My Country Inn Day in the Country

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As you may already know my Country Inn Days are days of escape from life’s usual routines. They are days I imagine my 1853 house to be an Inn for I just love Country Inns.  On my Inn Days I am Innkeeper, Inn Cook, Inn Maid, but most importantly Inn Guest.  I enjoy all sorts of lovely activities at my Inn just as I would if I were a guest at some other Inn.  Sometimes I entertain on Inn Days opening my Inn up to others.  I might host a tea or dinner,  but most Inn Days will involve some sort of outing.  It might be a short and simple outing –  a lunch out, a stroll through nature or through town, a visit to a book shop or a few local gift shops.  It might be an outing out of town to another city or country, but one of the reasons Inn Days are so satisfying is that I always operate exactly as I would if on a real vacation.

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Some Country Inn Day outings take me into the city.  I may visit hotels, museums, elegant shops, beautiful restaurants, tea houses. . . but other Inn Day outings take me into the country… and rightly so, for a Country Inn Day  should include time in the country some of the time.  If you are as fortunate as I am to live in a charming historic town between city and country you too could enjoy this variety in your outings.  I hope this is possible for you because variety is truly the spice of life. Our world offers so much to us.  It is for us to take advantage of these offerings.

So today I partake in a “Country” Country Inn Day. I’m not just going off to enjoy nature. I’m going back in time to enjoy a country setting of long ago.  I’m going to the Historic Hale Farm and Village.

Country Inn Days capitalize on imagination and visiting a historic farm and village gives me a chance to not only enjoy nature, but also to imagine I’m going back in time.  We live in modern times but it’s rather refreshing to slip back a hundred years or so every now and then.  If you agree you might like to join me on my outing today.

And we’re off!

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Hale farm and Village depicts rural life in Ohio’s Western Reserve from the time of Jonathan Hale’s arrival to the area in 1810.

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Here one can tour the very house Jonathan Hale built for his family.  I love old houses.  As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his poem Haunted Houses – “All houses wherin men have lived and died are haunted houses… Through the open doors the harmless phantoms on their errands glide, with feet that make no sound upon the floor.”  I walk through the house and yes, I can easily imagine people of long ago going about their daily tasks right here in the very rooms where I too am standing.

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I love walking out from the house and down the road.  There are no modern sites to be seen, only beautiful nature and country settings.  I wish you could get a whiff of the air.  It’s full of sweet scents of clover and grasses.

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I stroll down shady pathways.

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I enjoy babbling brooks.

The beauty of nature offers the same thrill to us today that it offered people long ago.  Maybe we can receive even more of a thrill from nature today because we do not necessarily indulge in  its beauty as often as we could (and should).

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I keep walking and come to the village.  This is a tract of land where historic buildings have been relocated so visitors can come and enjoy a variety of historic structures without needing to drive all over creation. This Greek Revival meetinghouse dates from 1852.  It was originally  occupied by Baptists, but later by Methodists.  Typically, meetinghouses were centrally located on a village green so this building looks right at home here in this little village.

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Liking old houses as I do, I particularly enjoy touring  the historic houses of this village.  There are many other structures here – a corn crib, sugar house, a land office,  law office, pottery barn and many other things, but it’s the houses I’m most interested in.  This is the Jagger House.  It was built in 1845 and I have particular interest in its interior because one of my old Hudson neighbors, Phil Keegan, a master stencil artist,  stenciled its interior walls reproducing its original design.

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This house, the Herrick House, built in 1845, is an outstanding example of a Greek Revival stone structure.  I learned of the 7,500 Western Reserve houses listed on the Ohio Historic Inventory, less than one half percent are square-cut stone structures like this one.  The stone is just beautiful!

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There are a number of other houses here, but my favorite house in the village is the Jonathan Goldsmith House. It is another Greek Revival house dating from 1830-1832.  I’m partial to this house because I once owned an 1829 house myself and this house reminds me of my old house. In fact, the flat stones making up the front porch of my old house are the same stones used in the basement of the Goldsmith house.  You see, my old house acquired these stones because we knew the right person.  It was the architect who worked for Hale Farm and Village.  We happened to be restoring our old house when the Goldsmith House was being moved to and set in its new location here in the village.

This house is named for its builder and architect, Jonathan Goldsmith.  Goldsmith is recognized as one of the finest architects in the Reserve. His structures include elaborate carvings and high quality construction.  This house is an excellent example of his work.  The Cleveland Museum of Art has one of Goldsmith’s beautiful entry doors. I admire it every time I visit the museum.

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I enjoy strolling in and out of the houses, but I also delight in the gardens.  I love an herb garden and I take time noticing just what’s growing in the herb gardens here.  I get ideas for my own herb garden back home.

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Now maybe you wouldn’t enjoy seeing the outhouse, but I sure do.  This one was built in 1850. An outhouse is sometimes known as the “necessary” or “privy”.  I’ve had my own experiences with an outhouse as a young girl.  My Dad was raised on a farm in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. As a little girl I would visit my Grandmother on that farm and back in those days there was no indoor bathroom.  I have distinct memories of visiting the outhouse there. You don’t forget a thing like that – especially its smell.

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My Dad had a very different childhood back in the day.  Besides having an outhouse he also went to school in a one room school house, so when I see this schoolhouse in the woods my imagination not only goes back to 1816, but also to my father’s boyhood days.

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I really feel like I’m going back into time. Talk about a Country Inn Day being a day of imagination!  My imagination, along with this outing, is taking me far away and to times long ago.

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I doubt my father’s teacher dressed like the lady I see, but the children back in the 1800’s must’ve enjoyed this scene every day.  This particular schoolhouse dates back to 1816.  I learned that log structures such as this were usually the first structures on the frontier and they were abandoned when their owners could afford to replace them with more modern frame buildings so they often became schoolhouses.  Did you know that?  I didn’t.

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As I continue to stroll the grounds of this historic village I run into many other people dressed in clothing of the early 1800’s.  I enjoy chatting with many of them – like the ladies  who are seated here. They are peeling apples in order to make apple butter.  The wood fire beneath their kettle adds a nice cozy scent to the air.

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 We speak about knitting and other feminine subjects just as ladies of the 1800’s might have done on a nice Autumn afternoon.

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It’s fun to see the colorful hens walking about.  When was the last time you saw a hen?  Actually, my Hudson neighbor has hens to provide her with fresh eggs and she’s given some of these eggs to me.  Gee, I’d love to have my own hens. I remember seeing such hens like these back on my grandmother’s farm all those years ago.  Once again sights here of the 1800’s are mixed with my own memories and  I’m filled with all sorts of feelings and emotions.  This Country Inn Day is really taking me away.

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To think I’m only a few miles from my town of Hudson, but looking around, I feel I’m deep in the country. The Hale Barn constructed in 1854 was built shortly before Jonathan Hale’s death. This Farm Barn is the focal point of the farmyard here.  I happen to have a barn at my 1853 Jonathan Brown House, but it’s nothing like this barn which is filled with early farm equipment and livestock.  My barn is filled with cars and garden supplies.

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I see sheep grazing in a field. If you need to calm down I suggest taking a walk where you can gaze upon bucolic scenes like this.

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And there’s nothing like watching a bunch of 200 pound pigs carrying on in their pig pen.

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I look at this fellow and a line of poetry comes to mind

Men (or pigs) look through the same bars

Some see mud and some see stars

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I can’t help getting poetic.  Nature does that to me.  It’s just so beautiful here.  They say for years, guests were drawn to the peace and isolation of the Hale Farm.  The grounds of Hale were breathtaking, with gardens, hedgerows, pastureland, farm animals, flowers, beehives and an abundance of fruit trees, mostly apples.

When Western Reserve Historical Society opened Hale Farm to the public in 1958, the Akron Beacon Journal invited readers to “leave the happy confusion and noise of Akron” for the peace, quiet and beauty of the Jonathan Hale Homestead Museum in what was known then as “Ira Valley.”

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Well, that was very good advice because time in the country at a historic farm and village is a terrific getaway for a Country Inn Day or any day you might be seeking a delightful change of pace and a great big dose of natural beauty.

My next Country Inn Day just might take me to New York City, to the center of Manhattan, or to a lovely Spa, or maybe to a real Country Inn.  It’s fun to mix things up.  But today’s Country Inn Day in the country at a historic farm and village was just what I needed.  I believe God wants us to live abundantly.  He gives us so much to appreciate and enjoy.  It’s for us to take advantage of all these blessings and today’s Country Inn Day was certainly a blessing to me. I hope you treat yourself to Country Inn Days, or whatever you call the days in which you step out of life’s usual routines and into days of exploration and adventure.

Till next we meet

Live richly!

 

The “Spirit” of Hospitality

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It’s October and Autumn is in the air.  Spirits are in the air too.  There’s one particular little spirit that flutters back and forth past the porch of my 1853 Jeremiah Brown House. It’s a little white ghost. Whenever I see this ghost my thoughts wander off to a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The poem is called Haunted Houses.

“All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses…there are more guests at table than the host invited…my friend at fireside cannot see the things I see nor hear the sounds I hear.  He but sees what is, whereas unto me all that has been is visible and clear.”

Another type of spirit that is visible and clear to me is the Spirit of Hospitality.  Hospitality.   I think it’s  a wonderful thing, defined as the act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests in a friendly or generous way.

Strangers or guests

Do you entertain guests and even strangers too?  I do.  At many of my afternoon teas I ask guests to bring a friend. In this way I have the fun of meeting new people, and this makes me think of those words from the bible talking about the possibility of strangers being angels in disguise.

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We’re always told to love our neighbor, but one can’t love a person they don’t know, and in order to really get to know someone it’s necessary to spend time together… time spent chatting and sharing.  We can do this chatting and sharing in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of places.  I get to know many people from all around the world through the art of letter writing,  but I also enjoy getting to know people through in person visits and my favorite place for these visits is in my very own home.  That’s because . . .

 

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Home is where the heart is

Many of us work hard to make our house a home.  We fill our house with things we love.  We clean and polish, decorate according to our own unique taste, and in this way we express ourselves.  Our home captures our spirit.  Even if we’re not present a visitor can walk into our house and get a real sense of who we are.

So

if we’re trying to get to know people better and we want them to get to know us,  I think inviting them into our home is the best way and place in which to cultivate and grow friendship.  I’m surprised so few people share my thinking.  Don’t you enjoy being invited to someone’s home – for dinner, tea, cocktails or anything?   I sure do, and I equally enjoy doing the inviting.

I love to host intimate events where good conversation abounds.  Cooking and baking are two of my favorite things so it’s great fun for me to plan a dinner, luncheon or tea,  but even if cooking and baking are not your favorite things it’s still easy to entertain.   So why don’t more people share my thinking?  I wish I knew.  It’s not so much about food as it is about the sharing of spirit.

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Joy and Carol Ann

Recently I had a delightful day of sharing with one of my pen friends.  Meet Joy.

I first met Joy through The Letter Exchange, an organization for letter writers.  She was living in Switzerland at the time, but later she moved to South Carolina.  Through letters we’ve been sharing for years and getting to know each other very well.  We’ve become kindred spirits entirely through our letters.  But what a thrill when Joy told me she’d be passing through my town and wanted to stop by for an in person visit. How delightful!

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The day of Joy’s visit arrived.  I made  a batch of my cream scones with raspberries and whipped cream, pulled out my Laura Ashley Tea for Two china and strolled around my house and garden deciding where we should settle in to do our sharing.

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The weather has been beautiful this Autumn so I decided we should have our tea and conversation outdoors on the porch and since it would just be the two of us why not choose the small, open porch with a view of nature.

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I set a small cloth on the table and proceeded to arrange the china, going out to the garden to snip a rose and some mint and lavender. Nothing like flowers and herbs.  I wanted everything to be pretty for my friend.

Here, in this peaceful setting, we could talk and listen to each other, deepening our friendship.

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It’s not necessary to fuss with settings – food, china, flowers,  but I think these things are a very nice touch.  They can help in creating a very pleasant situation for a friend’s visit and can only help to make that friend feel special and highly valued.

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I’m a Romantic and beauty in any of its forms delights me.  Though I try to create beauty for my guests I must say I get a lot of joy and satisfaction from this beauty too.  Beauty seems to become us.

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Joy seemed to enjoy the scones – just that simple little food treat, but the real treat (at least for me) was the sharing of our spirits.  Friendship is a wonderful thing.  I don’t believe we’re meant to live solitary lives.  Friendship doubles the joy in life just as sharing doubles the joy.

We can share in a variety of ways.  I love the old fashioned ways – the art of letter writing and the art of hospitality. I encourage you to practice both arts.  They may be forgotten, but both arts are as delightful today as they ever were.

When you give good things come back to you.

Letters, Invitations to tea, friendship,  and more . . .

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I wish for you the wonderful kind of friendship Joy and I share.

Truly.

Carol Ann

Letter friends – out of sight but never out of mind

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Recently I was reading a book called “A History of American Literature since 1870”, and in that book Mark Twain and his work was discussed at length.  Upon reading a passage from Twain’s “Old times on the Mississippi” in which he described the home town of his youth, Hannibal, Missouri, my thoughts instantly traveled to one of my pen friends.  You see, my pen friend Greg also makes Hannibal is home.  Greg is very proud of Mark Twain and rightly so.

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Every one of Greg’s letters is marked with  a Mark Twain postage stamp.  He even sent me a sheet of Mark Twain stamps so I too could post my letters to him using these stamps.  Needless to say, anytime the name Mark Twain comes up in conversation, or in any other way, Greg comes to mind.  He lives far away from me.  We’ve never even met in person, but through letters I’m getting to know Greg quite well, better than any of my next door neighbors in my town of Hudson, Ohio.  Greg’s out of sight, but not out of mind.

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How is it we can cultivate meaningful friendships without physical contact?  We can do this easily if we share our true spirits through thoughtful, written conversation. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to get to know the heart of a person if we’re not distracted by physical appearance. Physical first impressions can color what we hear a person saying. For that very reason I don’t ask to see pictures of  my new correspondents met through friendship books ( little handmade booklets filled with names and addresses of people interested in getting to know each other through the mail.  These little booklets are sent from one letter friend to another.) or through The Letter Exchange (an organization which introduces letter writers to each other). Sometimes years go by before I have any idea what a pen friend looks like. Sometimes I never know, but yet sight unseen, I can feel that pen friend is a best friend.  After all, poets tell us Letters mingle souls  and how nice it is to rid ourselves of the physical now and then.

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Friendship is a wonderful thing and there are so many kinds of friendships – school friends, work friends, relatives, neighbors, friends who share our hobbies, old friends and new ones. They’re all great!  But letter friends can become some of the best, and I maintain –  the more the merrier.

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Though we may seldom, if ever, get together with a pen friend in person, we may know them quite well if they’ve shared their personal stories and feelings in their letters to us.

Sark, in her book, “Succulent Wild Woman” writes, ” A story can travel without you and inspire many.  The tiniest story in your life can deeply touch another.  You cannot know the effect your story may have.” But whatever effect stories shared in letters have, we can be sure these stories help people get to know each another.

And this makes me think of a song with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

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Getting to know you, getting to know all about you;

Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.

Getting to know you, putting it my way, but nicely.

You are precisely my cup of tea.

Getting to know you, getting to feel free and easy;

When I am with you getting to know what to say.

Haven’t you noticed suddenly I’m bright and breezy?

Because of all the beautiful and new

things I’m learning about you

Day by day.

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While going through my attic the other day I came upon my old, blue typewriter.  What did it make me think of?  It made me think of my lovely pen friend Amy.  Amy lives in Pennsylvania. Though Amy is quite the modern woman she enjoys typing on her old typewriter now and then just for fun, and wouldn’t you know, Amy’s typewriter is blue just like mine.  Amy writes terrific letters and she’s quite the artist too.  Her stationery is always a delight to behold. Letter writers do appreciate lovely stationery and we love letters that look as good as they read.  Amy’s letters are the best!

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And whenever I make a cup of tea who do you think comes to mind?  It’s my pen friend Kim, also from Pennsylvania.  Kim loves traveling to England and Scotland and she loves taking tea in those places.  She has sent me lots of pictures from her travels – tea houses and the tea goodies she enjoys there. Getting her letters with these photos is such fun.  I look at her pictures and my imagination kicks in.  I feel I’m with her, sharing my tea, not in my kitchen, but in Scotland or England at some cozy tea house. What fun, and I have my pen friend Kim to thank.

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And if I’m out in nature I’m always thinking of my pen friend, Janet.  Janet lives in Virginia. She loves nature as I do and she also loves to photograph nature so every one of her letters is filled with pictures of the things she recently saw when out on one of her nature expeditions.  One picture is truly worth a thousand words, but she adds eloquent  verbal descriptions of those pictures ( she’s a former English teacher so of course Janet’s a great writer.) I’m getting to know Janet quite well, but also the nature world of Virginia, thanks to Janet’s letters.

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There are so many lovely people in the world and I’m so pleased to be writing to many of them … people like Michelle in Washington D.C..  She has the most beautiful handwriting.  When we’re not writing each other we both enjoy intimate sharing in charming places.  No wild parties for us or loud, noisy restaurants where you can’t think or barely hear the person sitting beside you. Michelle and I are kindred spirits.

Michelle is forever kind and shows an interest in many things.  I’m one of those things, as are her other correspondents, and it’s very comforting to know there are people out there who care about me?  I care about Michelle too and all my many pen friends.  Caring about others is a wonderful thing.  We step out of our own lives and concerns, focus on someone else, and return to our own life with renewed contentment.

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Pen friends may live far away but through letters their spirit surrounds us at all times bolstering us up and helping us feel rich.  Our pen friends may be out of sight, but they are seldom out of mind. I hope you have a pen friend, or better yet, lots of pen friends.

Letters shrink the world into a friendly neighborhood.

A Country Inn Day Summer Luncheon

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Any time of year is the right time to welcome guests to The 1853 Jeremiah Brown House, but when my work schedule slows down in Summer I’m even more ready to entertain.  On Country Inn Days I sometimes like to imagine I’m the  Innkeeper of my old house.  I take great pleasure in getting the place ready for guests – fluffing, polishing, preparing the menu and planning the agenda so my guests have a pleasant visit.  Yes, it’s a bit of work but very delightful work.

It’s fun looking through my cookbooks to choose the recipes I’ll be serving. It’s also fun reviewing my china and linen cupboards.  What items haven’t  been used lately?

I just love to collect pretty things, don’t you?  But what’s the point in having pretty things if we don’t put them to use.  I think we should use our pretty things every day, but sharing them doubles the joy.  Sharing is like that.

Depending on the weather or my mood I’ll entertain guests in various rooms and settings.  I also like to move guests around through the course of a visit.  Variety is the spice of life, right? So as I plan the food and the serving pieces I also plan an agenda for where we’ll do what.  A very short visit works well in one location, but if guests are to be with me for a longer period of time I think it’s fun to move them around a little.

So all this goes into the planning of any sort of event at The Jeremiah Brown House.

For today’s Summer luncheon I decided to start things off with coffee and pastries in the formal dining room.  I’ll use my antique cutwork placemats which look pretty against the dark wood of the table.

I’ll also use my Laura Ashley china.  It’s the Clifton pattern. Rather than bringing the coffee, tea and pastries to my guests I decide to set up a buffet in the Butler’s Pantry and let guests help themselves.

And here it is !

Because this food is meant to be just a little nibble before the main luncheon is served I’ve presented only two items.  They are . . .

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

and Cheese Strudel.

The cheese strudel is always a big hit at my gatherings so in case you might like the recipe here it is –  quick and easy.

Cheese Strudel

Ingredients: 2 pkgs. Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, 2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, 1 c. sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 tsp. vanilla, (2 Tbsp. warm milk, 1 c. powdered sugar mixed together for the glaze).

Process: Beat cram cheese, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla together.  Spread one tube crescent rolls in a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Pinch perforations together.  Spread cheese mixture over dough.  Unroll the second package of rolls, placing them on top of cheese mixture (you may pinch the edges together).  Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.  Brush on the glaze immediately after removing strudel from the oven.  Refrigerate.

The buffet is ready as is the table.  Now for the guests . . . and here they are!

Marilyn and Evelyna

Marilyn and Evelyna

and

Connie and Jackie

Connie and Jackie

See the bright, happy smiles on girls who want to have fun. These gals are a few of my wonderful friends. Girlfriends are the best!  They’re in the right place for a fun day too because as host I will do my very best to make everything as pleasant and delicious as possible for them.  After all, that’s my job as Innkeeper, isn’t it?

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The girls make their way to the Butler’s Pantry and they help themselves to the goodies I’ve prepared.  At this point I can transform myself from Innkeeper to just another Inn guest – at least for a few minutes. That’s the magic of a Country Inn Day.

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Happy guests, chatting away.  I pour myself some coffee.  Yes girls, I’m coming to join you.

But after a while I excuse myself because I have to get ready for the next stage of this visit.

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Remembering a Summer Tea from Days Gone By

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When birds are singing and flowers are blooming and all of nature is bursting out in lush greenery it’s lovely to move Afternoon Tea outdoors. We in the North have plenty of opportunity to sip our tea in dining rooms, living rooms and libraries during the cold Winter months, but in Summer it’s important to take advantage of outdoor living spaces.

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Nature is so marvelous and here at The Jeremiah Brown House I care about the grounds outside the house as much as I care about the settings indoors.  I try to enjoy and use every inch of the property and sharing it doubles my joy.

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It’s been this way since my husband and I purchased the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House some seven years ago. This house and grounds had good bones but additions and improvements were needed. Way back when I’d look out the kitchen window at a trellis room, old and romantic, and though  I loved it, the years had taken a toll on its untreated wood.  The Trellis  room was beyond repair.

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But I loved looking up in this open-air room that had no ceiling.  There was nothing to block the view of puffy white clouds and blue sky. We knew this room’s days were numbered though.  It had to go in order to make way for the house addition we were planning.

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The old stone patio just beyond the Trellis Room with its view of the side yard would have to go too.  Sad, but necessary. The stone was crumbling and needed too much repair.  The years had taken its toll on the patio too.

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Plans were drawn up for a new addition  and work was soon to begin, but first a few final events were held in these old spaces.

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One such event was a simple tea for two old friends.  The  old Trellis Room teamed up with lovey old friends.  This seemed right.  Afternoon Tea served here was a simple affair.  After all, every tea does not need to be an elaborate event.  I wish more people would realize this for maybe then they would enjoy hosting teas of their own.  The Art of Entertaining seems to be a dying art. (Whoa is me!)  People say they’re too busy, but I think there should always be time set aside for gracious hospitality no matter how busy people may be.  That’s just me.

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After all, how much work is involved in making tea?  Not much work at all.

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And if one is not a baker that presents no problem for super markets and bakeries provide all sorts of cookies that will please guests. Afternoon tea is mostly about intimate sharing.  The food and tea are nice accompaniments to the sharing, but not the most important things.

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Of course if one does enjoy working in the kitchen, baking and cooking up goodies, all the better. Food is art and most of us love it!  I like to experiment with new recipes.  I think it’s fun, but as I said, one doesn’t have to do this. To host a tea one simply needs to tidy up the house or tea setting, set a few refreshments out, and then enjoy the afternoon along with their guests.

The recipe I prepared for my Trellis tea was Chicken Salad Puffs, elegant sandwiches with a crunchy, sweet pecan topping.  If you’d like to make these sandwiches for yourself here’s the recipe.




Chicken Salad Puffs

2 and 1/2 c. cooked chicken; 1 c. celery, finely chopped; 4 small green onions, chopped; 1 c. mayonnaise; 2 tsp. Dijon mustard; salt and pepper to taste; frozen puff pastry, thawed; caramelized pecans, chopped.

Process:  In a mixing bowl, combine chicken, and green onion.  Mix together Dijon mustard and mayonnaise.  Pour this over chicken mixture along with salt and pepper.

For the caramelized pecans: Heat 1/2 c. sugar until melted (about 4 minutes on medium heat stirring constantly).  Stir in the pecans.  Pour mixture onto waxed paper to cool.  Use whole or coarsely ch0pped nuts for garnish.

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Chicken puffs, cookies, and a little fruit –  a very simple and easy menu for any Afternoon Tea.  Just add a warm and friendly spirit, some friends, and all are bound to have a very pleasant afternoon, you especially.

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Caring and sharing with old friends and with new ones,  adding a few tea treats,  some smiles and conversation, all in a relaxed manner, is a surefire recipe for a happy day.   It’s also the recipe for gracious entertaining and gracious living.

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The Trellis Room and stone patio are now gone and in their place is this addition built onto the old house.  New gardens are in the plans. These plans will keep our creativity activated.

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I’m thinking of something like this design set in the side yard.  It was pictured in the February/March issue of “Traditional Homes” magazine.  A stone path could connect the new porch to this wooden structure creating a new and very Romantic setting for future Summer teas. I’ll always miss the old Trellis Room and stone patio but I have my memories and my photographs to remember my fine times there.

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Until the new garden structure is added a Summer tea for three or four can take place on this new porch. Here, with a roof over over heads, we won’t even have to worry about birdies dropping surprises on our chicken puffs as we did in the charming but slightly dangerous Trellis room.

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Yes, I miss the old Trellis Room, but onward and upward we all must go.  Cherish the past but keep looking forward to the future and all its possibility.  I hope you have some nice things to look forward to in your future, maybe a nice tea of your own.  If so, I’d love to hear all about it. Do share.  Sharing doubles the joy.

I love the old world, but I’m glad I was not born before tea.

The Joy of Letter Writing

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When was the last time you wrote a personal letter for no reason other than to let a friend or relative know you were thinking of them?  I wrote two letters a few hours ago.  This is a daily ritual with me.  It feels great to take my mind off my own life and focus on the life of someone else.  I have my regular pen friends, but I also enjoy sending letters off to relatives and local friends, people I like who I don’t have the opportunity to see often or ever!

I enjoy pausing in my busy day to reflect on life for if I  go, go, go and never stop life becomes one long “to do” list offering me no chance to ponder and appreciate those very things that I’m doing. I double my fun by “doing” things and then “reflecting” on those things.  Lord Byron (one of my “dead friends”) had it right when he said, “A life without reflection is a sad affair.”   I think reflection is important.  It gives us a chance to stop and relax in between activities.

I could reflect and keep the reflections to myself, but I truly believe sharing doubles the joy, so I share my reflections in the letters I write to my pen friends.  My pen friends then share their reflections with me.  It’s a wonderful cycle.

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I know I could use the telephone as my way to reach out to others, but I might call at an inconvenient time for my friend.  Just because I’m in the mood to share doesn’t mean my friend has the time just then.  A letter is polite.  It arrives, but can wait to be read at whatever time is convenient.  It can also be kept and read again and again and again.  A letter is lasting.  Why would someone want to reread a letter you ask?   Well, if we write letters full of kind thoughts, compliments and beautiful ideas our friends might like to reread our letters when they need a lift.

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Besides all this, there’s art involved in letter writing, not only the personal art of our handwriting, but also the opportunity for us to enjoy a little art play as we create our stationery. Creativity is very therapeutic and good for the soul.  There are plenty of machine-made items in the world today but how many handmade articles do you encounter daily?   A hand written letter will always stand out because not only is it personal, and handmade, but it is also quite rare in these modern days.

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I love writing letters but I get equal pleasure from receiving letters like this one from my pen friend Sarah in Viroqua, Wisconsin.  With lots of pen friends the whole world becomes your friendly neighborhood.  As you write to all sorts of people with all sorts of interests and experiences your life is enriched.

My pen friend Sarah is a real health food person.  She shares all sorts of healthful recipes with me and whether or not I make these things I enjoy reading about them – things like her snacks of yogurt with carob powder and sorghum. Sarah eats sorghum morning and night.  She says it digests slowly and is a good fuel source.  Did you ever eat sorghum?

Sarah buys grass fed beef hot dogs, chops up 2 eggs right out of the shell, adds celery seed with a liberal pad of butter, some spinach, parsley or cilantro, and cooks it all up to create a lunch she loves.  Well, it’s not exactly a lunch I would love, but I enjoy the subject of  food and discussing it in letters is interesting to me.  Would you find this subject interesting too?

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Sarah said she doesn’t eat much bread but if she does indulge it has to be Sprouted Organic Ancient Grains – The Queen’s Khorasan.  Ever hear of it?  I hadn’t.  It’s made with sprouted khorasan wheat, an ancient grain that entertained Egyptian royalty more than 5,000 years ago. Who would know?  Pen friends teach me all sorts of things about food and about many other subjects as well.

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I may not be able to hop on a plane and travel to far off places, but because I have pen friends in those far off places it’s easy for me to enjoy virtual outings whenever these friends write to me sharing their world.  One such special friend is Joanna who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Besides her beautiful handwriting and her Scottish news I love to see the stamps on her envelopes.

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Joanna also shares picture postcards from her travels.  These post cards always contain lovely descriptions and lots of background information.  I could just read The New York Times travel section (which I do read) or National Geographic, but there’s something special in getting a friend’s personal reaction to a place.   Do you recognize the picture above?  It’s a  picture of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  Joanna visited it recently and found it interesting that in any other Renaissance building most people would spend hours admiring the painted ceilings, the immense collection of classical sculptures and the portraits of European monarchs of the 16th and 17th centuries, but she noticed no one was paying any attention to any of those features at the Uffizi Gallery because they were too busy looking at the other paintings. I too love art and my pen friends help me see things I would otherwise not have a chance to see.

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Did I just say I love art?  Yes I did, all kinds of art,  so you can see why I enjoy finding creative letter envelopes in my mailbox.  This one is from my pen friend Kathy who lives in York, Pennsylvania. Kathy loves cats.  She often draws a cat on her letter envelope among other things). I love seeing her art work.  She especially loves her cat Alice, but Kathy loves lots of good things that I also appreciate, especially her love of  classical music and singing in a choir.

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No, this isn’t Kathy’s Alice, but I wonder if Kathy would  dress Alice up in this way.  Kathy tells me there was a “dress up your pet contest” and this cat pictured was a winner.   I wonder if Alice would put up with a hat and earrings.  My dog would never have heard of such a thing. But to each his own.  I  have some catnip in my garden and I’m planning to send it to Alice via Kathy.  I never had a cat, but I do love animals, and any friend of Kathy’s is a friend of mine, a friend deserving of a little present now and then.

Letters are wonderful.  I can’t imagine living without them. Some letters are serious and others are whimsical.  Some letters educate and others just share simple pleasures.  Letters add so much to my life and I know they would add as  much to your life too.

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I hope you are a letter writer.  I hope you have lots of lovely pen friends as I do.  I hope you enjoy art play creating your very own stationery. It’s all so good!  The Art of Letter Writing is not a lost art.  It still exists.  All it needs is You!  Write your friends and relatives.  Join The Letter Exchange if you need a few new interesting pen friends.  Leave a comment on this post.  I’d love to hear from you myself.

Just Write!