A Country Inn Day “Country Day”

Country Inn Days are days when I take a break from my ordinary life.  I may host a tea on such days or enjoy a day of spa activities.  I might linger around the inn relaxing and partaking in favorite activities or I might enjoy an outing day.  That’s today.  Outing days take all forms.  They could involve nature, culture, shopping, adventure, city sites or country pleasures.

Today it’s Country pleasures. . .

as I return for the umteenth time to Hale Homestead and its surrounding historic village.  As you can see from the sign out front The land for this Homestead was purchased in 1810 and the house built fifteen years later.  When I come here I not only feel I’m off in the country, but I also feel I’m going back in time.  I love the old world so visiting historic properties is one of my favorite things to do.

I enjoy Country Inn Days off by myself for this way I can stroll around at my own pace, stopping here and there, thinking and  reflecting upon all I see without distraction.  To be in nature is always a treat, but especially on a beautiful Summer’s day. I don’t know what it is but every time I come to Hale I keep hearing strains of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” in my head.  Thinking about people long ago forging their way through untamed nature, creating homes and farms and lives in unsettled territories – it’s awe inspiring.  Could you do it?  I wonder if I could.

My Dad grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and he would take my Mom, sister and me back to the country every July.  I know it was July because the day lilies were always in bloom along the  roadsides.  Dad loved the country and so did I and so do I yet today.  The smells, the space, the animals, and all that gorgeous nature; it’s like heaven on earth.

I love getting close to the animals

Here we see some newborn lambs with one older fellow to help them feel secure
It’s hard not to think of pork chops when I see this fellow. Pigs sure like mud.
I’m sure my grandmother had one of these speckled chickens or is it a hen? Whatever it is it sure is pretty.
And look at this big fellow – a real work horse or shall I say ox

I do love getting close to animals.  I love animals and this reminds me of what a penfriend, a Hindu nun, used to say.  She said, “Love animals.  Don’t eat them.”  Are you a vegetarian?

If you are a vegetarian or simply if you like to garden you would enjoy seeing the gardens at Hale.  There’s a big one at The Goldsmith House and small gardens here and there.  I love to garden.  Do you?

I peek inside the fences and try to identify all the plants.

My Dad told me he went to school in a one room schoolhouse so I’m always interested to visit such places.  Imagine what such an education would be like.  I stroll down the path to the school house and I like to imagine I’m back in time, my father’s time or the time of the Hale family.


And here it is


On another visit I’ll take you inside the schoolhouse.

It’s easy to feel I’m going back in time when I can talk to people dressed in period clothing telling my about the details of daily life back then.  Take this lady . . .

Earlier I visited a lady who was spinning.  She explained what yarns were used for what, but this lady talked all about how yarns were dyed.  Today I go into a yarn store and find a million yarns in beautiful colors ready for my knitting projects, but long ago it wasn’t that easy.  First you sheer the sheep, then you spin, then you dye the yarn and finally you begin your project.  Nothing was fast or easy back then.  How easy we have it now.

I love needlework. I knit, embroider, do counted cross and needlepoint.  Do you enjoy needlework?  Growing up my extended family would get together for dinners regularly and after the meal the men would congregate in one room playing cards while the ladies went to another room and pulled out their stitchery.  That was great fun.  We loved seeing what each of us was making.  We’d talk and stitch and the time flew by. . .

so when I saw this embroidery inside one of the houses at Hale it brought back memories from my own life.  I still enjoy needlework but now the young women in my family busy themselves with other things – tennis and taking their children here, there and everywhere.  They have no time for stitchery.  I now stitch on my own.  It’s still fun, but I miss the old days.

And when I came upon this dining table set beside a window in one of the old houses it reminded me of a sweet lady I used to visit down the road from my grandmother’s house in the country.  I was about six years old then and Nora was a retired school teacher  She had the most beautiful flower garden outside her window.  When I asked her how she created this garden she said it was easy.  When the bouquet of flowers on the table drooped she’s opened the window and tossed the flowers out.  Apparently they’d go to seed and automatically create the prettiest scene.  I should try that.

I do love old houses.  Do you?

“All houses wherin men have lived and died are haunted houses.” These are the first lines of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The houses are still here, but where are the people who inhabited them?  I can’t help but wonder.

To walk inside the very rooms where people of the past enjoyed daily life is magical to me.

“The stranger at my fireside cannot see the forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear; He but perceives what is; while unto me all that has been is visible and clear.”  That’s a little more of Longfellows”s poem “Haunted Houses”.  I love that poem.  Google it. Maybe you’ll love it too.

Of course the one thing about old houses that never did appeal to me was the lack of a proper bathroom.  I’ve had personal experience with the alternative, the Outhouse.

This particular outhouse, freshly painted, looks pretty cute, but I recall as a little girl going out in the dark to the outhouse at my grandmother’s place… the wet grass, wondering what you might be stepping on in the dark. . . and then the smell.  It’s been a long time but that experience is pretty hard to forget.  I think near the end of my Grandmother’s life she did have indoor plumbing and I bet she loved it!


Coming to Hale Homestead is always a Country Inn Day “Country Day” that is a real treat for me.  I shared with you just the tiniest bit of my experience there.  To be out in nature on a beautiful day communing with plants and animals and looking back through the window of time at houses and their interiors, chatting with people who looked to be of the period – a wonderful thing.  Much to reflect upon and as Lord Byron said, “A life without reflection  is a sad affair.”

I hope you have opportunities to go off to the country and to explore the past as well.

Step out of your daily routine now and then and give yourself permission to enjoy any or all of your favorite things. – Focus on beauty.  It feels wonderful.  Then share the joy; for sharing doubles the joy.  I’ve sure enjoyed sharing my Country Inn Day with you.

So till next we meet

Love from Carol Ann, Lady of Letters

Another Afternoon Tea

In the words of my dear pen friend, Michelle Gil,

“The elegance and natural hospitality of the past are preferable to the sloppiness modern society has slipped into.  It is one reason I host so many dinners and parties and it’s a great way to showcase culture and manners without saying a word.”

And so every month I too enjoy inviting friends and would-be friends to my home for the lovely ritual of afternoon tea.  These teas can be as simple or elaborate as time permits. The most important thing to me is taking time off to share good conversation with others in my private world, my home.

If my antique tea cups could talk they’d have all sorts of stories to tell, stories that my friends and I share.  Sharing doubles the joy and divides the sorrow.  As hostess I delight in being of service to others.  Some people volunteer at homeless shelters, schools or hospitals.  I’ve done some of those things in the past myself, but these days my manner of service to others happens when I take their comfort into my own hands and provide them with food, drink and pretty things.

Things like flowers


I can’t imagine any party without flowers.

For years I’ve been collecting china.  Some women love shoes.  I love collecting china, crystal and table linen and unlike some people I use all of my collections.  I use these pretty things on ordinary days when I’m alone or when it’s just my husband and me so of course I would use these pretty things when I have guests too.

Each party gives me the opportunity to set one of my tables in a different way using different items.  There are those who create with oils and watercolor paints, but I create with my table designs and the menus I choose for my teas or dinner parties.  Years ago when I lived in Boston I loved strolling through Bloomingdale’s china department for there I saw many tables set in many different ways with a variety of  china and crystal.  Now, all these years later, I have almost as a large a collection of these pretty things as Bloomingdales.  (Not really, but almost.)

Today’s china is Bavarian.  The pattern is called Old Meissen.  I decided to use a lace tablecloth to compliment its graceful old world style.

The menu for this tea consisted of spicy chicken sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, orange raisin scones, chocolate bread served with vanilla butter and cake which I purchased from a neighborhood bakery.

Spicy Chicken Sandwich containing curry and mango chutney

 

Peek a Boo Cucumber Flower-like Sandwiches in the round

 

Turkey Sandwiches with Cranberry Orange relish and Boston lettuce

 

img_3269.jpg
Light and fluffy ‘melt in your mouth’ Orange raisin scones

 

Chocolate Walnut Bread served with Vanilla Butter

 

A Chocolate Vanilla Cake from the Bakery because sometimes a little help from a bakery is called for

 

Of course there was tea – 3 kinds of tea.  I served Earl Grey (my favorite), Jasmine and Apricot.  After tea I offered my guests a house favorite, CarolAn’s Irish Cream.  This seems only right for one of Carol Ann’s teas, don’t you think?

Nice of them to name this Irish Cream after me

 

I decided to use a lot of crystal items for this tea so the sideboard would have a uniform theme.

The room was now set, all ready for guests.  Food was placed on the sideboard.  Small candles were placed on the table ready to be lit.

Now for the guests

First Celeste and Sandra arrive

And then Noreen arrived

The rest is tea history.

Another fun afternoon tea with friends.  I hope you enjoyed it half as much as I did.

A New Book on the subject of Letter Writing

 

Actually my version of a book …

It’s 42 handwritten letters with art on 244 pages.  The book is a letter from me, Carol Ann McCarthy, to you.  Well, that’s not exactly right.  It’s lots of letters from me to you.  These letters are a lot like the letters I write every day to my many wonderful pen friends, but in this collection I don’t go off on tangents about this, that, and the other thing.  No, I stick to the topic of why I feel the art of letter writing is a worthwhile and wonderful activity.  I explain, with examples, how letter writing is a physical, social, intellectual and spiritual activity.  Why, in many cases it becomes a ministry.

 

In our busy lives it’s good to sit down once in a while and not only write but also dabble in art play.  Did you ever notice how many adult coloring books are on the market today?  But why buy a coloring book when you can have a lot of fun drawing and coloring your own pictures?  Adding pictures in the letters you write not only gives letter friends visuals of what you’re describing, but you have a lot of fun creating those pictures and coloring them.  Some people call this art therapy, but I call it art fun!

 

The letters in this collection have all sorts of art I created just for you, for every one of you.  The art will  give you ideas  for creating your own artful letters.  I’m sure you have plenty of ideas yourself, but sharing doubles my joy.

Along with the art I’ll share many of my favorite things, things I discovered along the way which add a lot of pleasure to my days.  Things like rituals – specifically a ritual for letter writing.  If we have the materials ready, on hand, and if we have a system for when to write, where to write, whom to write – then it’s pretty easy to be in the mood to write letters and to actually write them.

Letter writing is a physical activity because hand writing is a physical activity.  As we choose a favorite writing instrument it’s much like making music on a violin or piano.  We’re being creative.  As our hand moves sensually across the page sharing our thoughts, dreams  and every day trifles we can sip a cup of some yummy drink, put our feet up and relax.  Writing slowly helps us slow ourselves down and busy people need to slow down now and then.  Our handwriting is a little bit of ourselves that we send off to others like a lock of our hair.  It’s personal and in today’s world the personal touch is quite neglected.


Even if you have a lot of friends and a great family there’s always room for more lovely people in your life.  Letter friends can be some of those people.  I’ll tell you how you can make friends all over the world by writing letters, how you can find wonderful correspondents.  Letter writing will shrink your world into a friendly neighborhood.  You’ll have visits every day when the mail comes, letter friends from near and far will be dropping by to say hello, that’s if  you become a letter writer.  Letter writing is truly a great social activity and you don’t have to dress up, clean the house, or cook dinner for your letter friends.  You just have to look into your heart and WRITE.

There is physical pleasure involved in letter writing and letter writing is certainly a social activity.  We can cultivate pen friendships and even go off to meet these people if we like, but if we don’t like we don’t even have to know how our pen friends look.  Sometimes this is good for the very best person could be hiding within an unimpressive body. In letters it’s heart to heart that matters without physical looks interfering  – unless of course we want to share pictures.

But besides all the physical and social delight letter writing is a very intellectual activity.  Your letters will be as intellectual as you and your pen friends are.  You’ll meet people from tropical islands and big, glamorous cities, small country towns and foreign countries.  These people will share information about those places and about the things they love to do.  You will share your interests too be it a love for gardening, literature, music or sports.  Whatever.  You’ll have people to chat with about all sorts of interesting subjects any time, day or night.  In my collection of letters I’ll share some of the wonderful things I learned from pen friends.  Robert Louis Stevensom said, “The world is so full of a number of things I think we should all be as happy as kings.”  Sharing with your pen friends will make you feel as happy as kings or queens or princesses or princes – maybe happier.

Of course this collection of letters from me to you will contain some whimsy.  I’ll tell you how your pets can write letters to the pets of your friends.  Really!  My dog not only had a number of pen friends – others dog friends and even a cat by the name of Alice, but he wrote a letter for the collection.  It’s true, well, sort of true.  My dog and I will give you an idea or two on how to entertain your mail man with your whimsical animal letters.


But there’s more . . .my collection of letters will also explain how letter writing is spiritual, can even become a ministry.  In this one-to-one art form we can do so much for others as we show them we care.  We can encourage, praise, show understanding, offer inspiration.  We can be a friend.  We can share love.


In letter writing we share our spirit.  Letter writing may be a physical activity  but we do not need to be physically present in order to share our spirit.  There’s a time for in-person sharing and a time for sharing without physicality.  We can also read the letters of people from the past.  We’ll feel these people are writing to us even though they’re long gone.  Spirit transcends time and letters are lasting, more lasting than we are.  It’s quite magical.

My collection of 42 letters to you from me will talk about all these things and of course I encourage you to write your own letters, some of them to ME!  Gee, we can become pen friends if we’re not pen friends already.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Sure it would.  So if you haven’t been finding enough letters in your mail box – or any letters in your mailbox for that matter, you just might like to buy my collection of letters from me to you.  They sell for $30 plus three dollars for postage and packaging if mailed off and away.

The letters will arrive in a big sturdy water-proof, tear-proof envelope complete with my return address so you can write back to me after reading one letter, or five, or ten, or all forty two.  This project was a labor of love for you know what I always say, or maybe you don’t, but I’ll tell you.  I’m always saying Sharing doubles the joy – because it really does.


The envelopes are on my desk waiting to be filled with 42 letters to you!   When your check arrives in  my mailbox the envelope will be on its way to your mailbox and these letters could be a unique gift for any person  interested in letters for they come complete with a  pen friend – me.

It’s been a pleasure sharing my collection of letters with you.

Sharing doubles the joy.

Carol Ann McCarthy

110 W. Streetsboro  Street 1B

 Hudson, Ohio 44236

Afternoon Tea in the City


I enjoy afternoon tea.  Do you?  It’s such a civilized thing.  To take a break in the afternoon while enjoying a book and some solitude or to invite friends in to share the experience – both are great fun for me, but sometimes I like to go out to a special place for afternoon tea.  It could be a small and charming tea house in the country or something quite different – a snazzy hotel tea in a big city.

A mix of these experiences makes for a very happy me.  Let me tell you about one of my last afternoon teas which happened to take place in New York City at the St. Regis hotel.  This hotel has a long history and I do like history.  It also has the elegance I enjoy very much.  Just look at its entrance.

First stop – looking for the ladies room. One must “fix up”.

Down the stairs I go.

There are lots of stairs with lots of lovely marble, lots of lovely carpeting too.  It’s fun for me to stroll around exploring.  I’ve always been interested in interior decoration.  You too?

It’s not so much the tea that pleases me, but of course I do like tea.  It’s all the pretty things connected with tea.  At home, for example, I like to use pretty antique tea cups not ordinary mugs.  And why would I bother going out, getting all dressed up, just to have tea in an ordinary and boring place?  No, I’m afraid afternoon tea requires something  more special – at least for me and so far so good at this hotel.  I like the bones of this place – all the rooms I’ve past through are quite pleasing to me. How do you feel about the St. Regis so far?

As I step into the actual tea room I look up and I’m enchanted.  Nothing like a blue sky overhead with puffy white clouds. The twinkle lights may not be realistic, but that’s ok with me.  They create a nice romantic feeling  and I am a Romantic after all.

This place has a heavenly European feeling – the frescoes on the walls, the Baroque gilt work – all very elegant and old world and the rest of the lighting in the tea room is quite pleasant too.  One must have soft lighting to take tea you know.  Soft lighting is relaxing and tea is a time for relaxation.  Candles are always a nice touch too, anytime and anywhere.  I’m pleased to see  candles on the tables.

But of course it’s not just the room that’s important.  When I go to a fine hotel for the afternoon tea experience there must be fancy food.  Hopefully it will taste good, but it must look good.  Ideally it should be something I could never make at home and a beautiful presentation is all important as well.  I’m not fussy, am I?  Well, for the price a hotel tea commands one has the right to be a little fussy, or a lot fussy.

I order Earl Grey tea, my favorite,

and then the food arrives.


It’s a nice plate of assorted tea sandwiches which should be devoured first


Then a three tiered serving tray arrives.

Patrick poses with the server.  Patrick is my son who lives in Manhattan and he is my regular companion for New York City teas.


The scones  look yummy.  Some are plain and others contain raisins.

There’s nothing quite like “smathering” warm scones with delicious Devon creme, that is, unless you also place a scoop of jam atop the creme.


The table was set with all the extras one could want – Devon creme, Raspberry jam, Lemon curd, plus plenty of sliced lemon for our tea. One must come hungry in order to handle all these goodies – many cups of tea with many bites.

It helps to be with a good conversationalist too for this tea ceremony goes on for quite a while.  I have that in my Patrick.

We started at the top and worked our way down through the goodies on the three tiered tray.

The desserts were almost more than we could handle but our tummies made room for every last bite.

And after tea it was definitely time for a very very long walk in Central Park.

Daily at home teas can be quite simple and quite enjoyable.  Add guests to afternoon teas and we fuss a little more with a presentation and the serving  of special goodies, be they home made or purchased at the market,  but a hotel tea is another thing all together.  It can be very great fun if that hotel is an elegant place with elegant service and elegant food.  At least it’s always great fun for me!

In an ever-faster world, I think it’s important to pause and enjoy simple pleasures

and not so simple pleasures too.

Afternoon tea is one of those pleasures for me.

How ’bout for you?

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.

IMG_2989[1]

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!