Monday, April 11, 2011

Highlights Foundation Workshop

This weekend I had the chance to visit Honesdale, my former home in Pennsylvania. Rich was teaching a middle-grade workshop for the HIGHLIGHTS FOUNDATION.

I always like to come along to meet with old friends and enjoy the property. It's incredibly vast, with more than a thousand-plus acres stretching from a creek all the way toward Honesdale, with forests and moss-laden flagstone dotting the hills in between, that were once part of a sawmill and grist mill.

The ancestral home of the founders of the magazine, HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN, it's quite an incredible place to take a writing workshop.

The grounds are steeped in tradition with the original homestead providing a warm, cozy place to have the workshops. You gather in the living room filled with antiques and century-old books and paintings,listening to workshop leaders talk about subjects ranging from picture books to YA, editing and non-fiction, with plenty of individual attention.

Peppering the hill above the main house are the comfy cabins we all stay in that contribute to the peaceful atmosphere. At night, the stars are incredible and the spring peepers serenaded us to sleep.

I say I like to come here with Rich mostly for the solitude and to meet friends, but really, one of the biggest draws is the food. Chef Marcia Dunsmore is a pioneer of the slow foods movement in the area and co-ran a successful inn called the Settlers Inn, located in Hawley, before becoming head chef at the Highlights Foundation.

On any given day you can be served luscious apps like dukka-laden onion dip, baked kale with crab, and a bevy of local cheeses from the caves in a creamery just a few minutes away. Suppers can be cuban pork slow roasted all day while you write, and dabbed with mole sauce, feathered brussel sprouts,roasted garlic chicken, curried zucchini soup and for dessert, english toffee pudding.

Is your mouth watering yet? Mine always is the minute our car swivels into the driveway leading up to the property. In fact, Rich and I are so wild about Marcia's food we tend to write more about feasting in our novels now, and Rich and Marcia are giving a workshop in September at the foundation called FOOD AND FICTION. Taking place from September 8 -11th, FOOD AND FICTION is a celebration of food in literature with hands-on cooking demonstrations. Check out the website for more details.
The workshop will be part of the unveiling of the new conference center on the grounds, which was built into the stone foundation of the centuries-old dairy barn and has streaming rafters, peaked ceilings, a stone fireplace and of course, an amazing kitchen for Marcia where, in this workshop, you can do prep work too, while learning recipes related to great food lit.

On Sunday morning I took a quick trip to a new cafe that opened in Hawley called, COCOON. It's adorable. Set in the fireproof stone building that once housed the silk worms for the nearby silk mills more than a hundred years ago, the cafe has an earthy feel and serves great cherry scones, lattes and espresso coffees as well as fruit smoothies and sandwiches. Sitting in a comfy leather chair against the whitewashed stone walls, I just imagined what it must have been like in this airy building with it's vaulted ceilings housing thousands of silk worms, and how magical it must have been to watch cocoons being spun on the wooden racks lined up in this space.

Cocoon is open all week and is right off the highway leading into Hawley.