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
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.
On this Country Inn “in” Day or on any day I’m confined to stay in due to the corona virus, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad. Actually I do more than remember them. I enjoy them. Take, for instance, the Art of Letter writing.
And I don’t just write letters, I enjoy creating the stationery too. Some stationery I try to make pretty, as in my wildflower correspondence cards, but with other stationery I just have fun.
The Art of Letter writing is great fun any time, anywhere, and a wonderful way to stay in touch with friends near and very far away without ever having to leave my inn or your very own home.
Another favorite thing I enjoy on Country Inn “in” Days is reading. I need lots of these “in” days if I’m ever going to read all the books I’ve collected. I love visiting with my “dead friends” as I read their biographies. Just this week I had visits with Aristotle, Noel Coward, Tasha Tudor, and Henry James. I learn so much from these people and am greatly inspired and entertained. What will I read today? I’ll just have to see what jumps out at me as I scan my bookshelves.
Staying “in” is a great time to watch a movie, put feet up, make a drink and do needlework. This is a picture of my late pooch, Alexander. I miss him so, but I’m making this needlepoint picture of him which I’ll frame in a beautiful manner and hang in a place of honor. Do you enjoy any form of needlework? It’s very relaxing and therapeutic. The owner of my favorite yarn shop tells me many of her customers are doctors and people with stressfull jobs. They buy yarn and knit because it takes them away from all their cares as they knit one, purl two over and over and over again. I too enjoy knitting, et toi?
A fun thing to do most any “in” day is to care for indoor plants. Do you have many? I keep my geraniums from year to year in my sunroom where the western exposure keeps them blooming all Winter. Soon many will go back outside into the flower boxes. Watering, fertilizing, caring for house plants is an enjoyable activity because caring for any living thing feels good.
Speaking of living things, maybe you are lucky enough to have pets to care for and play with on “in” days and any day. As I said before, I so miss my Alexander, but I have this stuffed version of him to enjoy. My meanie husband says, “No more dogs!” Hmph! We’ll see about that, but if you are fortunate to have a fuzzy creature you live with, give him or her a hug for me. Pets can keep us so very entertained.
Since I absolutely love music, especially classical music, and piano, an “in” day is a great day to dig out the Debussy, Chopin, and Beethoven and play away. When I’m not making music I’m listening to it. Music helps me keep calm and carry on. As I write this post to you I am listening to WQXR, the classical music radio station out of New York City. I’m hearing Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite, Op,40. Nice!
I hope you have a good imagination. I sure do and that’s why I can stay home, in my 1853 Jeremiah Brown House, but imagine I’m writing you from a Country Inn. Another fun thing that requires only a little imagination is to go off to favorite places with the help of books or creative visualization. What’s creative visualization? It’s simply lying back, closing eyes, and remembering the favorite places that have brought you joy. . . going their in spirit.
For me it’s always France, especially Paris, or The Boston Public Garden. But I also like to go off to Bryant Park in New York City or imagine myself sitting on a park bench across from Lake Skaneattles in the New York Fingerlakes. I bet you have a few places you could go to right now if you closed your eyes and simply remembered being there.
At this time of year it’s great fun to stroll through the yard to see what’s popping up. My daffoldis are appearing, the forsthyia is blooming and I’m watching for the giant purple allium I planted last Autumn. I could actually do a little garden work today. I love to be outside to enjoy the scent of the boxwood and the cheery singing of the birdies. Yes, nature is there for all of us to enjoy. It’s free and it’s beautiful.
I might do a little art work on this “in” day. A while back I needed something to fill a blank wall in my sunroom. I couldn’t find anything that was the right color or size so I made these three paintings myself. They’re not great art, but they do the job, and it was fun. Besides, my “dead friend” Henry James said, “It is art that makes life, makes interest . . . and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.”
Of course I always enjoy a nice afternoon tea on Inn days and on every day. I freeze the extra goodies from the monthly teas I host so there’s always a little something to enjoy with tea. Ah, afternoon tea.! I love it, and so did Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, the English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century. He said, “The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which . . .I particularly enjoy.” and so do I!
So as you can see, a Country Inn “in” Day or any day spent at home, or many days spent at home because of the corona virus, can be a very fine time to enjoy favorite things. There are so very many of them. I only scratched the surface. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “The world is so full of a number of things I think we should all be as happy as kings.”
You happy? I hope so. I’m happy because I have really enjoyed writing this post to you. Writing, any kind of writing, is just another of the many wonderful, fun things there are to do in life. So take Oscar Hammerstein II’s advice and don’t just remember your favorite things. Do them! Enjoy them! And now I’m off to enjoy more of mine, starting with a little French study so . . .
Tea – a hot drink that is made by steeping the dried leaves of tea plants in boiling water.
Hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests.
Put these two together and what do you get?
The Afternoon Tea Party
Even though I love coffee and drink coffee all through the day when the afternoon rolls around it’s time for tea. There’s something about the tea ceremony that is just too civilized and gracious not to be enjoyed daily, but to host an afternoon tea is especially wonderful because it’s a way to visit with old friends, encourage friendship with the new people you meet while also enjoying your own afternoon tea.
To host an afternoon tea all you really need is the tea and a friend, but of course you can add as much to the occasion as you like. Because I enjoy working with food I usually serve three things at my teas – a sandwich of some kind, scones, and a dessert,
The sandwiches at my last tea were cucumber
The scones served were one of my favorites – Cream scones with orange butter.
The Cream Scone recipe – 2 c, flour, 1/3c. sugar, 1 Tbsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2c. currants, 1 c. heavy cream. Process: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together the first 5 ingredients. Gradually stir in the cream. Gather the dough together and knead lightly on floured board. Pat to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with 2 inch cutter dipped in flour. Arrange on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. You can glaze the scones with a creamy mixture of 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1 tsp. orange zest and about 1 Tpsp. of frsh o.j.
Orange butter is easy to make. Beat together 1 stick of unsalted butter (softened), 2 Tbsp. frozen o.j. concentrate, with the zest of 1/2 orange, 1/4 plus 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar. Smooth into ramekin and smooth top.
For dessert at this tea I whipped up a plate of creme puffs. I like to fill them with coconut creme pudding mixed with whipped cream.
Of course you could invite friends over and simply serve a cup of tea with a smile and friendly conversation. Sometimes I do just that. Food is not always necessary. It’s opening your home to friendship that’s most important and it’s good to know that serving tea is healthful as well as good-tasting. It’s a gormet bargain. Most teas cost only four or five cents a cup, and even the very rarest varieties are only about fifty cents – so go ahead and buy the best.
You can serve your tea at the sofa, on a little tray between two easy chairs, or at a table – anything goes. Whatever works in your home is the perfect thing for you. I like to serve in different rooms each month, use different china, different linen, different everything for each of my teas. I try to fully utilize my spaces and enjoy using all the things I’ve collected over time.
My Autumn tea was larger than usual. I invited five guests, all neighbors. I usually keep my tea parties small – one, two or three guests, but occasionally I’ll host up to five guests and I’m the sixth. Larger teas need larger tables.
A centerpiece is often flowers or something from nature. For this tea I chose Autumn leaves.
I used a favorite set of china from France. How I love French things. The napkins were old and delicate to co-ordinate with the cutwork placemats. It’s all art, putting a table together.
Each place setting welcomes my guests.
My guests arrived one by one and until they all were here we sat in the library and chatted.
Once the last guest arrived the tea party began. We went to the table and the rest was history. Afternoon tea is a pleasantly nostalgic and remarkably enduring custom. An hour whiled away with tea treats, music, conversation, and late afternoon light is a wonderful way to slow the pace of our busy world and recapture the sense of well-being that we need to carry on with the rest of our days.
Afternoon tea is also a great way to enrich our old friendships and cultivate new ones.
Take a break each day for your own afternoon tea and partake in the age old Art of Hospitality inviting others into your home now and then too.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.“————–Marcus Aurelius
I love to host an afternoon tea each and every month. Have you ever hosted such a party? I hope so. Every tea party I host is set in a different location in or around the grounds of my home. In October I always choose to serve in my outbuilding. Why? It’s because this small building at the edge of our property has a wood burning fireplace and entertaining here on an Autumn day makes me feel all cozy, as though I’m far away off in the mountains.
This builiding is my little getaway place. It has two dutch doors, the five windows you see, baseboard heating and a beamed ceiling.
The outbuilding is always a great escape for me. I love to read in the wing chairs or in the rocker that belonged to my maternal grandparents, but now the rocker belongs to me.
Any time of year I love to escape to this building. Though there’s a house right next door the bushes keep my view out these windows quite private. It’s really a great escape when I yearn to get away, but haven’t the time to go off very far.
I love our outbuilding and because I know sharing doubles the joy I’m happy to host my October tea parties here. Of course the building is great for cocktails before a dinner party too. It’s just a fun place. We would’ve never thought to build such a structure, but some previous owners created it and I’m so glad they did.
For this October tea I decided to serve three items – a blueberry tea cake, pear scones ( the recipe given to me by my dear pen friend, Almita) and egg and watercress sandwiches. The party began with a little champagne. Campagne is always a nice touch.
This tea party began as we sat before the fire toasting our champagne. We sat, we chatted, we watched the fire crackle and burn, but then we were ready for some tea so off to the table we went. The table in this outbuilding first belonged to my maternal grandparents as the rocker did. I was so happy to inherit it. I was happy also to have a good place for it in this building where it could be used and enjoyed by me and others. My grandparents and aunts and uncles who once used this table are now gone, but now the table has new life and new people all around it. It helps me share joy and love with others over tea. Sharing joy and love is what it’s all about, don’t you agree?
My mother created the tablecloth. She was so good with a needle as were many of my female relatives. I have fond memories of us getting together chatting and stitching. I still love to knit, embroider, and do needlepoint. Do you enjoy needlework too? It’s a lovely art form.
I thought the outbuilding deserved its own set of china so I went off shopping at some antique stores and found this pretty pattern.
For tea at an antique table with antique china and antique table cloth I needed to use some antique napkins and I found some in my cupboard. I’m always collecting pretty things for the table. You too?
Every afternoon tea needs flowers and I was delighted to find some orange tea roses which matched the outbuilding china perfectly.
The roses also matched the hair of my “mystery guest”. Look and see Maura’s lovely orange hair.
You may be wondering why I call Maura my “mystery guest”? Well, you see, Maura read one of my past tea posts and she left a comment saying she would love to be invited to a tea. I wrote back to her asking where in the country she lived and I was delighted to learn she lived very near to me … so I invited her to this tea. I never actually met her until she came to my door but she proved to be a lovely lady and delightful guest. What is it they say about strangers being angels in disguise?
Of course I had other guests too – my good friends Lori and Joni were invited. Because I had taken a few hundred trips back and forth from the house to the outbuilding preparing for this tea I was very happy that the ladies helped me carry the last of the food to our little party in the ourbuilding.
There is nothing like afternoon tea. To enjoy tea alone while reading a book or writing a letter is delightful, but to invite others to share in the tea ceremony is double or even triple fun. I certainly hope you are partaking in this simple but most delectable pleasure.
What better way to suggest friendliness – and to create it – than with a cup of tea? ———————–J. Grayson Luttrell 1930
“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.
A Country Inn Day is a day to escape from life’s routines and step away into a world of beauty and adventure or rest and relaxation – whatever is needed at the time. For me, it’s a day where I imagine and then create delightful moments much like the moments I’ve enjoyed at beautiful country inns. My 1853 home becomes my inn and on a Country Inn Day I can stay at this inn, stay close, or take off to a distant city. Some Inn Days are full of imagination and others not so much.
It is my custom to enjoy one Country Inn Day each and every week, but now and then I make an exception to this rule and enjoy a string of Country Inn Days as was the case recently when I visited my son Patrick in New York City.
Patrick lives on the upper east side of Manhattan, very near Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art so while he was busy at his job I had great fun at both of these wonderful places.
There is nothing quite as wonderful as a stroll through a lovely park – spoken as the true Romantic that I am. Back home I love my Country Inn Nature days and I’m sure New Yorkers love their nature days at this lovely park too. So much beauty . . . take a peek for yourself.
And I never tire of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
There is so much to see at this museum, but I most love the period rooms because I absolutely love old houses.
These are just three of the many lovely rooms from great houses in Europe and America.
One can spend hours roaming the rooms of this museum and when tired and hungry you need not go very far for refreshment. There are two very nice restaurants right in the museum. My favorite is this one with its walls of windows looking out onto Central Park. Art, yummy food, and nature, all together in one place.
Between Central Park and The Metropolitan Museum of Art I was kept pretty happy while my son was busy at work. But once his work day was over I could enjoy his company as we did the town. Patrick works on Park Avenue. He’s a data scientist for a company called Dstillery. Don’t ask me to explain the technical work he does but I loved visiting the company’s offices.
And the view of Park Avenue from these offices was quite impressive
Gee, if only I studied statistics instead of music I too could have worked at a snazzy New York city company like this one. Oh well, my Romantic spirit does love the music work I do.
Back at the inn in Hudson I usually have cocktails with a “dead friend”, – Lord Byron or Ralph Waldo Emerson via biography, but while in New York Patrick and I visited all sorts of snazzy places.
Every place we went was buzzing with life.
I enjoyed lots of outings to places I had never been before. Two of those places were Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights. I was surprised that Brooklyn Heights looked a lot like the Beacon Hill area of my beloved Boston. Old brownstones lined the streets there and most of those brownstones were gorgeous with fancy iron fences and lovely stonework.
Then Patrick had a surprise for me. We walked down one of the lanes and came to a sort of park.
And what did I see?
I saw the Brooklyn bridge.
On my next visit when the weather is a little warmer we’re going to take a walk across that bridge. That will be fun!
The view from this park was really amazing. There was Manhattan in all its glory and off in the distance I could even see the Statue of Liberty.
All that walking, and we did a lot of it, all fast, for no one walks slowly in New York, made me very hungry each day. I’m a foodie anyway and so is my son so we had a lot of interesting meals. I’m especially fond of French food so one of my favorite meals was enjoyed at Cafe D”Alsace.
I had read about this establishment in one of my New York travel books and it didn’t disappoint me. It happened to be quite near my son’s apartment so I hope he pops into this place often. I would. Lovely they have outdoor seating for warm Summer days.
But another restaurant that really delighted me was very Polish. I happen to be 100% Polish you know. Both sets of my grandparents lived in Poland until adulthood. Patrick loves the food of all sorts of countries. We ate Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese food on my visit, but he thought it only right a Polish girl like me experience real Polish food in a place where other real Polish people live and speak Polish. This place was back in Brooklyn.
Not quite as elegant as the French place, but a really fun experience none the less.
What to order?
And for the main course
Buttered potatoes, blood sausage, kiebasi, pork, chicken, salmon and cabbage.
I hadn’t had blood sausage in years – dark, crispy and yummy.
In between eating there were more museums.
This museum was actually the home of the Frick family and I was as impressed with the building as with the extensive art collection inside. There were no pictures allowed except in the garden room so I can’t show you the lovely windows and draperies which I found to be exquisite. Oh, to have millions of dollars before taxes were invented.
Here you see the Garden Room at the Frick. Now that I’ve been to the family home I must get the biography of Mr. Frick and get to know him. He just might become one of my “dead friends”.
Are you tired yet from all the outings? I definitely had a lot of adventures and saw a great many new and interesting things on these Country Inn Days, so many that when I returned to Hudson I didn’t venture out for two weeks. There was a lot of walking and sometimes there were road blocks making us go out of our way to get where we were going.
Road blocks happened this day as we walked along the New York streets. We couldn’t help but notice lots and lots of policemen gathered together. Was someone important about to exit the building they were facing? No.
They were getting instructions for the parade that was about to happen – something about a national holiday in Greece.
When streets are blocked, or any time you need to get from here to there, you can always take the subway. We did that a lot, and today we had a date, a date for tea.
Whenever I’m in a city I like to take tea at a fine hotel. This Country Inn Day Patrick and I enjoyed afternoon tea at The Pierre Hotel on E 61st Street. Our waiter was quite dashing and the food was quite dashing too, a bit fancier then the tea treats I offer when inviting guests to my inn back home.
What do you think?
Well, I know this post has gotten quite long, but that’s because my Country Inn Days were quite long, and quite full, and quite wonderful thanks to my charming son who played the part of Innkeeper as I stayed at his place for nearly a week. Now that’s a good son for you.
Flying home was quite bittersweet because it’s always hard leaving Patrick, but I needed a rest! And luckily I have another son by the name of Rory who I can dote on once home.
And as I write this post in my butler’s pantry I am resting and enjoying another Country Inn Day, but this one is quite different from the last one. I may not even leave my Jeremiah Brown House because balance is important and I’ve had quite enough excitement for the time being. Rest and relaxation is the current word for this Country Inn Day.
Next up is tea in the Sun room with “dead friend” Agatha Christie.
I’ve really enjoyed reliving my New York Country Inn Days with you because I truly believe sharing doubles the joy and we can never have too much joy in our lives. I hope you’re making joy happen in your life as well. It’s up to you to do it. There are so many ways. So till we meet again . . .
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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . .
I wish for you the wonderful kind of friendship Joy and I share.
There’s snow on the ground and the temperature is 16 degrees. It seems like a good day to stay all cozy and warm indoors, a good Country Inn “in” Day.
“Of all the places I’ve been to wine in, to dine in to have a good time in you can’t beat an old Country Inn.”
This poem was found in an old Red Lion Inn scrapbook penned by an anonymous guest and I quite agree. I’d love to enjoy today’s Inn stay at my favorite Red Lion Inn, but alas, it’s 500 miles away and I just can’t zip over to Massachusetts – so the next best thing is to experience an Inn stay in my very own historic home, the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House. Here I will step out of regular routines just as I would do at The Red Lion Inn and I’ll treat myself to a nice escape. Everybody needs a break from routines now and then. Don’t you?
My day begins with breakfast in bed.
If you plan ahead as I did the Inn kitchen is stocked and the breakfast tray is standing ready. This morning it’s set with Laura Ashley ‘Tea for two’ china, a warm croissant, raspberry jam, orange juice and coffee. My husband was invited to join me, but today I’m on my own here at the Inn.
When my husband does join me for breakfast in bed he can order off the menu which the Inn cook (me) created for him. Little touches like this menu are fun to create and make Country Inn “in” days special. I like nothing more then taking an ordinary day and dressing it up with little treats. To me this is more enjoyable then elaborate holiday festivities.
After a leisurely breakfast I make my way to the dressing room and put myself together for the day. I may not have a lady’s maid (though that would be nice) but just to take my time with a little primping feels delicious. No rushing – for rushing destroys grace, just time to sit quietly and think about the day ahead as I put myself together.
Once dressed I leave my room and go downstairs to the public areas of the house. A walk would be nice. I usually take a walk when I stay at The Red Lion Inn, but looking outside at the snow on the ground and remembering the 16 degree temperature I decide on another favorite activity.
There’s never enough time to read and one of my New Years resolutions is to read much more this year so now is the perfect time to get comfy by the fire in the Inn library and honor that resolution. In preparation for my Country Inn Day I visited the Hudson library yesterday even though the Inn bookshelves are bursting with my own books. Oh, so many books, so little time, but if we take control of our schedules, step out of our work routine, we can find at least a little time for favorite things – things like reading, and reading is a perfect Inn day activity.
I love all things English so today’s reading consists of back issues of “The English Garden” magazine. Perhaps the Inn gardener in me will discover some great ideas for the grounds around the Jeremiah Brown House. And Country Inn Days are the perfect days to dream of such things. You know what Oscar Hammerstein II said, don’t you? He said, “You’ve got to have a dream. If you don’t have a dream how you gonna have a dream come true.?”
After a little garden dreaming I’ll then push on to begin reading the novel, “Villette” by Charlotte Bronte. I’m very fond of all the Bronte sisters. I met Emily first when my dear pen friend, Bruce Youngblood, sent me one of her poems at the time of my father’s death, but eventually I got to know Emily’s sisters, Ann and Charlotte, also great writers in my opinion. I consider all three women to be favorite “dead friends”. What is a “dead friend” you wonder? They are people of the past who I get to know through their letters, their biographies and/or their works.
Charlotte wrote “Villete” when she was at the height of her artistic power. She drew on her loneliness after the death of her three siblings. I’ve heard this book is her most accomplished and deeply felt work even though it’s not her most popular creation. You’d think reading about the struggles of Charlotte’s heroine would be depressing to me, but somehow it’s not. In fact, I gain strength from Charlotte’s characters who persevere through tough times.
But time flies when one is having fun and reading on a Country Inn Day or on any day is my kind of fun, still I must leave the library now because it’s Tea Time. And what a wonderful invention Tea Time is. P.G. Wodehouse, an English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century said, “The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which … I particularly enjoy.”( and that goes for me too!)
If you have a tea table there’s not much to setting it up for a daily afternoon tea – a cloth, some flowers, a candle, a pretty tea pot, china, and of course the tea. The food need not be fancy. Today’s afternoon tea treat consists only of cinnamon toast, but “The mere chink of cups and saucers turns the mind to happy repose”. That’s a well known tea quote from George Gissie. And yes, that sound is music to my ears too.
On Country Inn Days I like my house, my Inn, to be filled with guests. Sometimes I host teas or dinner parties for my personal friends and relatives, but other times I fill the Inn with other sorts of guests, my “dead friends”. It’s very easy to come up with these guests for all I have to do is use my imagination. I have so many great “dead friends”. I never know who will be popping up next. Guess who is seated at my tea table waiting patiently for me to join her?
It’s Mrs. Emily Whaley formerly of Charleston, South Carolina, but now residing in heaven. Emily’s spirit will be joining me for afternoon tea today by way of her book entitled, Mrs. Whaley and herCharleston Garden. I’m absolutely delighted she’ll be sharing her stories with me because I remember touring her garden and other gardens in Charleston some years ago. Now thanks to her book I’ll not only learn about her garden but also about her life, a life lived in a grand house of the old South. What could be more fun at tea?
Emily’s garden was famous. Back in the day the New YorkTimes sent reporters to interview her. Southern Accent magazine did a layout. Two or three thousand visitors toured her garden during Charleston’s garden festivals and as I said I was one of those people. I have a feeling Emily enjoyed lots of afternoon teas at her own historic home and now she’s here with me all through the magic of books and a little imagination.
But time moves on as it always does and I must morph from Inn guest into Inn chef because my husband will be joining me for dinner at the Inn before long and someone must prepare that dinner and that someone is me. Luckily I love to cook. The menu is set. Leek and potato soup, simple chicken tenders prepared in olive oil, butter, herbs and white wine, fresh green beans and a special Red Lion Inn rice.
I’d love to share the Red Lion Inn’s rice recipe with you because sharing doubles the joy and I think you’ll like it as much as I do.
Red Lion Inn Rice
Ingredients: 1/2 cup butter, 2 stalks celery, finely chopped, 1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped, 1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and finely chopped, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, bay leaves, dash of salt and pepper, 4 cups chicken stock, 2 cups white rice
Process: Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the vegetables and seasonings, and cook for 7 minutes over medium heat until the vegetables are wilted. Remove the bay leaves. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, and cook over medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and it has absorbed the stock.
And here it is – Red Lion Inn Rice.
with Potato Leek Soup
and Chicken tenders accompanied by fresh green beans.
Oh yes, and a dessert of Grand Marnier Crepes.
The Inn cooks job is done. Now it’s back to being Inn guest.
It’s now time to enjoy that dinner by candlelight in the Jeremiah Brown House dining room.
It was fun creating tonight’s Inn dinner but even more enjoyable devouring it and I am not ashamed to admit it for as William Makepeace Thackeray wrote in his Memorials of Gormandizing, “If you like your dinner, man; never be ashamed to say so…remember that every man who has been worth a fig in this world, as poet, painter, or musician, has had a good appetite and a good taste.”
And what to do after dinner?
I’ll settle in here. The Inn recently added new rooms to the old house and this is one of them. It’s a pleasant place to watch a movie, entertain other guests or in today’s case, sit comfortably doing needlepoint with a good classic movie. Country Inn Days are all about simple pleasures.
I love needlework and it’s time I finish this needlepoint design picturing a crossing guard on the streets of Bermuda, a design I purchased there and started years ago. Needlepoint and most types of needlework are very relaxing and relaxing activities are just right for a Country Inn Day or a Country Inn evening.
And after an hour or two of needlework the evening turns into night and before bed I think a bubble bath would be just the thing to end a lovely Country Inn Day. Bubble therapy I call it, another simple pleasure that is not to be underestimated for the delight it offers.
And so this Winter’s Country Inn Day ends where it began.
I would’ve enjoyed a visit to The Red Lion Inn today for sure, but this faux Country Inn Day was quite delightful too for I accomplished most Country Inn Day goals, the goals being: To refresh body, mind and spirit; To relax; To enjoy favorite things without interruption; To exercise imagination; To take time to dream; To focus on beauty in all of its forms; To enjoy spa activities; To read fun materials, watch interesting films and spend time with interesting people; and To capture Inn Day images for my own future reflection and for sharing because…
Sharing Doubles The Joy.
Thanks for coming along. I hope you had half the fun I had today.
“Our life is nothing but a winter’s day; Some only breakfast and away; Others to dinner stay and are full fed. The deepest age but sup and go to bed. He’s worse in debt who lingers out the day. Who goes betimes has all the less to pay.”
Hi there! I’m Carol Ann and have I got a fun recipe for you.
Here it is.
Invite someone old, (an old friend) someone new, (a person you recently met and liked a lot) someone borrowed, (ask one of your guests to bring along a friend of their own) or maybe two, (ask both of your guests to bring along a friend). Add a little tea and lots of conversation and there you have it – A sharing Tea.
If you have a home which you love and enjoy why not share it? If you collect pretty things why not invite others to enjoy those things too? If you like to cook and bake why not share your recipes with friends? As you reach out to others in friendship you’ll be reaching into yourself and coming up with creative and fun entertaining ideas.
Any Afternoon Tea or Sharing Tea can be as simple or as fancy as you like. I enjoy hosting one tea every month choosing a different room or setting each time. The room dictates the number of guests I invite, the type of food I serve and the level of formality. If I’m serving at a table a high tea could be in order consisting of hot food (savories) as well as desserts. All sorts of dishes and glassware would be used to serve and dress up the table. Flatware would be needed too, but if I’m hosting in a room without a dining table the food would be simple and finger-friendly.
This month my Sharing Tea will take place in the living room of my 1853 home and since this room is small tea will be an intimate affair with only two guests – one old friend and one new friend. The refreshments will be limited to cookies, and of course the tea, though sherry and liquers might easily be offered as well.
Though I do enjoy cooking, baking, and presenting nice refreshments to my guests, I have learned that food is not the most important thing at a Sharing Tea. It’s not even the tea that’s most important. It’s the sharing. Guests seem to enjoy learning about each other, sharing their stories, passions and ideas. Guests are delighted by each other, inspired by each other, and they really seem to enjoy the opportunity to step out of their busy lives and share in a peaceful and personal setting. Restaurants have their place, but being invited into someone’s home is very special and doesn’t happen often enough in my opinion. Refreshments are nice but simply an accompaniment to all the fun we have in sharing.
As hostess it’s my job to see that everyone is comfortable and feeling welcome and relaxed. It’s a fun job! I believe hosting a Sharing Tea is a gift of hospitality given with a personal touch… and when you give good things come back to you – friendships.
So I pull out one of my favorite tea books, “English Tea and Cakes” and look up a recipe for gingerbread cookies which I’ll make for my guests…
Ingredients: 2 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour,1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1 stick of butter, scant 1 cup of soft light brown sugar, 1 egg, 4 tsp corn syrup, 4 tbsp royal icing, silver decorations, parchment paper decorating bag.
Process: Sift the flour, baking soda and ginger into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it in with your finger tips until you have a mixture resembling fine bread crumbs. Add the sugar and mix.
In another bowl, beat the egg and corn syrup together. Tip it over the flour mix and stir well. Keep sprinkling over flour and working until you have a lovely smooth dough.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave in fridge to chill 30 minutes, but an hour would be better.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets.
Roll the dough out on a slightly floured board to a thickness of a 1/4 inch. Cut out required shapes and bake 12 to 15 minutes. Leave to cool slightly on baking sheet before transferring o wire wrack to cool completely.
I bake the gingerbread into the shape of the Hudson Clocktower, a famous landmark in my town.
Gingerbread is also shaped into stars which I decorate.
Together they make a simple, but pretty presentation.
I add some frosted molasses cookies…
Ingredients: 4 cups flour, 1 tsp salt,1 cup butter, 1 cup dark molasses, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 cup hot water, 1 and 1/4 tsps baking soda
Process: In a large mixing bowl combine flour and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender. In a separate bowl combine molasses and sugar, then beat in the egg. Dissolve the soda in the 1/4 cup of hot water and add to molasses mixture. Gradually stir the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and beat until well blended. Cover bowl and chill several hours. Turn dough onto floured pastry board and roll to 1/4 inch thickness for a sift cookie. Cut rounds with a cookie cutter and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. For frosting mix powdered sugar with a bit of water.
add some shortbread which was baked earlier and stored in an air-tight container
and select the tea cups and linen.
A Sharing Tea is the perfect time to share all those pretty things I love and collect.
And the table is set and ready for my guests.
And there’s the doorbell now!
It’s Joni, one of my dear old friends
and she’s brought me a pretty plant. How sweet of her.
Minutes later Kelly appears. She’s one of my new friends.
She too has a pretty plant for me.
Didn’t I tell you? – when you give good things come back to you.
So we all get settled in the living room, the candles are twinkling, I pour the tea
And the sharing begins!
Now that you have the recipe for a Sharing Teaisn’t it time you have one of your own?