.

So come on up and strap on our snow shoes to play in the snow, or check out our ski packagesBook online or call us at 1-800-258-2625.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Last Polar Express Weekend at The Buttonwood Inn…

Beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving, we’ve had many families stay at The Buttonwood Inn for five weekends, ending just before Christmas. Bill and I had so much fun observing the delight in the children’s faces as they expressed that they were going on the Polar Express to visit the big guy in red, Santa!  One family, in particular, kept it as a surprise until the children dressed in their pajamas as they headed out the door to the train station beginning their magical journey to the North Pole.

The Christmas lights and decorations beckon the families who merrily enter our check-in area where their eyes are drawn to dozens of ornaments hanging in the window and the twin polar bear cubs staring outside. Bill proceeds with a tour of the inn first to the Mount Surprise Room where the Polar Express movie is playing on the big screen TV.  The families pass by the small lighted Christmas tree with wooden ornaments, fireplace mantle displaying lights and holiday figures, and a New England village display.  The cupboards are packed with games and books for all ages, including many other holiday movies.

In our Dining Room, the children immediately ask to take one of the mini cupcakes decorated in colored frosting with sprinkles that I baked for the afternoon tea and hot chocolate service. The mothers usually notice the many whimsical Christmas ornaments watching everyone from their perches on the windows and window sills.

The Living Room has a large Christmas tree decorated with ceramic ornaments that I painted when our children were babies. There are whimsical mice, a children’s nativity creche, and Sesame Street characters. Does anyone remember Strawberry Shortcake? That was a favorite of our 30+ daughter, Alexandra. Our son, Tom’s, favorite was Oscar the Grouch. Three decades ago seems like yesterday when you recall the fond memories of raising your children.

After breakfast on Saturday mornings, I bake and decorate the sugar cookies of holly leaves, candy canes, and snow flakes for the children to eat either before or after the Polar Express train adventure. I pipe various colored icings on each cookie sprinkled with a variety of crystallized sugars and holiday-inspired sprinkles. I also make the “big kid” Triple Chocolate cookies that their parents and grandparents cannot resist.

While we serve our guests a savory gourmet breakfast, I also make Buttermilk Pancakes with or without chocolate chips for the children. Sunday morning breakfast consists of fresh fruit salad followed by Yeasted Belgian Waffles with warm award-winning Maple Syrup from Fullers Sugarhouse and thick-sliced bacon. For the very young children with smaller appetities, I plate half of the waffle as angel wings dusted with powdered sugar  topped with a butter flower.  When Bill serves breakfast to the families, he derives real pleasure from seeing the children sitting at the tables and asks them about their experience seeing Santa the previous evening. 

When it’s time for the families to depart, we often bring our two dogs, Britt and Clyde, outside to meet them. Some children have been reluctant to leave which tickles us pink. So Bill usually gets a parting photo of them with the dogs and we give them a hug goodbye.

Here’s what one family wrote in our guest room booklet:

“Thank you so much for your wonderful hospitality. We had a magical Polar Express experience. The inn is so charming and the room worked amazingly well for our family of five. The food was delicious and I loved all the homey touches such as water pitchers in the room and tea and cookies in the evening. We hope to be back next Year!” – North Reading, MA

We are now accepting reservations for the 2013 Pola Express.  If you are interested in reserving your families' magical adventure, please call us at 1-800-258-2625.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Murder Mystery Dinner Train Lodging Package

It's Lights! Camera! Murder!

October 19, 20, 26, and 27, 2012
Come walk the blood red carpet and board the Conway Scenic Railroad

for a tantalizing evening of INTRIGUE, SUSPENSE... and HOMICIDE.

Everyone is "dying" to get an invite to the exclusive, A-list party given by one of Hollywood’s legendary hostesses. You’ve made the cut and your name is on the guest list so you get to wine, dine and schmooze with Hollywood’s elite after their night of accolades at the Academy Awards. The evening will be filled with drama. Careers will be made, secrets revealed and scandals broken. Oh, and a murder will be committed. With a VIP victim, and all the celebrities suspect, you and your fellow guests will be called upon to examine the web of lies and uncover the clues to expose the culprit and "crack" the red carpet caper. Murder Mystery performed by the Arts in Motion Theatre Company.

Murder Mystery Four-Course Dinner Menu ...

Preset: Crudite Platter served at each table
First Course: Lobster Bisque
Second Course: Grilled Seasonal Vegetable Gazpacho with
Avocado Citrus Chantilly and Parmesan Croutons

Entree: Choice of:
Grilled Rib Eye with Balsamic Herb Emulsion
Baked Stuffed Chicken with Prosciutto & Gruyere Cheese
Vegetarian Option: Black Bean Stuffed Portabella Mushroom with Roasted Red Pepper

All entrees served with Manchego Polenta Cake and Seasonal Vvegetable

Desserts: Trays of Mini Desserts served at each table

Murder Mystery Dinner Train Lodging Package includes...

Two nights lodging at the Buttonwood Inn (top ranked in Trip Advisor)
Full gourmet breakfast each morning
Afternoon tea with Paula's baked treats
Two tickets for the Murder Mystery Dinner Train ($100 per person including dinner)
NOTE: these tickets are non-refundable.
Free discount restaurant dining and shopping coupons
Use of our hot tub "under the stars" year-round

Call 1-800-258-2625 for rates reservations.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Buttonwood Inn Video

We had the good fortune recently of working with a videographer from the Conway Daily Sun. she captured the Inn, grounds, and a few of the rooms which were not occupied at the time. Hope you enjoy the show.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Waterfall Photo Workshop Special

Photo Workshop Special
50% off 2nd night's stay for all new reservations for our June 9th Waterfall Photography Workshop. No  combinations. Call for details 1-800-258-2625  or view our package and reserve online:
Waterfall Workshop Link

Friday, May 18, 2012

Group Gatherings Mother's Day Weekend

We had several lovely families stay at The Buttonwood Inn this past Mother's Day Weekend.  Our inn is large enough for families and group gatherings because we can seat about a dozen people in our Living Room and in the Mt. Surprise Room.  Our front porch is a popular spot for guests to enjoy their morning coffee or afternoon tea watching the hummingbirds and birds.  We have several double-seat Adirondack chairs on the lawn for those who want solitude just staring at the mountains and forest.  The in-ground heated pool is fun for anyone who likes to swim or float on a tube.  Families with children can play and rejuvenate before heading off for dinner.

The daughter and son-in-law who reside in Boston arranged the Mother's Day weekend for her mother, father, and sister who flew up from Louisiana. It was the perfect getaway because they were able to reconnect and relax at our inn, and yet shop, hike the trails on Bartlett Mountain, and go on a fly fishing excursion.  On the first day of their arrival, they headed downtown to shop in Settlers Green Outlets and local curiosity shops, had dinner at a local restaurant, then came back and relaxed in the hot tub.  The daughter also reserved an hour-long in-room massage for her mother on Mother's Day morning, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  Bill booked a half-day fly fishing excursion for the father and son-in-law with North Country Angler.  They were thrilled to have caught four brook trout (caught and released).  While the men were fishing, the women hiked the Mt. Surprise and Buttonwood Inn Trails to get up to the Bartlett Ledges.  At the end of Mother's Day, the entire family had pizza and watched movies in the Mt. Surprise Room. 

I made a lime cake frosted with lime cream cheese icing for Mother's Day afternoon tea service.  Here's the recipe.

Lime Cake with Cream Cheese Icing


Butter, for greasing pan
Flour, for dusting pan

One 3-ounce package lime flavored gelatin
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, slightly beaten


1/2 cup lime juice (from 3-4 large limes)
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar


1/2 cup (1 stick butter), room temperature
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
One 1 pound box confectioners' sugar
Zest of one lime

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a 9”x13” cake pan.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the gelatin, granulated sugar, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to mix well. Add the oil, orange juice, lemon juice, vanilla, and eggs. Mix until well combined. Pour the batter evenly in the pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Test for doneness inserting a toothpick. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes.

For the glaze: While the cake is still hot, mix the lime juice and confectioners' sugar together well. Pierce the cake with a skewer to allow the glaze to soak in better and pour it over the cake. Allow cake to cool completely as you prepare the icing.

For the icing: Cream the butter and cream cheese. Beat in the confectioners' sugar until mixture is smooth and easy to spread. Add the lime zest until combined. Spread the icing on the top and sides of the cake.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Scaling Bartlett Mountain

When my soul yearns for the peace and beauty of nature, I head out the back door of The Buttonwood Inn and hike the trails with our two dogs, Britt and Clyde.  There are two trails, the Mt. Surprise Trail or the Buttonwood Trail, that you can take to get up to the Bartlett Mountain Ledges, which is about a 35-45 minute hike.  These are the rock outcroppings that are visible from the back of the inn, particularly in the field.  We suggest that our guests bring a camera to photograph the views of the valley, Moat Mountains, Cathedral Ledge, and The Presidentials off in the distance.  

Our neighbors who maintain the trails also remarked in yellow the Bartlett Moutain trail from the Ledges to the summit.  This piqued my interest in reaching the summit, so one afternoon I took Britt with me to check out this new trail.  After reaching the Bartlett Ledges, I immediately headed up the mountain along a scenic switchback trail.  We crossed over a few smaller rock outcroppings stopping to take in the views of Cranmore and Black Cap Mountains.  But we had to stop after a half hour and head back because it was hot and I didn't bring water. 

Several weeks later, my neighbor (a different one) mentioned that he made it to the summit and that it was another hour to the summit from the Ledges.  When he reached  the summit, he was disappointed that the trees blocked any view of the surrounding mountains and valley.  He said the best view on Bartlett Mountain was at the Ledges.

However, he did see faded white markers for a old trail that was bushwacked years ago leading from the Bartlett summit along the ridgeline to Mt. Kearsarge North.  The summit of Mt. Kearsarge is mostly a granite cap with a fire tower on it that you can climb to take in a glorious 360-degree view which rivals some of the 4,000 footers.

If this old trail is remarked and cleared, a loop trail will be created from the back door of The Buttonwood Inn to the trailhead for Mt. Kearsarge North on Hurricane Mountain Road--just 10 minutes from the front door our inn. Bartlett Mountain is the shoulder of Mt. Kearsarge North and reconnecting this trail would provide a full-day of adventure for hikers who enjoy nature at its best.

If you enjoy hiking, stay with us and reserve on-line or call 1-800-258-2625.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hiking in the Mount Washington Valley

Mount Washington viewed from Intervale Scenic Vista in North Conway, New Hampshire
 Did you know that one of the top hiking areas in the United States is in New Hampshire? The Presidential Range of mountains, which includes Mount Washington, is part of the Appalachian trail system which starts in Georgia and ends in Maine. The views from route 16, which runs along the east side of  The Presidential Range, or route 302, which traverses the western side are great jump-off points for a variety of well maintained trails.

Arethusa Falls

One of the favorites, accessed from route 302, is the Arethusa Falls trail system which can be hiked year round. It is really a complex of multiple trails often referred to as Arethusa Falls Trail, Arethusa-Ripley Falls Trail, and the Frankenstein Cliff Trail system. The trail head parking area is located only minutes from the Buttonwood Inn and is well worth the trip. The difficulty rating for this hike is "moderate". Many of our guests have completed the hike and felt well rewarded for the time spent along the trails and at the waterfalls and scenic vistas.

Diana's Baths - waterfalls
 A second favorite , which includes another set of beautiful waterfalls , begins just off River Road In North Conway and ambles past Diana's Baths. Click on this link to see a video of Diana's Baths. the hike to the Bath's is considered easy but for the more adventurous, you can continue past the Baths for the North Moat, Red Ridge, and Diana's Baths Loop.  The full loop has a rating of difficult and features summit panoramic views, ledges,  and rock scrambles.

There is one trail system that we have been getting a lot of positive feedback about. It is the set of trails from the back of our Inn that wind their way up to the ledges and ridges on Bartlett Mountain. Our guests this past weekend loved the views and solitude so much that they actually did the hike twice during their stay. Listening to them describe the outstanding views of the Presidentials and the Moats made us want to finish the clean up and get back on the trail as soon as possible.

Friday, March 23, 2012

March Maple Madness Event and Recipe

Bill continues to tap our maple trees boiling down the sap into maple syrup.  When he taps 20 gallons, the process will be finished obtaining two quarts of dark amber maple syrup.  We, of course, think it's Grade A because it's sweet, thick and delicious!  It will not be ready for me to use in my Maple Cheesecake as a treat for participants in the March Maple Madness event tomorrow (3/24) from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm.  I'll use the award-winning maple syrup we purchase from Fullers Sugarhouse in Lancaster, NH.

If you would still like to come up to The Buttonwood Inn for the March Maple Madness event, reserve on-line today or call us at 1-800-258-2625.

If you cannot come for the event, think of us if you make this Maple Cheesecake recipe:

Maple Cheesecake

For crust:

24 5” x 2-1/2” graham crackers
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
½ cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)

For filling:

4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup pure maple syrup
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make crust:

In a food processor, finely grind graham crackers. Add melted butter and maple syrup just until combined. Press evenly into bottom and up side of a 10-inch spring form pan. Wrap bottom and side of pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil to avoid leakage.

Make filling:

In bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on low speed, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, until smooth. Add syrup and eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and heavy cream and beat until just combined.

Pour filling into crust and bake in middle of oven 1 hour (cake will not be set in center but will set as it chills). Cool cake in pan on a rack. Chill cake, covered, at least 8 hours or overnight. Remove side of pan. Serve cheesecake in wedges, drizzled with maple syrup.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Northern Lights at the Buttonwood Inn?

Michigan Tech Photo
Most of us have heard of the northern lights, but did you know that recent sunspot activity  may promise some of the best lights in a long while? Scientists have tried a number of different methods for predicting when sunspots will occur and to what degree. Suffice it to say that although prediction has improved since the days of Galileo who, in 1612 during the summer months, made a series of sunspot observations, predictions are not always "spot on". After more than a decade of relative calm, the sun is said to be set for an active period with this week's past activity making all the headlines..

NASA Photo

We plan on taking some "night" trips to the "notches" just north of us to see what we can see. One of them, Crawford Notch, offers some great vantage points for viewing the Northern skies, not to mention beautiful mountains and forests. The other is the Pinkham Notch area. Imagine hiking to the top of Mt. Washington and taking in the view from there.  
Pinkham Notch Blog Photo
There is no shortage of wonderful viewing locations and we hope to be able to share some of our own images with you soon. Happy exploring from the Buttonwood Inn on Mt. Surprise!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Maple Syrup time at the Buttonwood Inn on Mt. Surprise

The homemade taps are up on the trees and the sap is flowing really well today. For those who have never tried this, as was the case with me until just last year, it is really simple and the reward of fresh, dark, sweet maple syrup, that you can say you made, is just great. Here is a great website for learning how to do it your self: Make your own Maple Syrup 

Simple tap setup

 This picture is an example of how you can use everyday things from around the house to tap, collect, and make your own syrup. Of course, you can always buy the Starter Kits on line. They are relatively inexpensive when you consider how much fun you will have, and the fact that the syrup you are producing is quite expensive if you were to buy "pure" malple syrup at your local grocery store. The process is simple and the tree does most of the work. I even made the "Spiles" which are the metal tubes inserted into the 2 inch deep holes drilled into the tree at a slight upward angle. As for boiling the sap down, the quoted ratio is 40 to 1. That is, for every 40 gallons you boil down you end up with 1 gallon of sap. I usually shoot for a couple of quarts. The sap looks and flows like water initially and don't worry, the trees produce an abundance of sap and as long as you don't place more than one tap for every 10 inches of tree diameter you will be OK and the tree won't notice either.

Boiling off the first sap of the season

If you really get into it, and decide to produce gallons of syrup, then you might want to consider boiling it down the old fashioned way which is done outside or in a "sugar shack" using a wood fire. There is something to be said for "getting back to nature"!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I think I may switch to a gluten-free diet...

Because the food is equally as delicious as the wheat-based products.  I've adapted my breakfast and afternoon baked treat recipes providing a gluten-free version of what the guest's traveling partner is served.  Over the past year and a half, we've increasingly catered to our guests who require gluten-free due to their Celiacs disease.  Consequently, I refer to the cookbook, The Gluten-free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy by Bette Hagman, to mix various gluten-free flours making pancakes, waffles, quick bread, cookies, and brownies.

This morning, for example, I served blintzes filled with lemon ricotta topped with warm strawberry sauce.  I made a separate crepe batter substituting gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour.  It's a little extra work to prepare gluten-free products, but the gratification our guests express to us makes it all worthwhile. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

March Winter Morning 2012

Well March has started out as a snowfilled month with two substantial snowfalls already and it is only the 3rd of the month.  This morning's view from the Inn's dining room was nothing less than magical (if I do say so myself). I could not resist snapping a few pictures of the unusual icicle formation on one of the bird feeders our guests can see as they enjoy one of Paula's tantalizing breakfasts.

 It looks like an icy little birdcage prison according to our guests this morning. Fortunately, the other birdfeeders were clear for the group of Dark-eyed Juncos . A whole group of them left tiny little 'footprints' in the snow on the front porch. It looks as if a miniature ballet took place while everyone was asleep.

From time to time, if we are lucky, we will see a Barred Owl fly from tree stand to tree stand behind the Inn and the sight is breathtaking, especially when snow is falling. The Barred Owl is familiar for its distinctive "who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all" hooting. Check out this YouTube video:

Winter certainly brings some amazing things and as we approach Spring at the Buttonwood Inn on the top of Mount Surprise, we'll be looking forward to seeing a whole host of local hawks, deer, moose, bear, not to mention the migratory hummingbirds that love our homemade hummingbird nectar. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Buttonwood Inn Astronomy Update

Although the nights recently have been cloud covered and full of snow (no complaints of course), about two weeks ago, on a Thursday night, I pointed the Inn's telescope toward the Constellation Orion, specifically looking for the Orion Nebula.

Meade 10 Inch
 I am really new to the whole digital image thing but I have always wanted to try my luck at taking pictures with a decent single lens reflex camera hooked directly to the telescope's viewfinder which is called prime focus coupling.

With today's cameras you can fairly easily see the image of the object you are trying to photograph directly in the eyepiece of the camera, or, in the case of some digital cameras with LCD screens, you can view the image directly on the screen and make some adjustments and view the "live" image before taking the actual photograph.

There are other methods, such as using the telescope's eyepiece as you would normally view the night sky and then, using a special mount, attaching the camera with it's lens so that you focus on the image in the eyepiece. Here is an example of that type of device.

When all is said and done, there are certainly other factors affecting the final image, some camera related, and others telescope related, which we I hope to discuss in future blogs. For the time being, here is a quick single image shot I took on that Thursday night two weeks ago and although it is certainly not a "Hubble telescope" quality image I was still excited about the fact that it worked. Hope you enjoy it.

Orion Nebula Canon T3i Prime Focus Meade LXD 10 inch

North Conway Named 1 of 25 World's Best Ski Towns by National Geographic

Folks in the Northeast U.S. do not have to travel far to stay and ski in 1 of 25 world's best ski towns recently named by National Geographic.  They can visit North Conway, NH in the heart of The Presidential Range of the White Mountains.  Mt. Washington is the highest peak at 6,288 feet on the East Coast.  There are seven alpine ski mountains in Mt. Washington Valley and six cross-country ski trails all within a half-hour of North Conway.  The first purpose-cut ski runs and ski schools in North America were established here in the 1930s.

Cranmore Mountain Resort located just outside of the village attracts families because of its excellent ski school.  It also has non-skiing attractions like snow tubing, a mountain coaster, climbing walls, and indoor tennis.

We're hoping that March will go out like a LION with more snow accumulation for skiing and snowshoeing opportunities for everyone. 

The Buttonwood Inn has a lot to offer everyone and we're just 5 mintues from the village.  We also have access to snowshoe trails out our back door.

We also have discounted ski tickets for our guests.  So check out our ski packages and book on-line or call us at 1-800-258-2625 today!