Country Inn “City” Days

 

New York City

What is a Country Inn Day?

A Country Inn Day is a day to escape from life’s routines and step away into a world of beauty and adventure or rest and relaxation – whatever is needed at the time.  For me, it’s a day where I imagine and then create delightful moments much like the moments I’ve enjoyed at beautiful country inns.  My 1853 home becomes my inn and on a Country Inn Day I can stay at this inn, stay close, or take off to a distant city.  Some Inn Days are full of imagination and others not so much.

It is my custom to enjoy one Country Inn Day each and every week, but now and then I make an exception to this rule and enjoy a string of Country Inn Days as was the case recently when I visited my son Patrick in New York City.

Patrick lives on the upper east side of Manhattan, very near Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art so while he was busy at his job I had great fun at both of these wonderful places.

Central Park – New York City

There is nothing quite as wonderful as a stroll through a lovely park – spoken as the true Romantic that I am.  Back home I love my Country Inn Nature days and I’m sure New Yorkers love their nature days at this lovely park too.  So much beauty . . . take a peek for yourself.

 And I never tire of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Entrance Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

There is so much to see at this museum, but I most love the period rooms because I absolutely love old houses.

These are just three of the many lovely rooms from great houses in Europe and America.

One can spend hours roaming the rooms of this museum and when tired and hungry you need not go very far for refreshment.  There are two very nice restaurants right in the museum.  My favorite is this one with its walls of windows looking out onto Central Park.  Art, yummy food, and nature, all together in one place.

The museum restaurant

Between Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art I was kept pretty happy while my son was busy at work. But once his work day was over I could enjoy his company  as we did the town.  Patrick works on Park Avenue.  He’s a data scientist for a company called Dstillery.  Don’t ask me to explain the technical work he does but I loved visiting the company’s offices.

And the view of Park Avenue from these offices was quite impressive

Gee, if  only I studied statistics instead of music I too could have worked at a snazzy New York city company like this one.  Oh well, my Romantic spirit does love the music work I do.

Back at the inn in Hudson I usually have cocktails with a “dead friend”, –  Lord Byron or Ralph Waldo Emerson via biography, but while in New York Patrick and I visited all sorts of snazzy places.

Every place we went was buzzing with life.

I enjoyed lots of outings to places I had never been before.  Two of those places were Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights. I was surprised that Brooklyn Heights looked a lot like the Beacon Hill area of my beloved Boston.  Old brownstones lined the streets there and most of those brownstones were gorgeous with fancy iron fences and lovely stonework.

A typical Brooklyn Heights street

Then Patrick had a surprise for me.  We walked down one of the lanes and came to a sort of park.

And what did I see?

I saw the Brooklyn bridge.

On my next visit when the weather is a little warmer we’re going to take a walk across that bridge.  That will be fun!

The view from this park was really amazing.  There was Manhattan in all its glory and off in the distance I could even see the Statue of Liberty.

 All that walking, and we did a lot of it, all fast, for no one walks slowly in New York, made me very hungry each day.  I’m a foodie anyway and so is my son so we had a lot of interesting meals.  I’m especially fond of French food so one of my favorite meals was enjoyed at Cafe D”Alsace.

I had read about this establishment in one of my New York travel books and it didn’t disappoint me.  It happened to be quite near my son’s apartment so I hope he pops into this place often.  I would.  Lovely they have outdoor seating for warm Summer days.

But another restaurant that really delighted me was very Polish.  I happen to be 100% Polish you know.  Both sets of my grandparents lived in Poland until adulthood.  Patrick loves the food of all sorts of countries.  We ate Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese food on my visit, but he thought it only right a Polish girl like me experience real Polish food in a place where other real Polish people live and speak  Polish.  This place was back in Brooklyn.

Not quite as elegant as the French place, but a really fun experience none the less.

What to order?

And for the main course

Buttered potatoes, blood sausage, kiebasi, pork, chicken, salmon and cabbage.

I hadn’t had blood sausage in years – dark, crispy and yummy.

In between eating there were more museums.

The Frick Museum

This museum was actually the home of the Frick family and I was as impressed with the building as with the extensive art collection inside.  There were no pictures allowed except in the garden room so I can’t show you the lovely windows and draperies which I found to be exquisite.  Oh, to have millions of dollars before taxes were invented.

Here you see the Garden Room at the Frick.  Now that I’ve been to the family home I must get the biography of Mr. Frick and get to know him.  He just might become one of my “dead friends”.

Are you tired yet from all the outings?  I definitely had a lot of adventures and saw a great many new and interesting things on these Country Inn Days, so many that when I returned to Hudson I didn’t venture out for two weeks. There was a lot of walking and sometimes there were road blocks making us go out of our way to get where we were going.

Road blocks happened this day as we walked along the New York streets. We couldn’t help but notice lots and lots of policemen gathered together.  Was someone important about to exit the building they were facing? No.

They were getting instructions for the parade that was about to happen – something about a national holiday in Greece.

When streets are blocked, or any time you need to get from here to there, you can always take the subway.  We did that a lot,  and today we had a date, a date for tea.

Whenever I’m in a city I like to take tea at a fine hotel.  This Country Inn Day Patrick and I enjoyed afternoon tea at The Pierre Hotel on E 61st Street.  Our waiter was quite dashing and the food was quite dashing too, a bit fancier then the tea treats I offer when inviting guests to my inn back home.

What do you think?

Well, I know this post has gotten quite long, but that’s because my Country Inn Days were quite long, and quite full, and quite wonderful thanks to my charming son who played the part of Innkeeper as I stayed at his place for nearly a week.  Now that’s a good son for you.

Flying home was quite bittersweet because it’s always hard leaving Patrick, but I needed a rest!  And luckily I have another son by the name of Rory who I can dote on once home.

And as I write this post in my butler’s pantry I am resting and enjoying another Country Inn Day, but this one is quite different from the last one. I may not even leave my Jeremiah Brown House because balance is important and I’ve had quite enough excitement for the time being.  Rest and relaxation is the current word for this Country Inn Day.

Next up is tea in the Sun room with “dead friend” Agatha Christie.

I’ve really  enjoyed reliving my New York Country Inn Days with you because I truly believe sharing doubles the joy and we can never have too much joy in our lives.  I hope you’re making  joy happen in your life as well.  It’s up to you to do it. There are so many ways.  So till we meet again . . .

Take joy!

They don’t call it the ART of Letter writing for nothing

 

When people talk about the art of letter writing I realize they are usually referring to the thoughts contained in a letter and the verbal construction of that letter.  Just as one would write a novel or a poem writing a letter is a literary act. There is an art to how we spin our phrases and reflect upon ideas, but there is also visual art involved in letter writing too.

Hand writing is an art in itself.  Unfortunately with technology many people are forgetting how to hand write and even worse, many children are not even being taught cursive writing.  How will these children be able to read the great writing which has come before them?  They will be illiterate.  They will not be given the chance to develop their own unique script which is a reflection of  personality and style.

But in addition to the art of hand writing there is also the very real art of stationery, distinctive papers sold in fine stores or those we create ourselves. One very frugal soul I have written to in the past worked cleaning offices after hours. She would raid the wastebaskets in those offices collecting  any papers with a blank side and she’d use those papers for her correspondence.  I must say some of the business matters discussed on those papers was as interesting as the thoughts and activities shared in those letters. The papers we use for our correspondence say a lot about us.

Pens, with their various fine or broad strokes, ink colors, types of paper, our unique hand writing all work together creating a uniquely personal and one of a kind missive.  So the Art of Letter Writing is a combination of verbal and visual expression.

 I do love all sorts of  beautiful cards and letter papers which I find in stores all around town, but it’s  great fun  designing my own stationary too,  using color and design in any number of ways.  Some people tell me they have no ability in art but I don’t believe them.  One doesn’t have to draw or paint in order to have fun with art. We can create bits and pieces of artful objects, arranging these things to create stationery that can be quite delightful. It’s called art play.

Years ago while strolling through an antique shop I found pages from some old magazine with the cutest historic images.  I purchased these old illustrations and now scan them to decorate some of my letters.  Adding a few sprigs of grass or background material makes for a fun looking letter.  At least I think so.

How about writing the name of the month at the top of a letter adding some color.  Perhaps edging the paper with that same color and adding a few polka dots…

… or using laces and/or ribbons, co-ordinating their color with that of the paper.  Such touches may be simple, but they are still artful.  My letter friends tell me they have great fun visiting craft shops collecting all sorts of materials for their stationary construction and letter writing fun.  I do too.

I’ll see some cute illustration in a book and I’ll make it my own by changing a few details here and there.

Did you ever try making flowers by placing finger prints onto ink pads and drawing stems and leaves? . . .

I once saw  boxes of greeting cards for sale. Each card pictured the drawing of a little handbag containing an initial. Now anyone can draw a handbag putting their own initial onto that bag and  presto!  You have monogrammed stationary for pennies a card.

My town of Hudson, Ohio has a clock tower on its village green.  I love to sketch that clock tower on my stationary.   I add a few trees of the season – a Christmas tree in Winter or a deciduous tree with green leaves  plus a few flowers in Summer.  Maybe your town has some famous land mark too.  Did you ever try to draw it?  Go ahead.  Try.

 When I write my sons I like to send happiness and hearts.

And there’s nothing like a little bubble therapy when I’m in need of a pick- me- up. Spreading the idea around to my letter friends is easy in words and in pictures too. Actually I got a card very much like this picture once upon a time. You probably get lots of cards too, cards that would be very easy to make your own.  Why just color in a book? Use those cute cards as models, recreate those images, and then color your very own picture.

I’ve always loved flowers even way back when I was a wee little girl.  I remember creating a little booklet back in the 3rd grade.  Each page had the picture of a flower and a brief description. I enjoyed creating my little book and I was very proud of it.  I remember showing it to my teacher expecting her to shower me with praise, but I was quite disappointed when she made nothing of it only suggesting I use that energy and time on my school work. HA!  I continued to enjoy art class at school but it’s no wonder I stopped drawing flowers for a long time.  Then in high school when given the option of extra art or music classes I chose the music probably  because back in the third grade I was not given encouragement for my art.  Music has been my life and I have no regrets, but when I became a letter writing enthusiast the love of art surfaced once again and now I regularly create stationary with drawings of flowers on my papers.  The artist in me is back and I’m very happy she is.  I missed her.

Maybe you liked art as a small child and somehow you forgot all about that love. But even if you never thought about art before, think about it now.  It can be a wonderful therapy.  It can be a most relaxing delight in your day and if you share your art in your letters. . . well you know what I’m always saying – sharing doubles the joy.

“True art is in the doing of it.”

Jean Renoir

Let’s have tea – Afternoon Tea!

There’s something about afternoon tea that warms my heart.  Though I drink a dark roast coffee from early morning to late night,  the afternoon seems to call for something else.  It calls for a pretty antique tea cup, a silver spoon and  for me the fragrant brew of jasmine, apricot or earl grey tea.

I might enjoy this tea while alone in my room, all by myself,  enjoying the peace and splendor of solitude.   At other times I might enjoy the company of a letter friend.  I’ll make a pot of tea and pull out a letter to answer, a letter from one of my many delightful pen friends.  And there are the days when I delight in sharing tea with one of my many “dead friends”.  On such days all I need do is pull out a biography and the star of that book becomes my teatime companion.

But once a month I treat myself to the company of living, breathing, in-person friends to join me in the ceremony of afternoon tea.  Though I might fuss a little with the setting and spend some time in the kitchen preparing  edible treats, the real delight at these afternoon teas is in the company.

Sure, I could meet these friends at a tea house, but there’s something special about sharing my home with them. It’s art, the forgotten Art of Hospitality.  Do you know many people who entertain in their homes these days?  Are you such a person?  I hope so.  To open our home to others is a beautiful thing. Home is a reflection of self.  When we invite people into our home we are not only sharing food and drink, we are sharing our private world as we share ourselves.

Entertaining is a bit of work, it’s true, but it’s artful work.  It’s creative work, and all creativity rewards us with a sense of sweet accomplishment.   Entertaining at tea time or any other time is a great way to have a good time. . . at least I think so.

 

The first step in creating my tea is to decide where I will serve.  In Winter months a favorite room is my library because I can have a small fire going in the fireplace to create a cozy setting.

The next step is to choose the linen.  For this tea antique linen found some years ago on an outing in the country seems just right for its golden embroidered edging co-ordinates nicely with the colors in my library.

The china is chosen – once again antique.  Somehow The ancient Art of Tea seems to call for antique accessories – at least in my 1853 Jeremiah Brown House.  If you live in a modern dwelling you might choose very different serving pieces.

FOOD

Lately I’ve been running into a lot of French recipes for cream puffs – puffs filled with cheeses for cocktail time and cream puffs stuffed with all sorts of yummy fillings for dessert. So  cream puffs are made for this tea – such an easy recipe too.

Cream Puffs

Ingredients:  1 cup water,1/2 cup butter, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 4 eggs

Process:  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Heat water and butter to rolling boil.  Stir in flour.  Stir vigorously over low heat fro one minute. Remove from heat.  Beat in eggs, all at one time; continue beating till smooth.  Drop dough by scant 1/4 cupfuls 3 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden.

I like to fill my cream puffs with coconut pie filling into which I add plenty of  whipped cream.

A little chocolate icing and the cream puffs are all set.

Another tea treat for my guests at this tea is pear oatmeal scones.  The recipe comes from my dear pen friend Almita. My tea-loving friends enjoy sharing their favorite recipes with me and I with them ( and with you.)

Pear Oatmeal Scones

Ingredients:  1 and 1/4 cup flour, 1 cup old fashioned oats, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3 Tblsp. unsalted butter chilled and sut into small pieces, 3/4 cup plain (or vanilla) yogurt, 1 egg slightly beaten, 3/4 cup fresh pear unpeeled and finely chopped, 1 tsp. vanilla (if using plain yogurt).

Process: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease cookie sheet.  In large bowl combine flour, oats, sugar, powder, soda, spices and salt.  Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl combine yogurt, egg and vanilla if using plain yogurt.  Add to dry ingredients and mix until dry ingredients are moistened.  Gently stir in pear.  Place 1/4 cup of dough on sheet 2 inches apart.  Bake 17 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

Strawberry-Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches

I thought one more item might be nice and I chose these tea sandwiches.

Ingredients:  12 slices firm white bread, 2 and 1/2 cup chopped chicken, 1 cup chopped strawberries, 1/2 cup toasted pecans, 1/3 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup chopped green onion, 1 (11 ounce) can of mandarin oranges, drained and chopped, 1 recipe of Poppy Seed Dressing

Process:  Mix all ingredients and add Poppy Seed dressing to taste.  Fill white bread squares and garnish with a slice of strawberries.

Once all the food treats are prepared they are assembled on tiered cake plates and the only other thing needed  is to put the kettle on for tea.  A few fun hours in the kitchen with lovely aromas floating through the house.  This is fun in itself on a cold Winter’s day, but though creating the food is delightful, then to devouring it,  there’s even more fun anticipating my guests and sharing all this with them.

And here comes a guest now.  It’s Joni.

Joni is a local friend and a regular tea guest who is always bearing gifts.  This time she brought me a lovely Calla Lily.  Joni and I will often go out for coffee or for lunch, but we also enjoy inviting each other for tea.  I hope you have such a fun friend as Joni.

And here’s another guest.  It’s Janet.

Janet is a new friend, a neighbor I don’t know very well – yet!  But what a nice way to get to know a neighbor or anyone else – to invite them into your private world for tea.  I hope I see Janet many times in the future.  The ball’s in her court.

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Another day, another tea.  It came and went in a most pleasant way.  The preparations,  the conversation and the visiting, the nibbles and the tea itself – all delightful.  Now the china is resting back in its cupboard and thoughts begin to tiptoe in regarding the next tea I’ll put together.  Where shall I serve?  What baking will I do?  Who shall I invite?  Maybe YOU!  It’s all fun.

Sharing Tea – Sharing Joy!

A fun Country Inn Outing Day in Peninsula

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I was having my morning coffee with “dead friend” Henry James on this Country Inn Day.  As Henry was telling me all about his travels from Paris to London and other such stories, I had an overwhelming urge to do a little traveling myself. Though I do have a trip to Paris scheduled in May, I was up for some adventure today.  Where shall I go on this Country Inn Day?  I don’t have much time for this outing, only a few hours, so my outing has to be somewhere close by.  I know!  I’ll go to Peninsula, a well-preserved 19th century town just west of Hudson.  I grabbed my coat and hat, hopped in the car, and my Country Inn Day adventure had begun.  Every adventure needn’t involve great distances,  just a spirit of fun.

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As I drove through the Cuyahoga Valley on my way to Peninsula (this area now declared a National Park) I had the distinct feeling I was back in New England.   I used to live in Boston, Massachusetts and I loved it there, but my region of Northeast Ohio, where I live now, looks very much like New England. There’s beautiful nature all around me and here in what we Ohians call the Land of The Western Reserve our old architecture is similar to the architecture of old New England.  This is because this part of Ohio was settled by Connecticut people back in the late 18th/early 19th century.

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After a short but very enjoyable ride I was entering the town.  Though I drive through Peninsula frequently on my way to other places I seldom stop and really look around.  Today, on this Country Inn Day, I did stop and smell the roses so to speak, taking notice of some of the things this town offers, and that’s what a Country Inn Day is all about.  On Country Inn Days I step out of the normal routine and operate as on holiday taking time to enjoy the sites and sounds around me and anything and everything else that is delightful in life.

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My first stop was this lovely old building.  I always admired this old Town Hall as I’d drive by it and in recent years the building was beautifully restored.  Back in 1805 Alfred Wolcott of Connecticut came here in a surveying party.  By 1811 what had been known as Range 11, Town 4 of the Connecticut Western Reserve became known as Boston Township.  Funny that I lived in Boston , Massachusetts, but now I still live very near Boston, but a different Boston (and when I did live in Boston, Massachusetts I had an apartment in Cleveland – Cleveland Circle that is, and my Hudson is a distant suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.  Rather strange how these city names follow me around – strange but neat.)  Anyway, this building is no longer a town hall, but rather serves as a museum.

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I do love history and historic buildings.  I feel visiting old towns is a little like going back into time. Country Inn Days are very educational  too for I learn a lot of things as I poke around places of interest.  Here I learned the town of Peninsula was founded in 1818 and it grew to be a prosperous place because of the Ohio and Erie Canal.  It was a bustling canal stop in the old days.  A stroll down the Main Street must’ve been fun years ago and it’s still fun today.

I enjoyed looking at every detail of each house I passed as I strolled down the street.  Here are just a few.

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Do you know this house was made from a kit?  I learned that Sears and Roebuck sold house kits way back when and these kits were very popular.  Maybe your town has some Sears and Roebuck houses too.  I know my town of Hudson has at least one, but for all I know it may have even more. This house looks like the doll house I always wanted and never had as a child.

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As I walked past this particular house with green trim and lattice work admiring it, I noticed the owner was about to pull out of his driveway so I turned around and walked up to his car.  I think it’s nice to compliment the owner of a house when we think that house is charming.  Who doesn’t like a compliment?  Well, my compliment turned into a very interesting discussion about Peninsula, houses, and art.

You see the owner of this house happened to be a retired art professor from Kent State University.  He is a painter and he taught painting there for years.  These days besides painting he also builds banjos and mandolins and he did a lot of building on and around his house too. He appreciated my interest in Peninsula and in his house and was very friendly – a typical Ohioan, so he asked me if I’d like to meet his wife and see his art studios.  Well, of course I would!  Do you see what adventures a Country Inn Day can provide?

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This man, Doug Unger, is really quite the accomplished artist.  I so enjoyed seeing both his studios – one was attached to his house and the other, A Summer studio, was a separate building out back. You can look him up on google and get his whole story.  I got a large part of his story thanks to my Country Inn Day.  What fun!

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Everywhere I looked, his studios were a feast for the eyes.  So many paintings, both oils and pastels . . . along with all the tools of an artist.  Here you see his pastels.

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Doug not only makes instruments, I believe he plays them too.

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Works of Art.

I invited Doug to tea, but he said he seldom leaves his house.  He is quite devoted to his work, but I think he would be a charming and most interesting guest one of these days so I will keep after him, keep in touch.  It’s always wonderful to expand one’s circle of friends and it’s especially wonderful when those people are interesting and full of passion for art and the art of life.

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After visiting Doug and his world I kept strolling for a while  and I popped into a few shops like this one pictured above.  It was full of one-of-a-kind art objects made by local artists – a great place to pick up a gift for a friend or a treat for yourself.

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 I had a nice chat with the shop owner too.  There was lots of socializing on this Country Inn Day.

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Actually, Peninsula had a few nice shops and this one, The Yellow Creek Trading Company, was another fun place to looks around.  Items large and small – much temptation, but today wasn’t a Country Inn Shopping Day so I held on to my money and simply enjoyed looking at all the beautiful things.  “Window shopping” if you will.

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But after a while I was getting pretty hungry so I walked farther down the street to The Winking Lizard restaurant which is housed in another old building. I remember when this place functioned as The Peninsula Nightclub with a dance floor and a different interior dynamic, but now it’s just a good place to get a bite to eat.

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I got a table on its quiet porch so I could watch the comings and goings out its ample windows.

Nice!

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I brought Beatrix Potter along with me on this Country Inn Day outing by way of a book.  The book is called  Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. I was alone enjoying my lunch, but I felt Beatrix was with me in spirit as I read of her horticulture adventures and enjoyed her very own words that were captured in her journal.  For example, one February day when she was looking out onto her garden she admired the snowdrops and wrote,

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“There are thousands in front of the windows and in the orchard and in the lane. That is why I have an untidy garden.  I won’t have the dear things dug up in the summer, they are so much prettier growing in natural clumps, instead of being dried off and planted singly.”

 

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The old Cuyahoga River as it runs through the center of Peninsula

Hearing many nature tales from Beatrix put me in a real Nature mood so after lunch I had to take a little walk along the Cuyahoga River before I left for home returning to my Country Inn.  Because this area is within the Cuyahoga National Park there are towpaths and a great many areas for exploration.  How lucky I am to live here. Beatrix would like it too.  After spending time with her at lunch I had the feeling she was along with me on my walk.

 

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 But all good things come to an end and so it was with my outing.  I was back on the road heading to my Hudson and my evening activities at the Inn.

It was a good Country Inn Outing Day.  I learned a little something about Peninsula, met a living artist and visited with a departed one.  I met a shop owner and  enjoyed nature, some window shopping, a walk, and good food too.  Perhaps my next Country Inn Day will be spent in a very  different way, but however I spend it I know it will be a refreshing break from routine because all Country Inn Days are just that.

I hope your days are fun and interesting.  It’s up to us to make them that way.  Like they say –

Seize the day!

I sure try and I hope you do too.

Letters warm up a snowy Winter Day

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The weather outside in my town of Hudson, Ohio is frightful.  It’s 32 degrees with snow, then sleet, but though the weather outside is frightful I’m having a delightful day with a number of my interesting pen friends who have come to call to keep me company.  There’s Randall from California, Jenna from Maryland and Margie from Nova Scotia.

Letter writers never need to feel lonely because even if it’s not a mail day, or even if no letters happen to arrive in the mail that day, a letter writer can still have the company of others as she or he enjoys writing a letter to an interesting pen friend.img_27391

And it’s not only the actual writing that’s fun when composing a letter.  There’s lots of fun to be had in creating the stationary for that letter.  I love to draw flowers on my letter paper and along the edge of the paper I tell my letter friend a little bit about that flower.  Just the other day a letter friend told me if she ever feels dreary she draws flowers.  It must be something about the beauty of the flower that gets into our spirit. Of course you could draw whatever appeals to you if flowers aren’t your thing, but I promise your drawing, whatever it is,  will amuse your correspondent.

There’s something about art play.  Lots of people are discovering coloring books for I see millions of them in bookstores these days, but who needs a coloring book?  Just draw and color your very own picture.  I know you can do it!

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Practice makes improvement

But what’s especially magical about letters is how we can share ideas with people far away, people we would probably never meet in normal everyday life if it weren’t for letters.  It’s amazing to think with letters alone you can develop a best friend without ever leaving your easy chair.  All you have to do is join a letter writing group like The Letter Exchange. Then, even if the weather is far too unpleasant for you to venture out and socialize you can socialize from that easy chair while sipping a favorite drink as you sit comfy by the fire.

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 It takes me months to wish all my pen friends a Happy New Year, but what a fun task.  In this world of texts and impersonal emails and Facebook messages I think it’s refreshing to sit quietly and think of one person at a time, writing to them, reflecting on and with them –  one to one.

If we make our letter pretty as well as thought-filled our penfriend will feel honored that we used our precious time to focus  on her.  Our letter becomes a friendly compliment.  Don’t you light up when you find a letter addressed just to you in your mailbox?  I sure do.

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I learn a lot from letters too.  My pen friend Margie from Nova Scotia is married to a lobster fisherman.  Because of Margie I now know a lot more about lobsters and the life of a lobster fisherman.  Margie sends pictures too.  The pictures enhance her descriptions and make her letters even more interesting and enjoyable.  It’s good to keep learning and not only about things, but also about people and how differently their lives might be from our own.  Living in Hudson, Ohio I’d never meet a lobster fisherman, but thanks to letters I now have a personal relationship with one.

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We’re all so different with so many different interests.  My pen friend Randall likes to draw as I do, and he also enjoys writing poetry.  So far he hasn’t gotten me into writing poetry, but you never know.  I might try to write a poem someday.  Randall  is educating me too, as Margie is.

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Randall introduced me to Charles Baudelaire, a French poet of the past, his role model.  Charles advocated writing short poems and walking.  He loved walking through the streets of Paris. Who wouldn’t? I may not be writing poetry in the near future, but I will be walking the streets of Paris like Charles did because I will be spending a week in Paris with my family this May and I bought a book called Walks in Hemingway’s Paris.  I’m sure Randall and all my other pen friends will be hearing about these walks that I take and they will undoubtedly also be getting pictures from these walks.  Why? You know. Sharing doubles the joy.

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Sharing is a good thing.  We humans were not created to live in isolation.  We can share with our family and local friends, but if you are a letter writer you can also share with lots and lots of other people.  Sharing will become a hobby in itself. What will you share? You’ll be sharing all sorts of things in your letters – your travels, your latest shopping adventure and that new swim suit you purchased.  You’ll share your dreams and your creative ideas.

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You can share a picture of that French potato pie you made recently along with its recipe.  You can share anything and everything in your letters.  Others will share with you too.  It’s so fun!

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My penfriend Jenna loves the writings of Jane Austen. I do too.  Do you?  She told me her love affair with Jane’s books began when she was 10 years old and her aunt gave her the book, Emma.  Do you have a favorite author or favorite book?  Most letter writers are also fond of books and books become a regular topic in letters.  Who needs a book club when your letter friends report on all their latest book adventures?  If you are a fan of Jane Austen Jenna suggests you find Jane’s History of England.  She says the book is quite “a trip”!  I’ll have to look for that book. Jenna’s got me curious.

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So I hope you are a letter writer like me, enjoying all the pleasures this lovely old art provides , but if you aren’t, there’s no time like the present to get started.  Write your old auntie.  Write your friend who moved away.  Write a letter to  anybody at all.  Sit quietly.  Doodle a little drawing on the paper,  maybe even write a short poem as Charles Baudelaire and Randall suggest.  Join The Letter Exchange and connect with people from all over the world.  You’ll be glad you did when you go to your mailbox and find lots of letters addressed just to you.  And you WILL find these letters for there’s an old saying – when you give good things come back to you. Give a letter.  Get a letter.

You’ll see.

Why host an Afternoon Tea? Why not?

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You just baked a yummy cake.  It came out great! Should you keep it all for yourself or share it with others?

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You just cleaned your house. You fluffed the pillows and polished the wood.  The tables are dust free. The place looks as neat as it’s ever going to be.  Should you sit back and take a nap in this clean, tidy place or invite someone over?

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You just bought some new clothes.  They make you feel like a million dollars.  Should you put them on,  sit alone in your clean tidy house having a piece of that yummy cake –  all by yourself – or should you invite someone over for Afternoon Tea?  The answer seems clear to me.  How ’bout to you?  Remember . . .

Sharing Doubles the Joy.

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You may drink coffee by the gallon as I do,  but at four o’clock it’s tea time at my 1853 Jeremiah Brown house.  I’m usually alone for this teatime and I usually keep it simple – no bakery or other savories.  I simply enjoy sipping some Jasmine, Apricot or Earl Grey tea from a pretty china cup. It’s a peaceful ritual that gives me pleasure.  My companions for this daily teatime are usually “dead friends” (that is,  persons of the past who share with me by way of their autobiography or personal letters.)

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Currently my tea time companion is Agatha Christie.  I do so enjoy hearing about her life in England.  What a memory she has too.  Agatha’s been telling me details of her life as a child – how she would play with imaginary kittens and pretend that she herself was a kitten. So many famous authors were like Agatha.  They cultivated rich imaginations from their early years. Children today would do well to put away their technological toys now and then and cultivate their imaginations as well.

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Sometimes God drops in to join me and my “dead friend” for tea.  He does this as I read a few pages from Tea Time with God, a devotional published by Honor Books.  (You see I have an imagination like Agatha.)  Tea time becomes quite the “spiritual” time when spent with these types of companions.

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But once every month I love fussing to create an afternoon tea for living, breathing friends.  I enjoy going off to the local flower market to choose a pretty bouquet for my table.  I delight in selecting just the right linen and china for each gathering.  It’s artistic.  It’s creative. It’s fun! It’s a gift I give to others, but I enjoy this gift right along with my guests.

 So you see I have my daily teas which are relaxing and quite spiritual, but also tea parties which are a bit more fuss, but totally delightful in quite a different way. Variety is the spice of life.

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My guests always seem to enjoy themselves at tea.  What’s not to enjoy?  Look at those smiling, serene faces.

 Tea time takes us into a world of conversation and beautifully-prepared (whether homemade or purchased) food. The tea setting may be simple, but with beautiful flowers at the table, the twinkle of candlelight and the delicacy of  china, it’s easy to create a graciousness that is very out of the ordinary and capable of delighting everyone present. In this dramatic scene the host and guests play roles of equal importance to the  tea and food.  It’s all about sharing.

The Tea ritual helps everyone feel more civilized and in today’s crazy world we need all the help we can get with that.

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So the next time you feel like baking a little something or maybe you go off to the market and purchase some delectable goodies. . .  the next time you get the urge to clean up your house getting it looking quite ready to be photographed for House Beautiful magazine . . .  the next time you pull yourself together and feel like presenting yourself to the world . . . consider calling a friend or two for Afternoon tea.

You can fuss with finger sandwiches, scones and several pastries or keep it simple serving only cinnamon toast and/or chocolate chip cookies.  It’s not the food so much as the gracious sharing in a peaceful pretty setting.  It’s taking the time to be.  It’s taking the time to share – to share your home, to share some tea,  to share yourself.

Because

Sharing Doubles the Joy

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Afternoon tea has the power to transport us to a wonderful state of being.  We leave our work behind.  We enter a gracious state and even when tea-time is over the peaceful feelings linger allowing us to be in a more gentle place.

It’s Holiday Time at the Jeremiah Brown House

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The Jeremiah Brown House buzzes with activity all through the year because guests are constantly coming and going making the house a very happy and lively place to be.  As Innkeeper I’ve always felt this house was  created not for us alone (us being my husband and myself) but rather a house to be shared with others. Everyone knows sharing doubles the joy.

Anyone who takes care of a home realizes how much there is to do in order to make that home cozy and inviting, but in December with holidays around the corner, special touches seem to be needed in order to create a  festive atmosphere.

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Mother Nature has pitched in, doing her “Wintery” job, of dusting snow all around the grounds  creating that “White Christmas” look.

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Now it’s for me to add a few touches to the entrance and all around the house continuing that holiday/festive look. As guests come to the door…

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and as they continue into the foyer of the house.  A Christmas tree with lights and a poinsettia can do wonders to create a holiday atmosphere.  Simple, timeless decorations.

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I move through the house.  The library is small so it doesn’t need much.  A gold poinsettia in the window and as Christmas cards arrive they will be tucked into the books on the shelves.

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 Have you ever seen a gold-colored poinsettia?  This color is new to me, but it looks quite at home in my gold-colored library.

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I love Christmas cards, don’t you?  Of course I’m a letter writer so I love cards sent all through the year, not only in December, but at Christmas it seems most people indulge in snail mail as I do and I’m so very glad they do.  The cards we receive  will decorate the shelves of the Jeremiah Brown library in a most friendly way.

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Moving to the living room the banister gets a twist of evergreen roping

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so guests taking tea in this room can enjoy a little more holiday decoration.

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A Christmas tree has also been added here for extra holiday spirit.

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And the dining room of The Jeremiah Brown House which will be busy with guests this month has a twinkling tree too.

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It will add a touch of Christmas to all the dining room events this month.

There’s so much more to show and tell you about as Innkeeper . . .

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And there’s plenty to tell you about as Inn Maid too, for example, all the table linen that needs to be ironed in order to be ready for holiday entertaining, but. . .

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let me switch gears, put on my chef hat, and as Inn Cook tell you about a few of the things that I made in the kitchen lately. You might like to make some of these recipes yourself.  This month a certain someone’s been keeping me company in the kitchen, a someone you may know.

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Yes, It’s Santa.  Isn’t he cute?

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  He’s not actually much help except to inspire me as I try new recipes for  Inn guests and I have three of these recipes to share with you.

This first recipe is a French Potato Pie with Comte Cheese.

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  It’s a beauty, isn’t it?

Here’s the recipe!

Cook a few strips of bacon till crisp.  Remove the bacon and in the drippings cook  3 sliced cloves of garlic and 2 thinly sliced onions for about 2 minutes.  Mix these things together.  Create a batch of your favorite double pie crust dough.  Line a pan with the bottom crust and then add a layer of thinly sliced potatoes, season with salt and pepper, followed with layers of the bacon/onion mixture and then cheese.  You’ll be using about 2 pounds of russet potatoes and 2 cups of diced Comte cheese.   Layer these ingredients and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. of thyme. Dot all of this with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Place the top crust on all this pie and brush with an egg wash (1 large egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of heavy cream.)  Bake the pie in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Cover with parchment or foil if the pie browns too much.

It’s delicious!

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Cabbage Charlotte

Charlotte de Chou et de Pommes de Terre

Here at the Inn we like French food and both potato dishes are as pretty to look at as to eat.  To make this Charlotte you need a Charlotte pan that is deep and round.  The only ingredients you’ll need are a Savoy cabbage, a medium onion, 1 and 1/2 pounds of potatoes, an egg, plus salt and pepper.

To make the Charlotte soften about 5 cabbage leaves in boiling water for a few minutes.  Line the buttered pan with these leaves saving one for the top.  Meanwhile boil the potatoes and when they are soft mash them with the egg, a bit of milk aplus salt and pepper.  Chop the remaining cabbage and fold it into the mashed potatoes.  Place this potato mixture into the Charlotte pan and cover the mixture with the remaining cabbage leaf.  Wrap all this tightly in foil and place the pan in another deeper pan so boiling water can be placed half way up the Charlotte pan.  Bake this at 375 degree for about 45 minutes.  Unmold and you have  a Cabbage Charlotte to dazzle your friends.

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I served this Charlotte recently to Inn guests along with breaded pork chops, buttered corn, homemade apple sauce and  yeast rolls.

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Oh yes, and for dessert –  Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Squares

Should you want to make these yummy squares you’ll need the following:

2 sticks of unsalted butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 large egg, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, 2 and 1/4 cups quick-cooking oatmeal, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.

The process:  Cream butter and sugars, add egg and vanilla, then add 3/4 of the flour, with oatmeal and salt.  Press this into a prepared 9 inch square baking pan.  Scatter the chocolate chips over this dough.  Combine the nuts with the remaining flour and crumble this over the chocolate chips.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean when done.  Cool and cut into squares.

Yummy.  These squares melt in your mouth.

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So though there’s lots more to tell you about  that’s happening at The Jeremiah Brown House I think it’s time for me to take a break with afternoon tea.  The weather outside is frightful, but the porch (which as a gas heater) is delightful, so I’ll take my leave from Inn duties for a little while, bring out a tea tray and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Maybe I’ll be seeing you here at the Inn, but if not have a wonderful holiday wherever you are making lots of inviting settings, yummy treats and romantic moments in your very own home.

Until next time . . . be happy!