Promoting The Art of Letter Writing at Lakeside Chautauqua

Lakeside Women’s Club at Green Gables

I was delighted to be asked to speak on the subject of letter writing at Lakeside Chautauqua because I had heard it was a charming, historic gated community on the western shores of Lake Erie and I was anxious to see this place for myself. It was a double delight to have the chance to speak about one of my favorite things -The art of Letter writing while poking around this cute place.

How I love writing and receiving letters. I write at least two letters each and every day and then when the postman comes to my house more delightful letters are delivered to me. Everyone should have this fun and so I am very happy to share my love of letters with any group that invites me to speak to them. Sharing doubles my joy.

Lakeside is about an hour and a half ride from my town of Hudson. As I got close entering the peninsula where it’s located there was water, water everywhere.

At the entrance to this gated community there really is a gate where someone checks you in, for there is a charge to visit this place if you are not a resident.

The entrance gate

After a quick drive around I found my way to the place where I would be speaking. With covid it was good that the building had an open air area for my talk.

The Train Station

My audience was wearing masks and keeping a distance from each other because safety is an issue in these covid times. All went according to plan and the Lakeside people were a most wonderful audience – so attentive, some people even taking notes. Since this talk I have gotten letters from some folks who attended my talk and I’m so happy to learn they are now writing letters to old and new friends. Others have called and asked me to deliver yet another talk on letters to their writing group. I don’t expect to convert the whole world into letter writers but one by one I’m achieving my objective.

My Objective: To Inspire people to write letters

With the talk behind me I could now explore this charming community. I went first to the historic Hotel Lakeside.

This hotel was established in 1875. I sure love historic country inns and historic hotels so I was delighted to discover this charming place at the edge of the water. The Friends of Hotel Lakeside and the Lakeside Association have been working since 1974 to upgrade the facility. The most important improvements have included complete rewiring, partial new plumbing, installation of a sprinkler system, elevator access to all floors, new kitchen, restoration and air conditioning of the dining room and it goes on and on. As an owner of an 1853 house I understand how much money and attention must go into an old property. I’m so glad there are people who appreciate historic preservation.

It was the end of Summer so many people left to get kids back to school, but I can imagine this room hopping at the peak of the Summer.

If I find myself here next Summer you can bet this is where I’d be sitting with some coffee writing letters.

So many scenes of beauty here – a photographer’s delight. The architecture of this hotel reminded me of the movie “Somewhere in Time”. It was easy to imagine peoper ladies and gentlemen of past days congregating at this hotel and strolling through these doors onto the grounds.

There were so many charming houses in this town with so many beautiful flowers and picket fences and inviting porches in which to take in the lake breezes. What a delightful neighborhood in which to spend Summer days.

There were shops in town too where all those basic items needed could be found – and a few places to order a dinner out.

The town was bursting with flowers. Everyone here seems to be a gardener.

But of course what was most wonderful was to have the lake right there. A Great Lake is nothing to sneeze at. To enjoy restful Summer days so near this body of water must be wonderful for the residents of Lakeside.

It was my love of letters that gave me the opportunity to visit this charming community and I hope to return again and again – maybe spending a week or two here next Summer.

I’m always saying one thing leads to another. My love of letter writing was responsible for a wonderful day speaking about a thing I love, meeting new people, and discovering yet another corner of our wonderful world.

Thanks for joining me on this trip to historic Lakeside Chautauqua. Sharing doubled my joy.

A Country Inn Greenbriar Day

The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Veriginia, U.S.A.

There’s nothing like a Country Inn and a Country Inn Day. Some County Inns are small and unassuming and then there are others like the Greenbriar. I’m fond of almost any Country Inn if it’s historic. I just love the old world with its graciousness. If you’re like me you’re not going anywhere these days due to the pandemic so let me give you a virtual escape. Make yourself a nice drink and sit back taking in each of the following pictures imagining you’re at the Greenbriar having a lovely Country Inn Day.

The Greenbriar is actually much more than a Country Inn. It’s regarded as one of the finest resorts in the world and one of the most historic places in America. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1990. It’s been welcoming guests from around the world since 1778 and now with a little imagination and this post it’s welcoming you!

Buckle up your seatbelt and here we go.

Here’s the guard at the entrance. Does he look bored? Good thing we’ve arrived to perk him up a bit.

Let’s drive around just a little before we check in.

the springhouse
The golf clubhouse

I could leave my husband right here for this is where he plans to spend most of his time. Not me, let’s keep going.

Some people like to stay in these guest cottages on the grounds away from the inn. I prefer the elegance of the main building. Enough driving around. Let’s check in now.

Naturally there would be beautiful flowers in the lobby. Let’s stroll around.

Ah, this will be the perfect place to write my daily letters. I’ll write one now. After all, I’m known as The Lady of Letters. Give me a minute. There’s stationery in the drawers and I carefully set my coffee down on this lovely desk. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t write at least two letters. . . . . . .ok, one letter written, let’s keep moving.

We’ll walk through this large open space and have tea here later. This picture captures only a small part of the room.

So many beautifully decorated rooms where we can curl up with a book or sit back and people watch.

The Greenbrier is huge. I walk and walk wondering what lovely interior will be down the hall and around the corner,

Ah! Look at this absolutely beautiful window. I love, love, love the window treatment. Don’t you?

And what’s this? A ballroom. Well, of course. This inn hosts weddings and all sorts of important celebrations. Let’s take a minute and imagine we’re at a ball right now. I’ll wait till you’re ready to move on. . . . . . . . . Ready? Ok. What’s next?

Dramatic! I bet you never thought to paint your walls charcoal grey, or did you?

Of course there’s a pool and lots of different restaurants and shops.

But being fond of interior decoration I most enjoy all the colorful rooms where people can relax, and I do mean colorful.

But it’s tea time. Goodie. I love afternoon tea wherever I am and the Greenbrier loves afternoon tea too. Every day people gather, staff sets up bakeries, cups, saucers and tea is served, but only after a piano begins to play and . . .

a couple dressed beautifully comes out to dance a waltz.

“Tea is drink to forget the din of the world” Tien Yiheng

and that’s the purpose of a Country Inn Day too.

After tea it’s nice to go outside and look around.

So many nice places to sit and take in the fresh air.

Horseback riding here? Of course. I took riding lessons once upon a time, but that’s a story for another blog post.

Biking? Maybe tomorrow.

I found some chairs on the veranda with this view. Lovely, isn’t it?

Here’s the garden up close. Maybe you want to pause here for a while. That’s what I did. I brought a book with me, “Ulysses” by James Joyce. It’s supposed to be one of the most important novels of modern times, but all that stream of consciousness writing, not my favorite. I found myself taking many breaks from reading, just gazing at the garden.

But once back inside look what, or rather who we stumble upon. It’s a Greenbrier chef about to give a cooking lesson. I love to cook. You too? and here’s what he made ——

Hamburgers ala peach

What? It’s cocktail time already? Well it must be 5:00p.m. Time does fly on a Country Inn Day. I loved the Greenbrier bar room. The perfect place for a bourbon manhattan. What do you think?

A red and green room, but it doesn’t look like Christmas at all. Dorothy Draper, the famous interior designer of the 1940’s got her start decorating the Carlyle Hotel in New York and the Greenbrier, She was born in 1889, founded her interior design firm Dorothy Draper & Company in 1925, wrote three books (one on entertaining and two on decorating) and became a revered name in households all over America. She loved, loved, loved color and I love her. I have all her books. They’re still available. She’s one of my favorite “dead friends”. But now it’s time for dinner.

Hungry? Me too. I’m always hungry. Good thing I love to cook, but not when I’m at a real country inn.

Wish you could join us for dinner. Dinner is my favorite time of day. It’s the French in me. A good meal. Good wine. Good conversation and you know what’s next – up to our room we go.

Up, up, up and away. I can’t wait to see our room.

And what’s this? More wine? Well, why not. It’s a Country Inn Day.

Very nice room, don’t you think? But before bed I think a bubble bath is in order. I always enjoy a long, fragrant bubble bath on Country Inn Days. Let’s see what the bathroom is like.

It will do nicely and so after a bath it will be lights out on one very nice Country Inn Day. And before you know it . . .

It’s another day, a day for more discoveries and there is a lot more here at the Greenbrier to see and do. You’ll just have to come here yourself, but whether you do come here or visit another Country Inn or perhaps enjoy a Country Inn Day at your very own home, remember it’s imporatant to step out of your normal routines now and then. Give yourself permission to focus on your favorite things, the good and the beautiful, for though there may be dreariness all around, it’s what you focus on that counts. Make the most of what you’ve got. Live with grace and kindness and use your imagination.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your little getaway to the Greenbrier. I’ll see you next time. Till then Stay Safe!

Treat yourself to Tea

If you can’t go out and you’re looking for something to do why not be your own best friend and invite yourself to a lovely tea.

Sure, I’d rather be able to enjoy afternoon tea at the Greenbriar

where every afternoon at tea time the piano would begin to play and a dashing couple dressed in finery would do a waltz to get everyone in the mood for an elegant tea time.

Staff would be on hand dressed in smart uniforms should anyone desire anything at all. I’d love to have these helpful workers around my home, but here it’s just me, myself and I. I’m responsible for tea time.

But I can whip up a Victoria Sponge cake in no time at all and it’s actually fun creating in the kitchen. Don’t you think so too? I wish I could be inviting friends over, but at this time of corona virus that’s not possible.

I’ve made this frozen dessert for parties in the past and there’s no reason why I can’t make it just for me.

I can treat myself to a dish raspberries and I don’t have to share the berries with anyone. All mine!

Nice to have an assortment of chocolates and nuts on hand for tea time. Who doesn’t love such goodies? Be a best friend to yourself and indulge.

At a tea party you need a lot of cups.

At a tea party for friends you need a lot of everything and one can’t deny it is a certain amount of work to set everything up. Work, but fun work. Nevertheless a tea for just yourself is so much easier.

No need to set ice and mint and lemons or limes out for guests in the kitchen. It’s just you. You can fix a tray for yourself in a jiffy.

Pack up a picnic basket with your tea and a few treats and find a pleasant spot in a nearby park for your solitary tea time.

Your companions for this tea won’t be your friends because you don’t want to take a chance in spreading the virus. Instead your tea companions will be the ducks, trees, and flowers, very fine company. You can talk to them. No one will hear you. They won’t talk back, but thier beauty will enter your spirit and fill you with joy.

Of course you could stay home and enjoy your tea in your secret garden or some other spot in your very own yard.

or you could get comfy on your porch.

But the point is to treat yourself like the special person you are and enjoy doing whatever it takes to make your afternoon tea a great treat. A strawberry shortcake could do the trick. I suppose you could even keep it super simple by pouring a glass of iced or hot tea and finding a comfy chair.

We have to make the best of these pandemic times. Creating a lovely afternoon tea for yourself or for those who live with you can be a very nice diversion. An hour whiled away with tea and treats in the late afternoon light is a wonderful way to recapture the pre-pandemic sense of well-being. Shared with family or a solitary interlude in which to sit quietly, inhale the fragrance of the tea and listen to beautiful music will help you feel grand.

“One sip of tea will bathe the drooping spirit in delight, beyond the bliss of dreams.” ———John Milton

Why not write a letter?

If you’re a little bored during this pandemic it just might be the perfect time for you to reach out and touch someone with a little love. Send that love in the form of a hand written letter.

Who doesn’t like to find a personal message ‘just to them’ in their mailbox, a message that says someone is thinking of them? Don’t type the letter. Pick up a pen and take your time crafting each word. Your handwriting is a little bit of you. Type is so impersonal. In intimate correspondence the hand written letter will always reign supreme.

You can dress up your letter with pictures. One picture is worth a thousand words. A picture to make your friend smile, a picture to make your friend think of something pleasing. Words and pictures together have delighted human beings for centuries. Why not now?

True, it slows one down to write, especially to hand write, but we need to slow ourselves down sometimes. Streamlining our activities in life may help us get more accomplished, but it’s quality we should be after, not quantity.

“Writing by hand, mouthing by mouth: in each case you get a very strong physical sense of the emergence of language … print obliterates it, type has no drawl”, says American novelist William Gass, and I agree.

If you must type because you have some physical problem, well ok, but most of us should do the human thing whenever possible, not the machine thing. Too many tasks these days are designated away from personal human touch.

Perhaps you’re writing to your friend while enjoying a cup of coffee. Tell them about it. Draw the cup. Take time. Describe where you’re sitting. Imagine your friend is with you and write stream of consciousness style just as though they were with you in person. Dot dot dot, dash, dash, dash. Sure, you could phone them, but maybe they’re busy and don’t care to be interrupted. A letter is always so very polite. It patiently waits to be read. It makes no demands, only offers delight

Turn your letter into a little book. It’s easily done by inserting a few sheets of paper.

Poke holes into the papers and use colored twine or ribbon to tie the pages together. Use your creativity. Turn on your imagaination and GO! Be an artist.

The act of writing is a wonderful discipline. Our minds are forced to send messages to our fingers and our fingers must respond with precision. We can’t be in a rush. We must discipline ourselves to write slowly and carefully so our writing is not only legible, but also handsome. Most of us care how we look. We should also care how our writing looks and if we’re not pleased we should practice. Practice makes improvement!

Writing is like yoga. It forces our bodies to obey our minds. It encourages us toward harmony. A letter should be a work of art that not only touches the heart of our friend, but hopfully also entertains them, and in this pandemic who couldn’t use a little extra entertainment.

Machines have no grace. Hopefully we humans do, and our handwritten, artful letters can sprinkle a little of that grace out into our weary world as we reach out to others in this most personal way.

Speak with your pen! Send the gift of a letter to someone letting them know you are thinking of them. If it’s a heart to heart letter it just might make their day and wouldn’t you feel good about yourself if you could make another so happy. Sure you would.

“More than kisses, letters mingle souls; For, thus friends absent speak.” _____John Donne

Country Inn Gardener’s Day

“We must cultivate our garden.” —-Voltaire

As main gardener of the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House I feel the same way as Voltaire. I must cultivate. I must work with nature to create a parklike setting for this old house.

When I first came upon this house and property both were badly neglected, vacant for quite some time, but what possibility I saw here. The old house and its grounds were sad and alone. They needed a friend. I was that friend. Not many would want to take on such a project, but I love old houses and gardens too, but where to start? A few things were done on the grounds right away, but work on the house came first – renovation, decoration and then an addition. Finally it was time to begin real work on the grounds and I’ve been working on them ever since.

It’s slow going, for as you know I wear quite a few hats here at the Jeremiah Brown House. I’m gardener yes, but also innkeeper, inn cook, inn maid, and much of the time, (thank goodness) inn guest and though all my roles are fun, the role of inn guest is truly best for it’s when I can enjoy all the work that’s been done around here and simply be in a place I’ve come to love.

The kitchen flower box

But today I write as inn gardener. not my other roles. I’ll focus on plants, flowers, garden accomplishments and future projects. Flowers! Don’t you love them? I see these flowers from outside and inside as I work at my kitchen sink thanks to the flower boxes. Double pleasure.

sage, basil, rosemary, thyme and a geranium or two

These days instead of planting an herb garden I simply potted up a few favorites near the kitchen porch for easy access. In the past heavy rains would sometimes waterlog my herbs so this works better for me though I do have some mint, chives and lemon verbena remaining in the circle that used to be the herb garden. They are much too established there and they just wouldn’t leave that spot.

the circle

This is the circle I speak of. When we bought this house and property the circle contained an old diseased apple tree and a jumble of perennials and weeds. It all had to go. A number of things were tried here, but finally I think I got it right. Now the circle has in its center a very old boxwood that was moved from another spot. A formal design of boxwood, fragrant roses, fennel and tree hydrangeas fill the space. In Spring a variety of bulbs also make this circle their home.

the ever blooming, fragrant circle roses

I open my door and I’m greeted by these beauties every day. They are a joy. I love, love, love scented roses. Research suggests that smelling fresh roses activates the body’s relaxing parasympathetic nervous system so they’re not only beautiful to look at they also help you relax and feel good..

inside the circle

Here you see the feathery fennel which encircles the center boxwood. There are also large stones set in a spike-like fashion. You see I must bundle up the daffodil leaves. That’s a job on my list for future gardener days.

the sistern, old fashioned water pump and hose

There’s a lot to water on these two and a half acres. Sometimes God helps me as he did a few minutes ago, but when I’m the one doing the watering I’m glad we have a sistern on the property for free water My clever husband hooked up an old pump (which was attached to a well we no longer have) and with a hose connected to the sistern and an electrified switch (however did he do that?) I now just turn the switch and water flows. It’s GREAT!

the old fashioned/ new fangled water pump

Before we added the addition to the house there was an old flagstone patio and on that patio was the well I spoke of. The pump was no longer connected and the well was dry. It was taken apart – very interesting. Huge stones held the well together. I guess the clay soil with the rocks were enough to keep the water in place. Anyway, it’s great we’re able to use the original pump for a new purpose.

The secret garden

When we first moved here there was no stone base in this area, only grass. We’d find a family of deer sleeping in this spot and why not? It’s very private from the rest of the grounds. Huge, ancient trees create a circle around this open area.. I decided to create a secret garden here. Of course the roots in this area are incredible, but mother nature is helping me construct a cool oasis using various ground covers. I slipped in some Japanese anemones and hosta, a few bulbs and fern.

mock orange

I’ve added a mock orange at the other end of the secret garden, bamboo and a row of lenten roses.

lenten rose and wild ginger beneath it

I do love the dark glossy leaves of wild ginger. It moved into the secret garden on its own, but I am happy to have it and I must say, it’s multiplying like a family of rabbits. Ok by me. It’s time to weed and trim the grass in this area as you can see.

The outbuilding

Near the secret garden is the outbuilding. I recently weeded the brick path to this building but as you can see the daylilies are growing into the path. Not good. The lillies should start blooing soon. I’ve sprayed them with deer repellant so they should be safe. We do have deer issues and that’s why I have no vegetable garden.

The rock garden

I do have a rock garden though. These rocks were some of the ones lining the old well. Now they can see the sun. This little garden sits beneath black walnut trees. As you may know there aren’t a lot of plants that can live beneath these trees. I learned this by trial and error, but finally learned coral bells and astilbe do fine in this spot.

coral bells

I love how coral bells come in different colors and I’m so happy I finally found a plant or two that can live beneath these black walnut trees.

the old bell

This bell used to be on the old patio near the old well. When we did our addition it had to move so our lovely Amish builders found this great old beam and mounted it in our rock garden. I was told by a gal who used to stay at the Jeremiah Brown house years ago when she visited her grandparents that the bell would be rung when she was ice skating at a pond way at the other end of the property. This bell does have a powerful toll. Kids who visit here just love, love, love to ring it. I’m happy it has a place of honor on the grounds.

I’m always looking for statuary for the grounds. I showed you the angel in the secret garden. There’s a rabbit in the circle but he’s hiding under the fennel. I have another angel and here she is. The boxwood loves her.

my angel

I think I’ll need to go out with my clippers or soon she will disappear completely behind the boxwood. Actually it’s time to clip all the boxwood.

more statuary

And here is a little more statuary. I think it looks nice from afar with boxwood and bulbs amidst all the green bushes behind it..

But now let me tell you about a project I am getting ready to begin.

part of the east yard

You see the rock garden and beyond it the new patio

If I come out for morning coffee in my nightgown I can see walkers and they can see me. Nice to see people, but now always. My next project will be adding flowering bushes and assorted perennials around the existing boxwood that bloom in three different seasons. This is a tiny little space designed for two people at a time – tea for two, cocktails for two, dinner for two. When more people are invited there are other spaces available to them.

view of the patio from the house

Rather than look out at a wall of greenery as pleasant as that can be, I would much rather look out at flowering plants creating an intimate garden room. This is the plan – to create this intimate garden room. The next step for me, inn gardener, is to purchase the plants and supervise the placing of these plants. I can’t wait to see this materialize. I’ll be sure to show you when it’s finished. Like I always say, sharing doubles the joy.

Sir George Sitwell wrote Essay on the making of gardens in 1909. In this work he wrote, “to make a great garden, one must have a great idea or a great opportunity.” The abandoned grounds around the Jeremiah Brown house have given me a great opportunity to enjoy working with nature in order to try creating grounds that are lovely. As the inn gardener here the work will go on and on and on and that is just what gardening is, going on and on and on.

To be continued on the next Country Inn Gardener’s day.

An Afternoon Telephone Tea

During these days of the pandemic we have to do things a little differently. For example, I usually host one afternoon tea in my home each month for though I enjoy daily afternoon tea all by myself it’s so nice to share tea and conversation with others now and then. Sharing doubles the joy you know. But now I can’t invite people into my home so something else had to be done. But what? I can enjoy a telephone tea with friends – once a month, once a week or as often as I like. It’s so easy.

You don’t need many ingredients, but the two ingredients you do need are a telephone and someone to call. Most people have these two essentials.

Next you need a comfortable place where you can talk enjoying your tea. I chose a corner of my living room for this particular telephone tea, but I may choose a different location for the next one. Here I can chat and sip while looking out the window to enjoy what’s happening in the yard.

It’s fun to watch for birdies and see the squirrels scamper by. Ah nature!

I baked some Seed Cake for the occasion. I’m not so sure about this recipe, if it’s a keeper or not. It comes from a good source, one of the Downton Abbey Cookbooks on my shelf.

Did you ever make Seed Cake? This recipe was new to me and quite unusual. Of course I may have done something wrong along the way in making it, but if you are into Seed Cake do write to me and tell me about your recipe. Does my Seed Cake look like yours?

My good friend Barbara suggested that during our telephone tea we do our needlework as we sip and visit. What a good idea! The phone is put into its speaker mode so with hands free we can stitch. I do love needlework, especially knitting and needlepoint. In this area where I’ll be enjoying my telephone tea I have two pillows of needlepoint gracing each chair. They are both scenes from my favorite place on earth, The Boston Public Garden.

One pillow depicts the ducklings from the garden’s frog pond. These ducklings were made famous by the book Make way for ducklings.

The other pillow depicts the romantic Victorian bridge which crosses over the lagoon, the lagoon on which swan boats glide giving garden visitors delightful rides on lovely Summer afternoons.

Many of my favorite places are preserved in needlepoint pictures and pillows. Do you enjoy this art form? I usually do needlepoint in warm months and knitting in cool months. Though it’s Spring in Hudson, Ohio, U.S.A. I’m still finishing a knitting project so this is what I’ll be working on during today’s telephone tea.

Here’s the yarn and a picture of the poncho I’m making. It’s an easy project and if it doesn’t start warming up here soon I’ll still be able to wear it on these chilly May days.

So there you have it. A Telephone Tea. Pretty simple. Instead of an Afternoon tea all by yourself you call a friend, put your phone on speaker, enjoy some food treat, brew some tea and don’t just sit there staring out the window, do something with your hands while chatting. This works for me and maybe it could work for you too. It’s a little physical, social and intellectual activity all at once, maybe even a little spiritual activity depending what you chat about. Hmm? So don’t let this pandemic deprive you of fun. There’s still lots you can do while also staying safe at home.

Enjoy a Telephone tea!

Letters mingle souls

picture of the Hudson Clocktower on an outgoing letter envelope

I may be in Hudson, Ohio, U.S.A. cooped up in my home because of the corona virus and you may be hundreds of miles away but through letters our souls will mingle. I’m writing a letter from me to you. Of course I’d rather be hand writing a “personal” letter on stationery I design, but until we become penfriends this post will have to do.

I’ve been asked why I bother to write people I don’t yet know. That could possibly be you. Well, my hope is that one way or another I will get to know you. You could write me a real letter. Here’s the address: Carol Ann, Lady of Letters, P.O. Box 1075, Hudson, Ohio, 44236, U.S.A. I would be thrilled to hear from you. Of course you could also simply leave a comment or note at the end of this post. Either would be delightful. Maybe you and I are already pen friends. That would be lovely too.

There’s nothing more wonderful than friendship and these days when we can’t go visiting or out to lunch with friends and family the next best thing to my way of thinking is visiting and sharing through letters so I’d like to share some of my letter fun with you in this post.

Everyday I reach out to a few of my letter friends and every day when the postman arrives I’m delighted to receive a few letters in return. On good mail days I could receive seven or eight letters. On sad mail days only one or two letters will make an appearance. How many letters do you find in your mailbox each day? That number does relate to just how many letters you send away each day.

letters patiently waiting to be answered

You can never be lonely or bored when you have a number of interesting letter friends. These days people have a lot of time at home and some people struggle to find things to do. Not me. This is a great time to catch up with my letters. People from all over the world pop over via letter to brighten up my days and I delight in answering their letters.

just a few of the Easter cards I’ve received

Our Easter holiday will be very different this year, but receiving Easter cards from friends and family is a great way to mingle souls and share joy. How many Easter cards did you send away? It’s not too late. The Easter season continues for quite a while.

letters from three choristers

The children’s church choir I direct has been shut down, but how delightful it was to receive these three letters from choristers Teresa, Gianna and Luke. They told me all about the things they were busy doing at home, including cake recipes they were making. I had a lot of fun writing back to all three. You see, as a child I was always interested in getting to know adults who would introduce me to new and lovely things in the world of art and music. Now as an adult I have the chance to share some of my favorite things with young people as they share their vitality and enthusiasm for life with me. Children help us reconnect with the child in us, the child that may have gotten lost over time. For that reason I love to write to children.

Of course I love to write to people of all ages. Some of my penfriends are 6 and others are 96. Age means little. It’s the spirit of a person that matters and in letters we can connect those spirits very nicely. No bodies are required. Our words transmit love, caring and great feelings if we reach into ourselves and share deeply.

a letter from Jenny

Jenny is one of my penfriends who lives in Louisiana. I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Louisiana, but Jenny is telling me all about life there. She says it’s a strange state – how South Louisiana is a country in and of itself and the northwest is no different from East Texas. Quite a dichotomy exists there. She tells me all about the Red River and how much she loves gumbo even though she lives in the north. Having been a teacher for years she loves educating me on the culture and religion of the Louisiana people and I love learning all about it. These days New Orleans is having lots of trouble and I for one am praying for its people and for people all over the world. You too?

a letter from Pamalee in Texas

Speaking of Texas being like some parts of Louisiana, Pamalee dropped in to visit with me via her letter from Texas. It was a long letter too and I love long letters, don’t you? Pamalee is a member of The Letter Exchange as I am. The Letter Exchange is a wonderful organization for letter writers. I’ve been a member for years. If you’re not already a member you should join this international group. Just contact and if you do join be sure to say Carol Ann sent you.

But back to Pamalee – she told me she has enjoyed writing letters since she was a little girl. She talked about how excited she was to learn cursive in the 3rd or 4th grade and how sad she feels that some children today are deprived of the pleasure. I feel sad about this too. Hand writing is such an art. Typing has its place of course, like in this blog post, but a personal letter needs a person’s “personal” touch. We’re all unique and no matter if we’re all taught the same style of cursive our handwriting will develop differently in each of us. Pamalee and I agree on that. Do you? I hope you take the time to hand write every chance you get. Like a lock of your hair your hand writing is a little bit of you.

a letter from Maria, a new pen friend

I must answer Pamalee’s letter and then there’s Maria who also wrote to me. Maria is a new member of The Letter Excjange. She lives in Brooklyn , New York. I’m often in New York because I have a son living in Manhattan. I don’t often meet my penfriends, but sometimes I do and it’s always great fun. Maria was very interested in writing to me because my recent ad in the Letter Exchange magazine consisted of a quote from Rachel Carson. Maria’s mother was a fan of Carson and of her book, “Silent Spring” which talks all about the environment and pollution in air and water. I love nature very much and like Maria and her mother I think Rachel Carson was an important voice for the environment. I wish Rachel Carson were still among us but she would not be happy with all the environmental protections being lifted and I’m not happy about that either. Are you? Well, Maria and I have a lot in common so our letters will write themselves and I do hope I can meet her in New York some day for a nice lunch or maybe a coffee in Bryant Park.

This picture graced the envelope of Tami’s letter to me

Tami is another of my penfriends who also lives in the great state of New York, but Tami lives in the New York Finger Lakes region rather than in New York city. Have you ever been to the Finger Lakes? It’s a beautiful part of the country. My husband grew up in that area of the country and we have great friends who still live there. I love visiting the lakes, especially Lake Skaneattles where there is a charming old inn called The Sherwood Inn. You can google it.

Well, Tami’s letter was delightful. She used pretty paper and a variety of ink colors – green, turquoise, and strawberry. She told me all about her cats and how she loves them. Tami visited my blog once before and if she visits again she’ll be surprised to see I’m writing about her. Fun! Tami and I share an interest in country inns and bed and breakfasts. She dreams of owning a bed and breakfast and she told me just what it would be like – a white house with yellow shutters. It would have a big wrap-around porch with a swing and rockers. She’d have a huge kitchen with an herb garden right outside for easy access. Sounds great to me! If she ever opens such a place I’ll be there. Tami and I both enjoy the subject of houses and decorating so you can imagine the fun we have writing each other.

a letter from Frances in Montanna

And then there’s Frances. I love to meet people who are a lot like me, but I also love to meet people who are very different from me. That’s Frances. Francs is amazing, another friend I met through The Letter Exchange. I can’t imagine how I could’ve ever met Frances without the help of The Letter Exchange for our paths would never have crossed. Frances lives way out in the middle of nowhere – “off the grid” as she likes to say. She feels the world is moving too fast and she needs to slow down so she moved to Bigfork. You can google Bigfork, Montanna too.

Frances grew up on a farm 3 miles out of town. She always felt she wanted to prove herself so she joined the marines. Wow, that never occured to me at all. Not only that, but she was a paratrooper. Frances is no shrinking violet. That’s for sure. She is tough but tender, a wonderful combination in a human being. She not only could keep up with her husbands (yes, there were a few of them) doing physical work around the homestead, but she also played the piano and loved Doris Day films. What a girl! I think Frances will encourage me to be more than I thought I could become and don’t we all need people in our lives who can inspire us? Of course we do.

a letter written to my friend Joy

Well, I could go on and on and on and on. You saw just some of the many letters in my basket waiting to be answered. There are more baskets like that one. Am I bored staying home with the corona virus in the air? Hardly. I have so many lovely letter friends to keep me company and you could have just as many too. Sharing doubles the joy and divides the sorrow. Letters mingle souls.

So if you’re a little bored write someone a letter – maybe me, or join The Letter Exchange and meet lots and lots of people all over the world, people you can write who will write back to you. You’ll never feel alone and you’ll certainly never be bored. I promise.

It’s been fun sharing my joy for The Art of Letter Writing with you. Truly.

And as my dear”dead friend” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would say,

“Look in your heart and write. I will answer.”

A Country Inn “in” Day

On this Country Inn “in” Day or on any day I’m confined to stay in due to the corona virus, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad. Actually I do more than remember them. I enjoy them. Take, for instance, the Art of Letter writing.

And I don’t just write letters, I enjoy creating the stationery too. Some stationery I try to make pretty, as in my wildflower correspondence cards, but with other stationery I just have fun.

The Art of Letter writing is great fun any time, anywhere, and a wonderful way to stay in touch with friends near and very far away without ever having to leave my inn or your very own home.

Another favorite thing I enjoy on Country Inn “in” Days is reading. I need lots of these “in” days if I’m ever going to read all the books I’ve collected. I love visiting with my “dead friends” as I read their biographies. Just this week I had visits with Aristotle, Noel Coward, Tasha Tudor, and Henry James. I learn so much from these people and am greatly inspired and entertained. What will I read today? I’ll just have to see what jumps out at me as I scan my bookshelves.

Staying “in” is a great time to watch a movie, put feet up, make a drink and do needlework. This is a picture of my late pooch, Alexander. I miss him so, but I’m making this needlepoint picture of him which I’ll frame in a beautiful manner and hang in a place of honor. Do you enjoy any form of needlework? It’s very relaxing and therapeutic. The owner of my favorite yarn shop tells me many of her customers are doctors and people with stressfull jobs. They buy yarn and knit because it takes them away from all their cares as they knit one, purl two over and over and over again. I too enjoy knitting, et toi?

A fun thing to do most any “in” day is to care for indoor plants. Do you have many? I keep my geraniums from year to year in my sunroom where the western exposure keeps them blooming all Winter. Soon many will go back outside into the flower boxes. Watering, fertilizing, caring for house plants is an enjoyable activity because caring for any living thing feels good.

Speaking of living things, maybe you are lucky enough to have pets to care for and play with on “in” days and any day. As I said before, I so miss my Alexander, but I have this stuffed version of him to enjoy. My meanie husband says, “No more dogs!” Hmph! We’ll see about that, but if you are fortunate to have a fuzzy creature you live with, give him or her a hug for me. Pets can keep us so very entertained.

Since I absolutely love music, especially classical music, and piano, an “in” day is a great day to dig out the Debussy, Chopin, and Beethoven and play away. When I’m not making music I’m listening to it. Music helps me keep calm and carry on. As I write this post to you I am listening to WQXR, the classical music radio station out of New York City. I’m hearing Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite, Op,40. Nice!

I hope you have a good imagination. I sure do and that’s why I can stay home, in my 1853 Jeremiah Brown House, but imagine I’m writing you from a Country Inn. Another fun thing that requires only a little imagination is to go off to favorite places with the help of books or creative visualization. What’s creative visualization? It’s simply lying back, closing eyes, and remembering the favorite places that have brought you joy. . . going their in spirit.

For me it’s always France, especially Paris, or The Boston Public Garden. But I also like to go off to Bryant Park in New York City or imagine myself sitting on a park bench across from Lake Skaneattles in the New York Fingerlakes. I bet you have a few places you could go to right now if you closed your eyes and simply remembered being there.

At this time of year it’s great fun to stroll through the yard to see what’s popping up. My daffoldis are appearing, the forsthyia is blooming and I’m watching for the giant purple allium I planted last Autumn. I could actually do a little garden work today. I love to be outside to enjoy the scent of the boxwood and the cheery singing of the birdies. Yes, nature is there for all of us to enjoy. It’s free and it’s beautiful.

I might do a little art work on this “in” day. A while back I needed something to fill a blank wall in my sunroom. I couldn’t find anything that was the right color or size so I made these three paintings myself. They’re not great art, but they do the job, and it was fun. Besides, my “dead friend” Henry James said, “It is art that makes life, makes interest . . . and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.”

Of course I always enjoy a nice afternoon tea on Inn days and on every day. I freeze the extra goodies from the monthly teas I host so there’s always a little something to enjoy with tea. Ah, afternoon tea.! I love it, and so did Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, the English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century. He said, “The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which . . .I particularly enjoy.” and so do I!

So as you can see, a Country Inn “in” Day or any day spent at home, or many days spent at home because of the corona virus, can be a very fine time to enjoy favorite things. There are so very many of them. I only scratched the surface. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “The world is so full of a number of things I think we should all be as happy as kings.”

You happy? I hope so. I’m happy because I have really enjoyed writing this post to you. Writing, any kind of writing, is just another of the many wonderful, fun things there are to do in life. So take Oscar Hammerstein II’s advice and don’t just remember your favorite things. Do them! Enjoy them! And now I’m off to enjoy more of mine, starting with a little French study so . . .

Au revoir

Tea with Carol Ann

I may be 100% Polish and I may have a very Irish last name (McCarthy), and I may be one who loves everything about the French culture, but what do I love most every afternoon and what do I enjoy sharing with new and old friends every month? It’s the very English ritual of Afternoon Tea. This tea ritual is a social as well as a culinary affair, an affair I absolutely love.

I love to look through my china collection and select dishes appropriate for the room where I’m serving tea that day. Why have pretty things if we don’t use those things regularly, enjoy them regularly and share them with others?.

I was so fortunate to inherit my Mother’s English china. I always loved it, so this is the china I use most often in my formal dining room.

When shopping for a dining room rug I selected one that would compliment my Mother’s china.

There is so much art in life – putting ourselves together, putting our house together – and putting an afternoon tea together too. I find the trappings of tea irresistable. Sitting down and taking tea with all the delicious trimmings is just so civilized and refreshing.

Trappings like gorgeous fresh flowers
Trappings like romantic candlelight
Trappings like antique crystal

You really don’t need food in order to enjoy afternoon tea, but it helps. Of course you don’t have to make the food yourself. You can pick up a few tasty things at the bakery or market, but if you do like to do a little playing in the kitchen, afternoon tea is a perfect opportunity for that play.

Strawberry-Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches are one of my favorite savory tea treats. If you’d like to try them yourself here’s the recipe.

12 slices firm white bread, 2 and a half cups chopped cooked chicken, 1 cup chopped strawberries, 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup chopped green onion, 1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained and chopped, Poppy Seed Dressing, Garnish: sliced strawberries.

Cut bread into 2 and a quarter inch squares, mix ingredients together and create sandwiches. They can be made earlier in the day, covered with a damp cloth and stored in the fridge till serving time. Not much work, but oh so good.

I enjoy making many kinds of scones but for this tea it’s Cranberry scones. They’re easy to make and very yummy. Here’s the recipe should you want to make some for yourself.

2 cups all purpose flour, 1 Tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp, salt, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup whipping cream, 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried cranberries.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt,oil and whipping cream. Stir in dried cranberries. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut into desired shape. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with whipped or Devonshire Cream.

Light Sponge Cake

The recipe for this sponge cake comes from Chirk Castle in Wales where afternoon tea was a very elegant but small meal consisting of sandwiches the size of postage stamps. Dessert however was another matter, very generous and sweet. If you’d like to make this sponge cake yourself the recipe is below.

Scant 1 cup granulated or super fine sugar, 2 large or 3 medium eggs, 1 cup self-rising flour, sifted, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 stick butter, 2 to 3 drops of vanilla essence.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and line an 8 inch round pan. Beat together the sugar and eggs until thick and creamy. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix well. Put the milk in a small pan and heat gently. Melt the butter in the milk and bring to a boil. When boiling, add to the flout mixture with the vanilla essence and beat well to give a runny consistency. Turn into the prepared pan and bang the pan sharply on the table to remove all bubbles. Bake for 20 -25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Tea is one of those simple luxuries – like a good bar of chocolate or a favorite magazine. It truly enhances life with a minimum of fuss. It’s a lovely way to visit with friends in the comfort of home. With any luck your friends will reciprocate and invite you back to their house but even if they don’t you’ll have a wonderful time yourself and feel good that you did something special for others.

You don’t need to be English nobility to create and enjoy an afternoon tea fit for a queen or prince or princess or for yourself or for one of your friends. An afternoon tea is a lovely way to add a little elegance and art to life. It’s also a lovely way to show your friends you care about them enough to pamper them a little with this old world refreshment. I hope you’ll try my recipes and plan a tea party of your own. Treat yourself and your friends.

“The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

Albert Schweitzer

The Art of Hand Writing

Carol Ann’s handwriting

I love to write by hand. Do you? Handwriting is personal. It’s expressive. I wrote my 244 page book, “The Art of Letter writing” by hand. You see, since I love handwritten letters I wanted my book on letterwriting to be hand written too. Publishers did not agree. They insisted it appear in type, so, I printed my book myself, my way. It was a labor of love.

Every day I enjoy handwriting at least two letters. I write to my sons, to in-person friends, and to my many pen friends who live all over the world. As a result of all this writing I receive many letters from many people. My mailbox is happy and so am I, but I’m most happy when the letters I receive are handwritten. That’s because handwriting is an art, and I love art! I also love to get to know people from all sorts of different places and I love to see the script that each of these persons has invented. Yes, invented, for though most of us may have been taught the same method of handwriting we each will put our own personality into our writing and each script will evolve differently.

The other day I was looking through a book called “Handwriting of the famous and Infamous” by Sheila Lowe and it got me thinking about the handwriting of some of my pen friends and how their handwriting resembled the writing of famous and important people. No two handwritings are ever exactly the same, but many have similar characteristics.

Take the handwriting of Princes Diana.

Princess Diana’s handwriting

Diana’s handwriting is large and rounded with an openness that suggests to graphologists she is someone who was always ready for something new and exciting. This is also true of my pen friend Bonnie and her handwriting. Bonnie lives in Lancaster, New York. Her script is large and rounded too. Look at Bonnie’s handwriting.

Handwriting experts say large and open writing suggests the writer is motivated by a need to serve those she loves. This was true of Diana and it’s true of my friend Bonnie.

Now a very different writing style is that of Hillary Clinton. Take a look.

Hillary Clinton’s handwriting

Hillary’s handwriting has an airy appearance too, which is often seen in highly progressive people, but it’s not as open. People with this airy characteristic in their handwriting are driven to make improvements in their environment and in the world. My in-person and pen friend Barb, from Hudson, Ohio, has handwriting similar to Hillary’s – at least I think so. What do you think?

Barbara’s handwriting

Edgar Allan Poe, Poet (1809-1849) was born in Boston. I love Boston. I used to live there, but that’s neither here nor there. Getting back to Poe, it’s sad that he was orphaned at the age of two. He was sent to live with the Allens, thus the Allen in his name, but these people never adopted him. One wonders what kind of relationship he had with this new family and if that relationship influenced the type of fiction writing he would pursue. Take a look at Poe’s handwriting.

Edgar Allen Poe’s handwriting

Experts say one of the signs of a strong intellect is the sharply pointed letters in the middle zone and a well-developed upper zone. This handwriting belongs to a person who would not simply accept what he was told, but had to examine the facts for himself. This also sounds a lot like my pen friend Rebecca who lives in McKee, Kentucky. Take a look at Rebecca’s handwriting.

Rebecca’s handwriting

Now we come to one of my favorite composer/performers. It’s Paul McCartney. I love, love, love his music. Take a look at a page from his notebook showing an early draft of the lyrics to “hey Jude”.

Paul McCartney’s handwriting

In his writing McCartney strips away most nonessential loops and strokes, leaving only the basics necessary for legibility. This is a sign of a swift fluent thinker. I think my pen friend Natalie must be a swift fluent thinker too. She taught English at The Ohio State University and her handwriting makes me think of Paul’s. Below is a sample of Natalie’s script.

Natalie’s handwriting

It’s so fun to look at everyone’s very different handwriting. Don’t you think so too? Well, another very popular musician was Elvis Presley. Like Paul, Elvis had millions of fans and like Paul he changed the face of popular music in his day. Unfortunately, to me Elvis’ handwriting is not as handsome as Elvis. Here it is.

Elvis Presley’s handwriting

Presley was motivated by the need for constant action, as seen in the uncontrolled writing movement and poor rhythm, even if this action did not actually lead anywhere. He thrived on excitement and adventure. I wonder if my pen friend Markell who lives in Laurel, Maryland seeks excitement and adventure too. Her thoughts are clever but her writing has that uncontrolled look reminding me of Presley. What do you think?

Markell’s handwriting

A very different style of hand writing belongs to William Faulkner. Though he was a high school drop out he went on to become one of America’s best-known authors. Faulkner’s writing is unusually small. Minuscule writing suggests extreme need for privacy.

William Faulkner’s hand writing

Faulkner’s small, upright printing reveals someone who made decisions based more on his head than his heart. His thinking style was logical and he communicated his thoughts directly, with no frills. My pen friend Evelyna from North Olmtsed, Ohio is logical too and she communicates with authority. When I get her letters I need to find my magnifying glass for even with eyeglasses I find her tiny print difficult to read.

A close up of Evelyna’s hand writing

Now let me show you Thomas Edison’s handwriting.

Thomas Edison’s handwriting

I like Edison’s writing. It combines strength and flexibility. His neat, well-organized writing reflects an organized mind. The spaces between words, letters, and lines are clear, which is sign of an ability to see the big picture but also to keep all the constituent parts in their proper perspective. I see this neat organization in the writing of my pen friend Wendy too. Wendy lives in Battle Creek, Michigan. Observe Wendy’s handwriting,

Wendy’s handwriting

So many people. So many styles of handwriting, I could go on and on with hundreds of examples. Handwriting is truly a beautiful art form that connects us to one another. Your handwriting is an irreplaceable extension of yourself and that’s why handwriting is so important even in our modern age of technology.

So I hope you slow down, pick up a pencil or pen and write. It’s function and enjoyment rolled into one action. If you have a craving for beauty and creative expression; if you would love to be an artist but you can’t paint, sing or write music, well, have I the art for you. It’s . . .

The Art of Handwriting