Why not write a letter

Today we have snow, lots and lots of snow so I won’t be going out to see friends, but I can still visit with friends. All I have to do is write my friends a letter. It’s fun!

I make a delicious hot drink and pull out some paper. I might do a little drawing on that paper first because I do like to dabble in art, but then the fun begins. I get comfortable and just think of my friend writing freely as I would speak to her.

I share what’s been going on in my life – what I’ve been reading, where I’ve been going, what I’ve been thinking and I ask my friend those same questions. What has she been reading? Where has he been going? What is she thinking about these days? A letter must not be only about me.

I think of a time when my friend and I were together and I reflect on that time as I write. Reflection is good. Lord Byron said, “A life without reflection is a sad affair” and I agree. Writing a letter is the perfect time to reflect on anything and everything. We then share those reflections with our friend. Sharing doubles the joy and divides the sorow you know.

My new patio garden

I might enclose a picture in my letter. A picture is worth a thousand words. I’d been telling my letter friends, friends from all around the world, about the garden I was putting in last Summer. Well, why not send them a picture? Most of these people will never have the chance to come to my home for a tea for two under the umbrella – unfortunately. At least they can see my garden in the pages of their letter.

If you’re not already a letter writer you might not know who to write, but once you become a letter writer you’ll have letters to answer, lots and lots of letters. That’s the magic of letter writing. When you give good things come back to you and because you’ll want to answer those letters it will be very easy to know who to write next and what to say. You’ll respond to the things your letter friend told you in her last missive. It’s a conversation not an essay. You write of something going on in your life and then the next paragraph is all about something your letter friend told you. A little give and take makes your letter fun for your friend to read. They want to hear what you thought of their comments, their actions, their projects. A letter is about you, but not all about you.

I’m fortunate to have a lot of delightful letter friends, friends like Becky Ann from Orchard Park, New York, U.S.A. It’s always so nice to get her letter. She lifts me up as she describes the interesting things she’s doing and the beautiful things in her world. I try to lift her up with my letters too. That is the point of friendship, isn’t it? Sure, there’s always doom and gloom in the world but why focus on it. It’s much nicer to focus on the good and the beautiful. As we write about such things we feel good and beautiful. Thoughts have power you know. Maybe you should turn off the news and read a good and inspiring book or take a walk in nature, then write a letter to tell your friend all about those things.

So although I look out my window and see a cold, snowy day, my heart is filled with the warmth of the Thanksgiving Season and I want to share that warmth with others. I may not be able to visit friends in person but there’s nothing stopping me from visiting them via letter.
Letters waiting for my answer

Which letter shall I answer? Fear not, I do have a system. Yes, I’m blessed to have many correspondents and many letters to answer. I haven’t taken the time to count the letters waiting for my attention, but lots of letters is what happens when you write one, two or three letters a day. Your mailbox is a very busy place. It’s filled with love coming and going. So though it’s been fun writing to you about letters it’s now time for me to enjoy writing a letter. If you’re one of my pen friends that letter might just be to YOU!

Do you recognize the letter I’ll be answering? Is it from you? Beautiful stationery deserves beautiful stationery in return so I’m using paper in my Jane Austen collection and of course I’ll also be using my lovely Mont Blanc fountain pen. I hope you’ll be writing a letter too. I’m sure there are lots of people who would love to hear from you and of course you could always write to me. I’d love to hear from you,

So bye for now, be happy and just WRITE!

A Country Inn Gardener’s Day

As you may know I enjoy one Country Inn Day each and every week. These are days I escape from life’s usual demands and do only the things I love. Because I love Country Inns I like to imagine my 1853 Jeremiah Brown House is a Country Inn on these Country Inn days and I take on many roles. I’m Inn Cook, Innkeeper, Inn Gardener, Inn Maid, but of course, most of the time I’m Inn Guest. And there are many kinds of Country Inn Days too – Culture day, Spa day, Nature Day, Tea Party Day, Adventure Day, so many more, but today is a Gardener’s Day. For a large part of today I will function as the Inn’s Gardener.

After some morning coffee and a delicious brioche bun I write a letter. This I do on every day, Inn day or ordinary day because I am a Lady of Letters. I then put on my garden attire ready to work, but before going out, the Inn Cook (me again) has prepared a nice eggs benedict for my morning pleasure. How nice. But now I really am ready to work, but wait! What’s this? RAIN? Oh my, what’s a gardener to do when on Country Inn Gardener’s Day it starts to rain and the rain keeps coming? Answer. The gardener goes shopping. I had noticed there were a few bare spots in the border garden and the circle garden could use a few more roses too, so on this rainy Gardener’s Day I will purchase all the things, or at least more of the things, my garden desires.

Sometime later in the day

What fun I had shopping. Girls just want to have fun you know, especially on a Country Inn Day, so strolling around hundreds of beautuful plants was the perfect thing to make me feel deleriously happy. I would have gone crazy buying lots more than I bought, but I am limited by what my small BMW can hold. Darn. But actually, it is amazing how much I can squeeze into that vehicle.

The Shrub Arbusto

I got a Shrub Arbusto. It’s name is Summer Wine and it’s a Ninebark. It will have pretty pink flowers.

The Pygmy Barberry

Then I chose a few Pygmy Barberry to add a little more accent color to the garden . They’re a pretty crimson. I have quite a few of these plants around the property and no animals bother them because of their prickly leaves.

Here you see some Barberry at the sunroom entrance

I know hosta are a favorite food for the bunnies and deer that live near me and visit my garden all too often, but there was a sale on the Minuteman variety. This variety has very pretty dark green leaves with pure white edges. I couldn’t resist them. My deer and rabbit repellent seems to be working on the hydrangeas so hopefully it will protect these hostas too.

The Minuteman Hosta

Next I found some shrub roses in the prettiest, soft pink.

They’re called easy elegance and they’re disease resistant. I do have luck with roses and I absolutely love these.

Roses from Grace Rose Farm

By the way, if you ever want to send some gorgeous , fragrant roses to a friend I suggest you google Grace Rose Farm in California. This farm is amazing and you will love the choices they have in color and style of bouquet.

But back to my shopping trip… I also bought a few more deep pink double knock out roses for my circle.

The Circle

I have light pink shrub roses and boxwood at the edges of the circle, but inside the circle are herbs, knock out roses and tree hydrangeas. The circle is one of my garden’s success stories. When I moved to this property the circle contained an old, diseased apple tree and a mess of weeds with a few perennials mixed in. It took quite a while, but the circle became quite a lovely thing if I do say so myself.

Almost done shopping . . . I really wasn’t looking for a climbing rose, I have a red one by my entrance door,

The climbing red rose near the entrance door

but when I saw this Arborose Quicksilver I couldn’t resist it. Its flowers look like cabbage roses, and the cabbage rose is one of my favorite rose varieties.

The absolutely beautiful purple climbing rose

They call it purple, but it’s really a pinkish purple. It will look fine by the entrance to the sun room, sitting across from some pink Japanese Anemone.

The Laguna and Aromance along with geraniums in the flower box

That’s almost it except for a few more pots of blue Laguna and pink Aromance. These little gems join my pink and white geraniums in the outdoor flower boxes.

The Fringe Tree

It was a wet and messy shopping trip but I battled the raindrops, packed all my pretty though drippy new plants into the car and off we went. I hope my new beauties will like their new home in my garden. I am so happy to have them. My flowers and bushes are all my friends. (Spoken as any true gardener) I talk to my plants and they bring me so much joy. Don’t you talk to your plants too? Plants are great. Nature is great. It soothes the savage beast in us. My time as Inn Gardener has been very productive. Of course this is only the beginning. Another day the actual planting will begin and so it goes merrily on and on and on and on.

The table is set

There’s a nice dinner later and then some spa time – a bubble bath with champagne and candlelight. Country Inn Days are full of all the things I love. Work and worry can be put off till tomorrow as Scarlet O’Hara would say. Actually, why worry ever?

We create our life experience. Sure, there are things we have to do, but I think it’s also important to create pure days of delight. Country Inn Days are such days and though I’d love to tell you more about them I’ll do that in the book I’m writing.

Afternoon tea

Now I have a date with Barbara Pym, an author, and her most delightful book, Jane and Prudence. Barbara will wisk me off to a quiet English country village and that’s where I’ll be having my afternoon tea with her delightful characters in their charming gardens. Ah books! Ah, to have an imagination!

So till we meet again. I do hope you live richly with all your favorite things and with much imagaination too. Imagination is a terrible thing to waste. If you haven’t been using yours start now. Let me know what you come up with.

Love to you from me, Carol Ann

The weather outside is frightful

But it wasn’t that long ago when temperatures were warm enough to have one last afternoon tea on the porch. With covid I knew I’d need to open all the porch doors so the air would circulate and that’s just what I did. Amazing how the setting can change so drastically when you live up north.

Here we have the sunroom in December with frosty windows and a partial view of snow everywhere.

But not that many weeks ago the porch was the perfect place to safely enjoy tea with friends.

Why do I enjoy afternoon tea so much and why do I go through the trouble of preparing tea parties for my friends? One obvious reason is sharing doubles the joy. I love being of service to others in this way. Of course my tea parties are on hold now that it’s Winter in covid times – no indoor dining, but I continue to enjoy my daily tea ritual with my “dead friends”. What are “dead friends”? They are interesting people of the past. I get to know them as I read thier biographies. A little imagination really helps when one is living through a pandemic.

But today I will share my last Autumn tea party with you. I invited three lady friends

They all came bearing gifts which I really appreciated.

For this tea I decided each place setting should have its own tea pot so each person could choose the particular tea they most enjoy.

Recently I had enjoyed a Country Inn Day in the town of Medina, Ohio and there I stopped at a tea house for a bit of lunch. I brought Gladys Taber along via her book. Do you know this lady? I love her.

Yummy lunch and after my tea I browsed in the gift shop of this tea house and purchased a dozen tea strainers which I was anxious to use – one reason I wanted everyone to have their own tea pot at this next party. I think these tea strainers are very pretty. What do you think?

Could there be anything more elemental than a cup of tea?

Of course I needed to prepare some food for my guests and since I had recently enjoyed a chicken croissant with a broccoli salad I decided I would serve this at my tea.

I always make some kind of scones when I host a tea. There are so many different recipes for scones. I’m always trying new recipes. They’re all pretty good. Today’s scones contained raisins. I serve different toppings for the scones at each tea party. This time it was raspberry jam and lemon curd.

Before my guests arrive I get busy in my butler’s pantry setting the plates all in a row so I can fill them in a systematic manner. Then when the party begins I have little work to do. I can function as just one of the guests and that’s probably why I host tea parties. I like to attend tea parties. I enjoy these events just as much as my guests – maybe even more.

Every one of my teas is a little different. Sometimes I fuss a lot with tricky recipes, but other times I keep things simple. It depends just how much free time I may have and an afternoon tea can be quite enjoyable even if it’s the most simple event. Fancy food can be fun, but the really important thing is the friendship.

On one of my Country Inn Days when my husband and I went off to the Spread Eagle Inn in Hannoverton, Ohio I happened upon a new little shop and found these very sweet English china flowers to hold placecards. I’m always looking for pretty little things to use at my tea parties. There were eight different china flowers each in a different color – so pretty.

Sometimes I bake a dessert but not always. Most of us have lovely markets nearby which carry all sorts of goodies so you see even if you don’t like to cook or bake you have no excuse for never hosting an afternoon tea. Just drop by your local market and pick up a few tasty treats to serve your guests. For this tea I bought a darling little cake just big enough for four.

I did whip up some butter cookies too just because…

After our tea we settled in some comfy cushions on the porch and talked for a little while longer and my afternoon tea party came to an end. I’m anxious to host another tea, but it won’t be happening until the pandemic is over. Won’t it be great when that day finally comes? So stay safe, enjoy your own daily afternoon teas and use this time to plan for the teas you’ll be hosting when the covid virsus is no longer a threat. A tea party is a wonderful thing. So civilized.

Reach out and touch someone – Write them a letter

Anytime at all is a good time to reach out in kindness, but a pandemic is an especially good time to write a caring letter to a friend or relative. Sure, you could telephone. That’s always a nice thing to do, but what a treat it would be for your friend or relative to find a beautiful handwritten letter in their mailbox, a letter just to them. This letter could be chatty and filled with happy thoughts. It could contain lovely memories to warm your friend’s heart or it could be oozing with compliments to brighten your friend’s spirits.

Remember the time you were having a terrible day and someone gave you a compliment? It changed your outlook. We glow when we receive appreciation from others, but we also glow when we’re making a positive difference in another person’s life. Research has shown that those of us who think of others and do something nice for them handle stress better ourselves and feel happier too. I challenge you to write a short loving note or a long delicious letter to someone each day for a week (or longer). I bet you’ll be glad you did even before the appreciative feedback starts rolling in. There’s an old but true saying – when you give good things come back to you.

You could create your own stationery. Draw a flower. Draw anything. If it’s a beautiful drawing it will make your friend smile, but even if it’s a terrible drawing it might still make your friend smile and maybe smile even more. Art play is fun. Creating the stationery for your letter could be art therapy to lift your own spirits. The pandemic may be getting you down and the political situation probably isn’t helping you feel much better either. Getting lost in art activity can take you away to a fun and creative place.

The post office has been suffering lately because many businesses aren’t open sending Their usual flyers, promotions and all that”junk mail” you love so much. Help the post office out by writing lots of letters. My post person assures me The Unites States Postal Service benefits when we the people send out cards and letters. It’s not only businesses that can keep the Post Office healthy. We should do our part, especially now.

You might also like to check out the blog Writealetter.org. I hope you can find the post titled “Our post office is being hijacked.” If you like getting mail – any mail, but especially heartfelt handwritten letters, this post is something you should read.

You could have some fun with the letters you write. Create what I call the Puzzle Letter. Here’s what you do. Write a letter and then cut it up putting the pieces in an envelope with a card explaining the recipient must put the pieces together in order to read the letter. This could be special fun if colored inks are used and a drawing or two exists in the letter. Many of my friends have been telling me they are enjoying puzzles these days so why not double the puzzle fun – a puzzle and a letter in one?

And here’s another fun puzzle idea which came to me from a dear pen friend in Boston. Get hold of a puzzle that has missing parts. The puzzle is not good for much since so many pieces are long gone SO put a small section of the puzzle together and glue it on the front of a sturdy card and then write a letter to a friend in that card – puzzle fun for you and an artful-looking card for your friend in which you can tell them all about this fun idea and all the other fun ideas you’ve had lately.

Remember to insert extra sheets of blank pages when writing a letter using a card of any kind. You can’t fit many words into a card and why would you get your friend all excited finding an envelope handwritten just to them but with only a very short message in that card? You probably have more time these days since the pandemic has you home and your friend probably has more time too, so write a nice long letter for both your sakes.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Maybe you won’t be sharing a meal with others this year, but even if you are, it would still be a great time to write some Thanksgiving letters to people you love. You’re thankful you have these people in your life, right? Well, write some nice letters telling them so.

Maybe you write letters all the time. I hope you do! Fun, isn’t it? But if letter writing hasn’t been something you’ve ever tried I urge you to try writing some letters now. New letter writers I’ve talked to say they are amazed how their friends and family members love, love, love their letters. I’m sure your friends and family would love your letters too. So I say

Try It You’ll Like It

And when you do begin writing letters and getting great letters back along with all sorts of lovey dovey feedback from your friends and relatives write Me a letter and tell me all about it. Sharing doubles the joy you know.

Here’s my address

Carol Ann, Lady of Letters

P.O. Box 1075 Hudson, Ohio 44236, U.S.A.

Promoting The Art of Letter Writing at Lakeside Chautauqua

Lakeside Women’s Club at Green Gables

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

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

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

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

The entrance gate

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

The Train Station

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

My Objective: To Inspire people to write letters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Country Inn Greenbriar Day

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

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

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

Buckle up your seatbelt and here we go.

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

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

the springhouse
The golf clubhouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a couple dressed beautifully comes out to dance a waltz.

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

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

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

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

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

Biking? Maybe tomorrow.

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

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

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

Hamburgers ala peach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treat yourself to Tea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At a tea party you need a lot of cups.

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

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

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

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

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

or you could get comfy on your porch.

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

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

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

Why not write a letter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Country Inn Gardener’s Day

“We must cultivate our garden.” —-Voltaire

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

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

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

The kitchen flower box

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

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

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

the circle

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

the ever blooming, fragrant circle roses

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

inside the circle

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

the sistern, old fashioned water pump and hose

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

the old fashioned/ new fangled water pump

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

The secret garden

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

mock orange

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

lenten rose and wild ginger beneath it

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

The outbuilding

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

The rock garden

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

coral bells

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

the old bell

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

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

my angel

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

more statuary

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

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

part of the east yard

You see the rock garden and beyond it the new patio

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

view of the patio from the house

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

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

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

An Afternoon Telephone Tea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy a Telephone tea!