A Winter’s Country Inn Day

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There’s snow on the ground and the temperature is 16 degrees.  It seems like a good day to stay all cozy and warm indoors, a good Country Inn “in” Day.

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The Red Lion Inn painted by Norman Rockwell

“Of all the places I’ve been to wine in, to dine in to have a good time in you can’t beat an old Country Inn.”

This poem was found in an old Red Lion Inn scrapbook penned by an anonymous guest and I quite agree.  I’d love to enjoy today’s Inn stay at my favorite Red Lion Inn, but alas, it’s 500 miles away and I just can’t zip over to Massachusetts  –  so the next best thing is to experience an Inn stay in my very own historic home, the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House.  Here I will step out of regular routines just as I would do at The Red Lion Inn and I’ll treat myself to a nice escape.  Everybody needs a break from routines now and then.  Don’t you?

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My day begins with breakfast in bed.

If you plan ahead as I did the Inn kitchen is stocked and the breakfast tray is standing ready. This morning it’s set with Laura Ashley ‘Tea for two’ china,  a warm croissant, raspberry jam, orange juice and coffee. My husband was invited to join me, but today I’m on my own here at the Inn.

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Breakfast in Bed menu at the Jeremiah Brown House
When my husband does join me for breakfast in bed he can order off the menu which the Inn cook (me) created for him.  Little touches like this menu are fun to create and make Country Inn “in” days special.  I like nothing more then taking an ordinary day and dressing it up with little treats.  To me this is more enjoyable then elaborate holiday festivities.

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After a leisurely breakfast I make my way to the dressing room and put myself together for the day.  I may not have a lady’s maid (though that would be nice) but just to take my time with a little primping feels delicious.  No rushing  –  for rushing destroys grace, just time to sit quietly and think about the day ahead as I put myself together.

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Once dressed I leave my room and go downstairs to the public areas of the house.  A walk would be nice.  I usually take a walk when I stay at The Red Lion Inn, but looking outside at the snow on the ground and remembering the 16 degree temperature I decide on another favorite activity.

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There’s never enough time to read and one of my New Years resolutions is to read much more this year so now is the perfect time to get comfy by the fire in the Inn library and honor that resolution.  In preparation for my Country Inn Day I visited the Hudson library yesterday even though the Inn bookshelves  are bursting with my own books.  Oh,   so many books, so little time, but if we take control of our schedules, step out of our work routine, we can find at least a little time for favorite things – things like reading, and reading is a perfect Inn day activity.

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I love all things English so today’s reading consists of back issues of “The English Garden” magazine.  Perhaps the Inn gardener in me will discover some great ideas for the grounds around the Jeremiah Brown House.  And Country Inn Days are the perfect days to dream of such things.  You know what Oscar Hammerstein II said, don’t you?  He said, “You’ve got to have a dream.  If you don’t have a dream how you gonna have a dream come true.?”

After a little garden dreaming I’ll then push on to begin reading the novel, “Villette” by Charlotte Bronte.   I’m very fond of all the Bronte sisters.  I met Emily first when my dear pen friend, Bruce Youngblood, sent me one of her poems at the time of my father’s death, but eventually I got to know Emily’s sisters, Ann and Charlotte, also great writers in my opinion.  I consider all three women to be favorite “dead friends”.  What is a “dead friend” you wonder? They are people of the past who I get to know through their letters, their biographies and/or their works.

Charlotte wrote “Villete” when she was at the height of her artistic power.  She drew on her loneliness after the death of her three siblings.  I’ve heard this book is her most accomplished and deeply felt work even though it’s not her most popular creation. You’d think reading about the struggles of Charlotte’s heroine would be depressing to me, but somehow it’s not.  In fact, I gain strength from Charlotte’s characters who persevere through tough times.

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The Tea Table at The Jeremiah Brown House

But time flies when one is having fun and reading on a Country Inn Day or on any day is my kind of fun, still I must leave the library now because it’s Tea Time. And what a wonderful invention Tea Time is.  P.G. Wodehouse, an English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century said, “The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which … I particularly enjoy.”( and that goes for me too!)

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“Tea…became more than an idealization of the form of drinking: it is a religion of the art of life.” — Kakuzo Okakura

If you have a tea table there’s not much to setting it up for a daily afternoon tea  – a cloth, some flowers, a candle, a pretty tea pot, china, and of course the tea.  The food need not be fancy. Today’s afternoon tea treat consists only of cinnamon toast, but “The mere chink of cups and saucers turns the mind to happy repose”.  That’s a well known tea quote from George Gissie.  And yes, that sound is music to my ears too.

On Country Inn Days I like my house, my Inn,  to be filled with guests.  Sometimes I host teas or dinner parties for my personal friends and relatives, but other times I fill the Inn with other sorts of guests, my “dead friends”. It’s very easy to come up with these guests for all I have to do is use my imagination.  I have so many great “dead friends”.  I never know who will be popping up next.  Guess who is seated at my tea table waiting patiently for me to join her?

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It’s Mrs. Emily Whaley formerly  of Charleston, South Carolina, but now residing in heaven. Emily’s spirit will be joining me for afternoon tea today by way of her book entitled, Mrs. Whaley and her Charleston Garden.  I’m absolutely delighted she’ll be sharing her stories with me because I remember touring her garden and other gardens in Charleston some years ago. Now thanks to her book I’ll not only learn about her garden but also about her life, a life  lived in a grand house of the old South.  What could be more fun at tea?

Emily’s garden was famous.  Back in the day the New York Times sent reporters to interview her.  Southern Accent magazine did a layout. Two or three thousand visitors toured her garden during Charleston’s garden festivals and as I said I was one of those people.  I have a feeling Emily enjoyed lots of afternoon teas at her own historic home and now she’s here with me all through the magic of books and a little imagination.

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But time moves on as it always does and I must morph from Inn guest into Inn chef because my husband will be joining me for dinner at the Inn before long and someone must prepare that dinner and that someone is me.  Luckily I love to cook.  The menu is set.  Leek and potato soup, simple chicken tenders prepared in olive oil, butter, herbs and white wine, fresh green beans and a special Red Lion Inn rice.

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This is the lovely formal dining room at The Red Lion Inn, the Inn which inspired my Country Inn days.

 I’d love to share the Red Lion Inn’s rice recipe with you because sharing doubles the joy and I think you’ll like it as much as I do.

Red Lion Inn Rice

Ingredients:  1/2 cup butter, 2 stalks celery, finely chopped, 1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped, 1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and finely chopped, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons dried thyme,  bay leaves, dash of salt and pepper, 4 cups chicken stock, 2 cups white rice

Process:  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the vegetables and seasonings, and cook for 7 minutes over medium heat until the vegetables are wilted.  Remove the bay leaves.  Add the chicken stock and bring to  a boil.  Stir in the rice, cover, and cook over medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and it has absorbed the stock.

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And here it is – Red Lion Inn Rice.

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with Potato Leek Soup

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and Chicken tenders accompanied by fresh green beans.

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Oh yes, and a dessert of Grand Marnier Crepes.

The Inn cooks job is done.  Now it’s back to being Inn guest.

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It’s now time to enjoy that dinner by candlelight in the Jeremiah Brown House dining room.

It was fun creating tonight’s Inn dinner but even more enjoyable  devouring it and I am not ashamed to admit it for as William Makepeace Thackeray wrote in his Memorials of Gormandizing, “If you like your dinner, man; never be ashamed to say so…remember that every man who has been worth a fig in this world, as poet, painter, or musician, has had a good appetite and a good taste.”

And what to do after dinner?

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I’ll settle in here.  The Inn recently added new rooms to the old house and this is one of them. It’s a pleasant place to watch a movie, entertain other guests or in today’s case, sit comfortably doing needlepoint with a good classic movie.   Country Inn Days are all about simple pleasures.

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I love needlework and it’s time I finish this needlepoint design picturing a crossing guard on the streets of Bermuda, a design I purchased there and started years ago.  Needlepoint and most types of needlework are very relaxing and relaxing activities are just right for a Country Inn Day or a Country Inn evening.

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And after an hour or two of needlework the evening turns into night and before bed I think a bubble bath would be just the thing to end a lovely Country Inn Day.  Bubble therapy I call it, another simple pleasure that is not to be underestimated for the delight it offers.

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 And so this Winter’s Country Inn Day ends where it began.

I would’ve enjoyed a visit to The Red Lion Inn today for sure, but this faux Country Inn Day was quite delightful too for I accomplished most Country Inn Day goals, the goals being: To refresh body, mind and spirit; To relax; To enjoy favorite things without interruption; To exercise imagination; To take time to dream; To focus on beauty in all of its forms; To enjoy spa activities; To read fun materials, watch interesting films and spend time with interesting people; and To capture Inn Day images for my own future reflection and for sharing  because…

Sharing Doubles The Joy.

Thanks for coming along.  I hope you had half the fun I had today.

“Our life is nothing but a winter’s day; Some only breakfast and away; Others to dinner stay and are full fed.  The deepest age but sup and go to bed.  He’s worse in debt who lingers out the day.  Who goes betimes has all the less to pay.”

(Old Tavern Song)

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6 thoughts on “A Winter’s Country Inn Day

  1. You are one lady who knows how to really live. You remind me so much of Alexandra Stoddard in that respect. Your home is just so beautiful and relaxing looking? I can’t get over all you get done in one day!

  2. I remind you of Alexandra Stoddard? That’s quite the compliment. Thanks. Well, you know what I’m always saying – work and worry are sturdy weeds but joy requires cultivation so Country Inn Days are my days to cultivate joy. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Lora and I have been enjoying our Country Inn days this past weekend watching DVDs of the first three seasons of Downtown Abby! What fun we’ve had. Taking reluctant breaks to walk the dog, enjoy a bowl of homemade chicken soup or take a nap. We are hooked with the English, their servers and mades. Thinking of you Carol Ann! Love

  4. Celeste, I never have to worry that you aren’t cultivating joy for yourself and for others. I’m so glad you and Lora are enjoying yourselves. Simple pleasures are the best and everything you two are doing sound like great fun to me too. Enjoy and love to you too.

  5. Sounds like you had an enjoyable day at the Inn. I loved the Red Lion Inn when we visited it along with the Norman Rockwell Museum. We even went to the cemetery and found the location of the Rockwell family. Stay warm. It’s 21 degrees right now in Buffalo.

  6. Bonnie, You have a heat wave. Hudson is only 11 degrees as I write. I remember when you went to the Red Lion Inn. You met my wonderful pen friend, James. I bet the Red Lion Inn is busy this time of year for there must be skiing in them there hills of the Berkshires. But I bet it’s busy all the time. I sure wish Hudson was closer to Stockbridge. I’d be there every month. Stay warm indeed!

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