I love writing letters but part of the fun for me is creating my stationery. I come up with all sorts of designs for my letter papers. Some of my designs are quite simple while others are a bit more involved. Whatever kind of art, the activity is always fun. It’s a sort of therapy, relaxing, and I can get lost in the creative process. While concentrating on colors and lines all other concerns temporarily melt away. Hopefully the end result is pleasing but whatever the end result the process is always most pleasing to me. My letter friends often receive my floral letters.
This is because I love flowers, don’t you? I love growing flowers in my garden. I love placing flowers in vases on my dining tables and night stand and I love drawing flowers to decorate my letter papers. I’d love to send fresh flowers to my friends regularly as a way to brighten their days and sometimes I do, but more often I simply send off cards and letters with my floral designs. I created a line of wildflower correspondence cards in past days and recently I’ve added new designs to that collection.
And because I enjoy writing letters on large sheets of paper as well as on cards I decided to create some wildflower stationery on paper measuring 11 by 8 and a half inches. Here are three sample designs.
The educator in me likes to write a little information about each flower presented, either on the back of the correspondence card or around the edges of the stationery. For example, did you know the strange long sepals of the Whorled Pagonia are reddish purple and the petals are greenish yellow, except for the lip. This is a wild orchid usually found in the woods. There are a number of wild orchids in existence.
So you see besides the enjoyment of writing letters to friends and family the art of letter writing gives me the opportunity to look closely at a flower and enjoy the artful activity of drawing that flower. It also encourages me to learn about the flowers I draw. As if that’s not enough, then, by sending my floral stationery to others I’m sharing my joy, and as you know, sharing doubles the joy. It really does.
With all this going on in my life a walk in the park becomes a special delight for when I spot a wildflower I not only take notice, but I feel like I’ve run into an old friend. I’ve heard you can’t really love what you don’t know so studying flowers, drawing them, and learning about them helps me love flowers even more.
It’s all such fun.
I draw flowers and create all this stationery for my own pleasure but the stationery is available for sale because once again, Sharing truly Doubles the Joy. If interested . . .
Stationery -10 assorted floral designs with an extra blank sheet of paper for each design plus 10 envelopes cost $20.00 plus $2 for shipping and packaging.
Packages of 10 assorted wildflower correspondence cards – each card containing extra blank pages for long juicy letters and 20 envelopes cost $20.00 plus $2 for shipping and packaging.
To order send check to
But whether you order my papers or not I encourage you to write letters and try creating your own stationery. Letter writing and art play are two very wonderful activities. You just might enjoy both as much as I do.
The Red Lion Inn and I go back a long way, not all the way back to 1773 when it first opened, but back to my single days. I happened upon it quite by accident as I was driving to Boston. I was on my way to a house where I was renting rooms for the Summer. The house was in Cambridge. There I would meet up with friends I knew from Boston University.
I didn’t know a thing about this Inn when I first saw it but I later learned it began as a simple tavern. During its first 120 years the Inn expanded several times and went by several names, but it always featured a red lion in its sign, and it has been known as The Red Lion Inn since the 1890’s.
I remember walking into the Inn back then and straight ahead was this dining room. Someone was at a grand piano playing light classics and I was immediately enchanted. I took a seat and enjoyed a lovely fruit salad. That was the beginning of my relationship with this Inn. I returned many times over the years and very recently I was there again, not for one, but for a few extremely delightful Country Inn Days.
What are Country Inn Days? They are days where I step out of life’s usual routines and simply enjoy my favorite things. No matter how good one feels it’s always wonderful to make time for favorite things, and if one needs a little boost, well, you know how that famous song goes – “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.” It’s true.
One of my favorite things are flowers and this Inn has lovely flowers everywhere. There is a feeling of informal formality in every corner. There are so many places to sit here at the Inn enjoying a book or writing a letter with a cool drink at one’s side, all in the presence of beauty. Delightful!
Sometimes it is nice to have an action-packed getaway, and a Country Inn Day can involve action and sometimes does, but I love slow Inn Days too, days filled with simple quiet pleasures – dreaming dreams, people watching, chatting with strangers who could become pen friends, taking leisurely walks in the country past old houses, down country lanes and through historic cemetaries.
The Red Lion Inn is located in the town of Stockbridge, such a pretty little town with many old charming sites. There are shops to investigate, a number of little coffee houses and restaurants, and important historic houses belonging to famous people of the past. These houses are in Stockbridge or in Lenox, the next town over. I’ll share some of these places with you in another post.
When it’s time for dining there are three options right in the Inn. This is Widow Bigham’s Tavern. It’s named after Anna Bingham, one of the Inn’s original owners. She is believed to have been the first business-woman in the country. This tavern reminds me of some of the oldest places I love in Boston.
But when in the mood for a little more informal formality I dined in the main dining room, usually by the window, so I could see the flowers outside. This was the room I first dsicovered all those years ago so when I’m here I feel 40 years younger. It’s funny how returning to places from our past can make us feel we’re back in time.
But on a lovely Summer’s day it’s also great to enjoy a meal on the Inn’s open porch. I got here early so I could choose a table near the railing. Sitting here made it possible to people watch all the diners below at the umbrella tables. I do always bring a book with me when dining alone, but people watching is great fun too.
And here I sit waiting for my pasta meal to arrive.
Of course there’s a swimming pool and sauna and all that jazz, but I’v never been one for baking in the sun. I’m more the porch type of person with my books, letters, pens and paper. But you never know, maybe on one of my visits here I’ll surprise myself and take a dip.
This trip you could usually find me on the porch. I would come very early in the morning with my coffee. I remember one man taking the rocker next to me saying, “Isn’t this wonderful?” I had to agree.
After an hour or two of sipping and writing or reading I’d take off for an outing, then it would be lunch, and around 5 I’d be back on the porch with a cocktail until dinner. I met a number of very nice people and had quite a few lovely chats. All this is great fun for a person who likes people, and that’s me.
Of course the Inn has a gift shop. Over the years I’ve bought all sorts of fun things in this shop – paintings, rugs, shawls, books and this trip was no exception. I bought 6 Red Lion Inn mugs and two Red Lion Inn cocktail glasses… oh yes, and a Red Lion Inn cookbook. I’ll enjoy testing lots of the recipes in this book.
Before leaving The Red Lion Inn I spent some time in the patio garden. What did I tel you about flowers everywhere. My flowers at home should be so robust. How do they do it?
Don’t you love the cute little patio bar?
My last meal at The Red Lion Inn (this sounds so sad) was a tasty fish fry with a glass of wine from that cute little bar, then coffee for the road as I made my way from the Bershires into Boston proper. It was a lovely few days here. I have memories which will last me until I return. But now, simply to close my eyes and remember beautiful things I saw and moments I experienced will be a creative visualization exercise capable of refreshing my spirit whenever refreshemnt is needed.
Until I can return to The Red Lion Inn I will be enjoying lots and lots of my very own County Inn Days back in Hudson, Ohio. The Red Lion Inn inspired these days and I’m working on a book explaining just how these days work. The outline for this book was created right here at the Red Lion Inn.
So if you’re looking for a getaway my suggestion is to visit a Country Inn and not just any Inn.
Perhaps you have a friend you don’t see very often because both of your lives keep running in different directions. This is the case with me and my friend Barbara. Though we live just a few houses away from each other we very seldom have the chance to get together. These days Barb is always traveling and when she does return home it seems I’m busy with something or other making it hard to connect.
Of course since Barb and I are both letter writers we do manage to keep in touch quite nicely even though we can’t often connect in person. We do this by sending each other postcards and chatty handwritten letters. Still, every now and then, not often enough, we do have each other over for afternoon tea.
Ah, afternoon tea!
Do you enjoy afternoon tea? I sure do. Though I drink coffee all through the day, when 3 or 4 o’clock comes around it’s time to stop, sit, pick up a book, and enjoy the gracious afternoon tea ceremony. This is a most welcome ritual I enjoy daily, but once a month I love inviting others to join me for tea.
Some months I invite a group of friends over transforming my tea time ritual into a party. The number of guests I invite depends on where I intend to serve tea that month. You see, I like to vary the locations for my parties. If it’s warm weather I’ll serve outside, under an umbrella, on the open porch, or at a table on the lawn. If it’s cold weather I choose the library, outbuilding or parlor because these rooms have fireplaces. In between weather suggests all other locations – the formal dining room or casual dining table or sofa in the living room, or perhaps the sunroom.
Each area suggests the use of different china, linen and food.
Inviting friends in for tea, or for any sort of entertaining, is much like staging a theatrical production. Setting the scene, choosing the food, flowers, and selecting all the other details is like a great, big, fun, art project.
Since it was a nice warm day but not too warm, and since there was no humidity in the air, nor any strong winds, I decided to serve tea under the umbrella on the patio. A recent rainstorm did do a number on the geraniums in the planter, but perfection is hard to achieve so though I do try to make things nice I’ve given up on perfection and you should too.
I baked an English Lemon Tea cake for my visit with Barbara for I thought an English goodie would be the perfect treat since I was planning to use my English china – my Laura Ashley Tea for Two set. Of course one can always pop in at the bakery and purchase a tea treat, but a little baking now and then is fun – more art.
I bet you have a dear friend as I have in Barb and I bet that friend would just love to be invited to your home for afternoon tea. Barb and I had a wonderful, relaxing in-person visit. Sure, we could’ve met in a restaurant, but there’s something very special about being invited into someone’s home. To allow people into one’s private world is quite special. I don’t think this is done often enough. Since our visit took place in my home I could show Barb the needlepoint pillows I finished for the living room and the newly painted dining room walls. Sharing always doubles the joy.
I’m sure letters will continue to flow back and forth between Barb and me for letterwriting is always a super way to share, but so is inviting a friend over for afternoon tea. I had a great time at tea and I’m pretty sure Barb did too. There’s nothing like having a friend.
I hope you’ll host a tea for two one of these days, then go on to make afternoon tea, alone or with guests, a regular thing in your life. It’s one of those simple pleasures that makes life sweet.
I love flowers, all kinds of flowers, but wildflowers and I go back to my childhood days. As a little girl I created a booklet containing pictures and descriptions of various wildflowers. It was so fun to draw them. I showed the booklet to my teacher expecting her to praise my efforts, but sadly I got nothing from her except a little lecture. She told me all the effort I put into those flowers would be better spent on my general school work. Ugh! I guess she wasn’t much into flowers or art.
I didn’t draw another flower for years and years and years.
But now that I’ve become a lady of letters often creating my own stationary I decided it was time to get back to drawing flowers. Art play is such a relaxing thing. Focusing on beauty is very therapeutic and I’ve read that when we focus on beauty it becomes us. The beauty enters our spirit and lifts us up.
Of course a letter requires a few pages of paper so I add extra sheets into each correspondence card. The cards become little books. Colored twine fastens the pages together.
I also think it’s very nice to say a thing or two about the flower pictured so I write a few lines on the back cover of each card – where you might find the flower or other general information. I guess that’s the teacher in me.
You can enjoy a walk in the park admiring wildflowers but not until you draw them will you notice all the intricacies of their design.
It’s hard to focus on a flower and not feel just a little bit happier. That’s probably why flowers are a great hostess gift or why they’re sent to sad people at the loss of a loved one.
Just like people there are all kinds of flowers – the delicate ones, the big ones and small ones and the prickly ones too. It’s just amazing to me how very many kinds of flowers there are.
I won’t run out of subjects to draw for a very long time.
If you’re one of my pen friends you may have already received one of these wildflower correspondence cards containing a letter, but if you haven’t received one yet you soon will.
I will also be selling these cards at the talks I do promoting the art of letterwriting. One card will sell for $3.00.
Packages of 10 assorted wildflower correspondence cards can be ordered by mail. One package of 10 sells for the discounted price of $20.00 plus $3.00 for postage and handling costs.
If ordering send your check to Carol Ann, Lady of Letters at the address shown above.
But if you enjoy dabbling with watercolor pencils yourself make your own wildflower correspondence cards and write me a nice long letter using one of them because as you know . . .
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
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.
“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.
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?
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.