Carol Ann’s Recipe for a Sharing Tea

 

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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.

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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.

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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…

Gingerbread Cookies

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.

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 I bake the gingerbread into the shape of the Hudson Clocktower, a famous landmark in my town.

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Gingerbread is also shaped into stars which I decorate.

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Together they make a simple, but pretty presentation.

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I add some frosted molasses cookies…

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.

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add some shortbread which was baked earlier and stored in an air-tight container

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and select the tea cups and linen.

Sharing Tea is the perfect time to share all those pretty things I love and collect.

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And the table is set and ready for my guests.

And there’s the doorbell now!

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It’s Joni, one of my dear old friends

and she’s brought me a pretty plant.  How sweet of her.

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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.

Hostess gifts!

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 Tea  isn’t it time you have one of your own?

Enjoy!

It’s another Afternoon Tea

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For thousands of years people have been drinking tea and enjoying the tea ceremony, but I think there’s something about afternoon tea that makes it just right for us today as well.  The health conscious should approve of tea’s natural goodness and those of us who are busy, busy, busy should enjoy the restful interlude it offers around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  A tea ceremony has the ability to enrich everyday life and create  gilded moments.  Creating a tea ritual for ourselves is a very lovely civilized affair. but it’s also very nice to share the experience with others and though we can meet those others at elegant hotels or charming tea shops there is something very special about inviting people into our own homes.  It’s The Art of Hospitality,  an art (like the Art of Letter Writing) that is beautiful and should never die.

But who to invite?  We can invite anyone and everyone, old friends, new would-be friends, the young, the old and the in- between.

It’s easy.  Afternoon tea can be as simple or elaborate as you choose – a pretty china tea cup with a few slices of cinnamon toast would work just fine, but today I feel like fussing a bit.

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I recently bought a neat pan from William Sonoma that makes brownies or other simple cakes into interesting elongated shapes.  Today seemed like the perfect day to try out this pan.

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And I’m happy to say the pan worked very well. Aren’t these brownies cute?

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A little powder sugar to dress them up and a very simple recipe can look quite snazzy on the tea table.

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I always like to experiment with at least one new recipe for my tea parties so today that recipe is for a carrot cake and the recipe is a keeper.  Let me share the recipe with you.

Carrot Cake

For the cake:  2 eggs, 2/3 cup light brown sugar, 5 tbsp. vegetable oil, generous 3/4 cup self-rising flour, 1 and 1/2 cups grated carrot, 1 tsp. cinnamon and scant 1/2 cup shredded coconut

For the topping:  1/2 cup cream cheese, 3/4 stick butter,1/2 cup confectioners sugar, grated rind of 1 lime,toasted coconut and grated lime

Process:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and line a 2 lb. loaf pan or a 7 in round cake pan.

2.Beat together the eggs and sugar until very creamy.  Add the oil and beat hard.  Fold  in the remaining ingredients and turn into the prepared pan.  Smooth the top,  then slightly hollow out the middle to avoid a very domed top on the finished cake.  Bake for 35-40 minutes   until golden and well risen and a skewer comes out clean.

3.  Remove the cake from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  To make the  topping beat the ingredients together until light and creamy and spread over the top of the cake.  Make a pattern with the prongs of a fork.

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In addition to the brownies and carrot cake I also whipped up two other goodies to serve to my guests.  These chicken salad sandwiches served on wheat bread provided a little sustenance to the menu…

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as did little phyllo cups of egg salad.

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I also served my stand by recipe for scones.  I like to serve the scones with Devon clotted cream but today I decided to whip up ordinary heavy cream instead …and I always serve the scones with Bonne Maman’s Raspberry preserves.  Yum!

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Now it’s time for a little art play.  I dig out my watercolor pencils and create place cards for myself and my guests.  I’m matching the flowers on the name tags to the flowers on the table.

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These little touches make an afternoon tea special.

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So the food is prepared and the table is set and now all that’s needed are my guests. Today those guests are of the younger generation for as I said before afternoon tea is for everyone and if we adults don’t expose children to the finer things in life (like afternoon tea) who will?  Besides, I believe it’s important to have friends of all ages.  My older friends teach and inspire me and they make me feel young and my younger friends help me lighten up and remember what it was like to be young. Diversity is important, all kinds of diversity.

Well here they are now.

All these young ladies are angels and singing angels at that for they all sing in the Church choir I conduct.  How lucky I am to meet so many sweet young people (and they’re not all girls either). My next children’s tea will hopefully have a few boys attending for as I said before, afternoon tea is for everyone!

I can remember being eight or ten or 13 years old, can’t you?  I appreciated adults taking me seriously, talking to me and listening with interest to what I had to say. Afternoon tea is a great time for friends to share and get to know each other better.  Taking time, in person, with people we care about becomes its own reward.

I find creating the afternoon tea ceremony for guests lets me offer my friends and acquaintances what often seems in short supply these days – attention and the wish to please. Sure, it’s a little bit of work, but tea can be infinitely variable in style and complexity.  The food served can be simply made or for that matter even purchased.  As in so many things it’s really the thought that counts most.

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The time flies at my tea party and before I know it the party is over.  There’s a little washing up to do, but not much.

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And as the last tea pot is set on a towel to dry I’m left with a warm, satisfied feeling.  This feeling comes over me whenever I dabble in The Art of Hospitality. I’ve had such fun today.  I can’t help but start wondering about my next tea.  Who shall I invite? What shall I serve and where shall I serve it?  There’s much fun to anticipate.

So enjoy your daily afternoon teas but  I hope you invite others, young and old, to share the experience now and then.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles he joy.

It really does!

It’s a Country Inn Country Club Day

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Lake Forest Country Club

I am not a golfer, but I’m glad my husband is because his love of golf inspired our membership to Lake Forest Country Club and this membership entitles me to enjoy the lovely clubhouse anytime I like. Because I love old world ways and old world architectural design I frequently escape to Lake Forest on my Country Inn Days.

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Some people need to pack their bags and travel far away in order to escape from life’s usual routines, but not me.  With a little imagination (and Country Inn Days are built on imagination) I can escape without even leaving home or at least not leaving Hudson. My home becomes the  “Inn” of my Country Inn Days and sometimes I hibernate there, but other times I leave the Inn and enjoy little outings  to lovely places.  Lake Forest Country Club is one of those places. At this clubhouse  I have the feeling I’m checking into a fine hotel somewhere off and away, maybe in merry old England.

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Because the architectural details in and around the club are so fine my imagination doesn’t have to work very hard in order to take me from ordinary to a romantic state of mind.  Lake Forest may not be Downton Abbey, but it’s the next best thing in Hudson.

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I settle into a corner of the living room and order a glass of wine. Soon my luncheon companions will arrive.  You may wonder who these people will be. Well, this is where my excellent imagination does come into play. My companions at lunch today will be William Faulkner, the Nobel Prize winner in Literature, his son Dean Swift Faulkner, and William’s niece, Dean Faulkner Wells… oh, and here they are now.

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I won’t need to talk much, if at all, for Dean Faulkner Wells is bursting with stories of the life she lived and the family she loved. She takes me back to the 1930’s and a place called Oxford which was a sleepy little one-horse town in the hills of North Mississippi. Dean’s stories are full of intimacies and cherished connections with her family members.

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As I sip my wine and read “Every Day by the Sun”, Dean Faulkner Well’s  book, I exit Hudson to another place and time. Books, imagination and Country Inn Days are a winning combination to create a fun and most interesting getaway day…

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and don’t forget delicious food either.  Food is yet another pleasurable ingredient adding to the delight of Country Inn Days, especially when that food is prepared and served to me with a smile.

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When lunch is finished and my time with the Faulkners is over I stroll into the pub.  All is quiet in preparation for the evening activities.

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The fire in the fireplace is warm and inviting and I’m in no particular hurry to leave it because a Country Inn Day is a gift of time I give myself, a gift allowing me to do as I please.  This luxury of free, unscheduled time is very therapeutic every now and then. We are so often bound to clocks and schedules.   A  free, unplanned and spontaneous day is a real treat. When we stop and smell the roses, get off our treadmill, not only does life seem sweeter,  we seem sweeter to all we meet.

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I strike up a very interesting conversation with Mel, a long-time server here at the club.  She’s usually too busy to engage in conversation, but now is a perfect time to get to know her a little bit better.  She’s so nice.  I wish she wasn’t always working here or at home being a busy mother of three for I’d love to invite her to the Inn for tea.  I would assume the role of Innkeeper and turn the tables on her.  She would become the guest for a change and I would become her server.

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After my nice chat with Mel it’s time to leave Lake Forest and return to the Inn.  My husband and I will be back here later this evening for dinner.  Only on a Country Inn Country Club Day would I indulge in two meals here in the same  day.  But today?  Why not?  I poke into the formal dining room on the way out. Such a pretty room.

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The staff is busy preparing  for what’s to come.

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Back at the Inn what’s to come is afternoon tea.  Ah, the pleasure of tea.  I enjoy this lovely ritual with Earl Grey and a home made butter cookie baked  in house by the Inn chef (me).

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Inn guests have arrived and they’re waiting to talk to me.  They arrive in the form of personal letters – a whole stack of them. There’s Joy who comes from South Carolina, Michelle hails from Washington D.C., Amy from Pennsylvania, Candi from Minnesota and Maggie-Linn from Maine.

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With my cup of tea,  a little imagination, and all these wonderful letter friends the party continues on this Inn Day.  Letter writers are never alone or lonely on Country Inn Days or on any other day – That’s because letter writers  just pick up a pen and write a friend making a connection any time day or night, or they go out to their mailbox and bring back plenty of letter friends for pleasant, old fashioned in depth conversations.  I hope you’re a letter writer.  If you are you know first hand the pleasure personal correspondence can add to life.

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After I’m filled to the brim with socializing I pick up my knitting and spend a little time in solitude.  Knit one, purl one as the minutes pass slowly and peacefully. I must rest for the evening ahead. Country Inn Days are a rich mix of solitude and society.  They combine the work of Innkeeper, (me) Inn Maid, (me) and Inn chef, (also me), with imagination, relaxation, creativity and play.   We adults need play. “It is a happy talent to know how to play” so said Ralph Waldo Emerson.  We need play to keep our spirits youthful and happy.  I hope you schedule play into your life regularly.

 So till we meet again on another Country Inn Day.  Live well, prosper and play.

 

A Country Inn Day in Medina

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As you may know Country Inn Days are designed to refresh mind, body and spirit.  The outings enjoyed on Inn days, be they outings to far away places or nearby towns, take me away (literally) from my usual work-a-day world allowing me to escape into a another world of imagination, observation, play and pure delight. Everyone needs to play now and then, especially hard-working adults.   All work and no play eventually takes its toll making even the most interesting people droopy and dreary.  And so I hit the road today for an outing in the town of Medina.

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The historic courthouse in downtown Medina

CNN Money named Medina, Ohio the 40th most desirable American city to live in.  The town was founded in 1818 as part of the Connecticut Western Reserve.  It is 30 miles south of Cleveland and 20 miles west of Akron.  I love to visit historic towns like Medina because I find the old architecture beautiful and charming. Unfortunately two disastrous fires hit Medina in the mid-1800s so it lost many of its original buildings.  So sad!

The fire of 1848 destroyed the entire business district, then in 1870, another large fire broke out that destroyed 45 more buildings and nearly wiped out the entire city.  It took almost ten years to rebuild the area which would become known as Town Square.

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This beautiful gazebo sits in the middle of Town Square today and this Square is now considered a historic district that holds nine blocks of stores and draws many visitors here, visitors like me.

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I have the distinct feeling I’m back in Boston, where I used to live, whenever I come to old towns like Medina and stroll past historic buildings like those here in and around Town Square.

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Even a cold Winter’s day can’t keep me from fun outings like this on Country Inn Days.  Today my ears are bright red as I duck in and out of buildings, but what’s a little cold when I’m having so much fun.

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Besides, beauty always warms my heart and what’s more beautiful than blue skies mixed with charming architecture, big old trees and a free day of exploring?

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I’m introduced to new people on Country Inn Days too, people like Amos Root who in 1869 founded the A.I. Root Company .  Why, he can become one of my “dead friends”.

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I learned Amos was a manufacturer of beehives and beekeeping equipment, and Medina became a center for beehive manufacturing because of him.  The Root Company had 97 workers in 1886, making it the town’s largest employer.

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Well, one thing led to another as often happens, and now Medina is the headquarters for the Root Candle Company.  Perhaps you heard of it.  Thier flagship store is here.  It’s huge, and because I love to burn candles all through the year I check it out. Come with me.

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This building is delightfully fragrant because many of the candles are perfumed, carrying the scent of salted Caramel, Cranberry, Bayberry, English Lavender and oh, so many other fragrances all wafting through the air together.

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Because I enjoy having dinner parties I particularly love seeing the many tablescapes around the store.  These arrangements provide all sorts of interesting ideas for lighting a dinner table with the glow and twinkle of candles.

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This retail store has many rooms, but after browsing through all of them you can walk around to the back of the building where the outlet shop is located. The outlet shop is where the bargains are.  If a candle has a small imperfection it comes to this place and is discounted.  Honestly, some candles here look quite perfect to me, but I’m in a frugal mood today so it’s here I shop.

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One item I purchase is a box of 18 votives, each in a different scent. These votive candles will  delight me and my students at piano lesson time.

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Another purchase I make is a six pack of this fragrant candle which is labeled “seeking balance”.  I will use these candles in my boudoir at bath time.

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But all this browsing and shopping makes a girl hungry and it is getting to be lunchtime so I leave Roots before I spend too much money and take to the sidewalk looking for a charming restaurant,  and I find one too.

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It’s called The Main Street Cafe and it’s right across from the Town Square.  Notice the stained glass in its front window.  Charming! The whole place is charming.

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I’m shown to a nice quiet table for two that’s set next to a lovely old brick wall.  Who will join me for lunch?  It will be Patricia and Walter Wells.  You say that makes three and I have a table for only two.  No problem.  You see Patricia and Walter are joining me “in spirit” only by way of a book they’ve written.

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Patricia and Walter
Their book is called “We’ve always had Paris… and Provence” and in it they talk about their lives lived in Paris for the past 30 years. Patricia runs a popular cooking school there and has been a restaurant critic. Walter is a retired executive editor of the International Herald Tribune.  So though my table has only 2 place settings with a little imagination (and Country Inn Days are full of imagination) I have great company for lunch.

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My steak salad arrives (yum) and as I devour it Patricia tells me stories about other charming restaurants she visits in Paris and other yummy foods she enjoys there.  She shares recipes with me too, recipes like Almond Macaroon and Fresh Berry Cake or Eggplant in Spicy Tomato Sauce.

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How pleasant to enjoy food and wine while looking out the window at the lovely Town Square and hearing stories about other wonderful outings in other wonderful places.  I’m rested, refreshed and inspired all at the same time.  That’s a Country Inn Day for you. I love my Country Inn Days.  They’re so FUN  because they’re so full of my favorite things.

Of course I can’t tell you every little detail of my Inn Day but I do want to share a bit more of today with you.  Why?  You know. Sharing doubles the joy.

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After a bit more poking around Medina I decided to stop at Miss Molly’s for some tea before heading back to the Inn.  Miss Molly’s Tea House is a Medina institution. I am lucky to arrive after the busy lunch crowd so even though the kitchen is officially closed I am still invited in for tea and sweets by a very nice server who is pretty sweet herself with a bit of a Southern accent.

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Here I enjoy afternoon tea with a letter friend.  The Earl Grey is poured and though I am alone enjoying sweet solitude, I also have the company of another.  I’m writing my old friend Barbara who lives in Rhode Island.  Though Barbara and I can’t get together very often for in-person visits we have frequent letter visits in which we share our comings and goings.  And as  Lord Byron said, “Only in Letter writing do we have solitude and society simultaneously.”

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I tell Barbara all about today’s fun as I nibble delicious scones served with jam and clotted cream.  Don’t they look good?  Well, there are good!

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And besides meeting  Amos Root today, my newest “dead friend”, I meet two very lovely ladies who are quite alive.  There’s Molly, not THE Molly which gives this tea house its name, but rather my very sweet server, and I’m also fortunate to  meet one of the owners.  It’s Dinah.   It was very smart of me to pop in here at a slow time for I had the tea house to myself  and had the chance to have a nice long chat with these two ladies. In fact, I plan to invite them to one of the teas I host back at my Inn on some future Country Inn Day.

As you know Country Inn Days have me assuming many different roles – Inn Guest of course, but also Inn Chef, Inn Maid and Inn Keeper and as Innkeeper I’m always inviting  both old and new friends to come on over for a visit livening  up the place with their smiling faces and interesting life stories.    After all, a home, (my Country Inn of imagination) like all good things, is meant to be shared.

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So after a delightful time at Miss Molly’s Tea House and a delightful day in Medina it is finally time to get back to the Jeremiah Brown House where I, now as Inn chef, must put together a simple dinner for a regular guest there, my husband. Thinking ahead, as Inn Chefs must do, I assembled a beef stew yesterday which went into a slow cooker this morning, so like magic I can return to the Inn after a day out and  still present a tasty dinner in no time flat.   Pretty smart, huh?

Patricia Wells would be proud of me and hopefully approve of my table here at the Inn.  Some roses, some wine, music, a salad, and another Country Inn Day is winding down with a nice evening meal.

I’m glad you could join me today and I look forward to your company on my next Country Inn Day. So till then be happy, and remember what Henry Ward Beecher wrote in his Life Thoughts. 

“It is not well for a man to pray, cream; and live skim milk.”

Live richly!

One picture in Letter Writing is worth a thousand words

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SMILE!

If you like to write letters and you also like to take pictures you have probably already discovered the fun of putting these two activities together, but just in case you haven’t, I’d like to share a few thoughts and pictures on this subject with you.

I have found that a delightful synergy exists when two or more favorite activities are put together into one, creating what I like to call a ‘Super Activity’.  I discovered this ‘Super Activity’ principle quite by accident years ago when I was enjoying one of my Country Inn Days.

What is a Country Inn Day?  It is a play day, a day when I give myself permission to escape from every day life.  On these days I enjoy adventures, dream dreams, host teas and dinner parties, and use my imagination to play.  I also like to share these Inn Days with pen friends by describing my fun in letters a few days later. Why bother sharing Country Inn Days?  It’s because sharing doubles the joy.  It really does!

So on that Country Inn Day long ago, as I was playing the part of Innkeeper/Host, preparing an afternoon tea for guests at my 1853 home, my Inn of Imagination,  I was thinking of one particular far-away friend who could not attend.  How I wanted to share the event with her, but how?  Well, at times like this it always helps to find my creative thinking cap, put it on, and with its help solutions do appear. In this case, I realized my friend could enjoy tea with me in spirit if not in body if I simply took pictures all along the way and relived the tea experience with her later via letter.

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So that’s exactly what I did.  I took pictures of the food preparation, the food presentation, the room setting, the guests – all the details of afternoon tea that day, and in sharing the pictures and descriptions later, I not only enjoyed the actual tea, but I was able to relive the experience all over again with my letter friend.

And because I have digital pictures of my tea,  I not only can relive the experience with one friend, I can share the event over and over and over with lots of friends – old and new. I don’t know about you, but if I’ve done a lot of work creating something, I like to hold on to that creation. With photography my creations stay with me in a very real way forever and  ever, and I, like any artist, perhaps like you, appreciate this fact.

So ever since that Country Inn Day long ago I send postcards and letters out regularly and I make this correspondence especially personal and descriptive by including photographs.  This sharing has become one of my daily rituals and though you may think sending a post card out each day isn’t much, I assure you it is. First of all, it lets my friends know I’m thinking of them and secondly, the picture on the post card will communicate much, for you know what they say – a picture is worth a thousand words.

Be it a Country Inn Day with a tea party, an outing, a holiday, or any ordinary day spent around the house and garden, taking pictures will preserve the moment and allow us to share that moment with others.

Here’s  sharing a few pictorial moments with you.

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Decorating the house for Autumn

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Enjoying a Country Inn Day in a charming town
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A picnic with some friends
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Relaxing around the house
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An invitation to tea
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A favorite Bed and Breakfast getaway spot
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Hanging out with “The Three Kings” around Christmas
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Time spent with animal friends in nature

Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “The world is so full of a number of things I think we should all be as happy as kings.”  Well, I agree, don’t you? Sharing these wonderful things by capturing them in photographs and wisking them off to friends in the form of post cards or letters can become a most wonderful thing in itself—

For as we focus our attention, and then our camera, on the good things that are all around us, we better appreciate the great gift of life we are all given. Then, by sharing this joy and appreciation with friends through pictures in post cards and letters, we not only double our own joy, but we awaken our friends to the wonders and beauty around them too. We all get so busy.  We forget to stop, smell the roses, and focus on the good around us.

So get a camera, take some pictures and share.

It’s fun!

It’s A Super Activity!

Try it

You’ll see

The Post card as Art

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Today’s post card to Kathi
My “dead friend” Charlotte Bronte has been known to say “… short notes give one the feeling of a very small piece of a very good thing to eat” and I agree.  Though both Charlotte and I love nice long letters we both appreciate short notes too.  In fact, Charlotte added “… I am very glad to get notes; so don’t think, when you are pinched for time … that it is useless to write a few lines; be assured, a few lines are very acceptable…”

And so every day I send off one short note in the form of a post card in addition to one of my nice long letters. I like to use post cards for these short notes because  a post card requires less postage than a short letter and because a post card most always contains a picture, and you know what they say about a picture.  It’s worth a thousand words.

So today I send a post card off to my cousin Kathi.  I recently had a tea and baked a pretty impressive apple pie if I do say so myself, so after all the work of baking and hosting the tea, it seemed only right to take a picture in order to memorialize the event and share my joy over and over again.  Most of the picture post cards I create come out of scenes from my daily life.  And it’s funny, knowing I can take these pictures and use them for my correspondence gives me good reason to go the extra mile in making things as nice as possible.

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The Red Lion Inn
I first started sending post cards years ago when I discovered The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  I loved that inn then, and still do.  The Red Lion Inn was the inspiration for my invention – Country Inn Days.  You may have read about these days in a former post.  The Red Lion Inn sold many lovely post cards and I bought them all.  I kept some, but being a letter writer, I sent others away to friends as a way to share my joy.  I also took lots of my own pictures.  Here you see one of them.  I think the porch at The Red Lion Inn is its best feature.  I loved it so much that I patterned the porch at my own 1853 house after it.

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Tea served at my own private Inn, The Jeremiah Brown House
Now, on a Country Inn Day, when I’m  playing the part of innkeeper and hosting a tea, I take pictures along the way in order to create and send off my very own Country Inn Day postcards from my very own Country Inn, The Jeremiah Brown House.  Sharing doubles my joy. It’s great fun!

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Another tea at the Jeremiah Brown House
Creating a lovely table setting is a lot like painting a lovely picture.  It’s fun, but it’s also work.  Some art we create lasts and lasts; a painting, a song, but not a table setting.  After a tea or meal the setting’s moment of glory is over.  All that work could be forgotten, just a vague memory unless we photograph the scene.  If we do take a picture we’ll have the image forever, available for post cards and photo notes.

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Besides taking pictures in our own private worlds it’s also wonderful to buy picture post cards on our travel adventures and our visits to  favorite places near and far. Sharing these sites with friends and family allows us to share our joy.  I used to live in Boston and I absolutely LOVE The Boston Public Garden. Whenever I return to Boston, as I do quite frequently, I spend hours in this magical place.  In fact the arboretum-like feeling of this garden is what inspired me to choose The Jeremiah Brown House for home.

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Entrance to The Jeremiah Brown House (1853)

And because I love my trees so very much, naturally they often become the subjects of my Country Inn Day postcards.

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Carol Ann in Chicago

Sometimes we might find ourselves in a place that is really special but has no card shop handy, and even if there is a card shop, there’s no picture for sale showing exactly what we’re seeing and enjoying. This happens off in the country all the time, but it happened to me in downtown Chicago recently.   My husband and I were walking along and I was awestruck by the impressive skyscrapers all around me.  What to do?  Take a picture of course!  Making our own picture post cards is fun and very personal for though the store-bought cards may at times  be of better quality, they don’t ever include our very own smiling faces.

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The Crop Bistro, Cleveland, Ohio

I’ll often send my pen friends pictures of lovely places in and around Cleveland.  There are  lots of such lovely places, but Cleveland, like many industrial cities, gets only bad press.  I want people to know there is a great deal of beauty here too.  We have wonderful restaurants,  like the beautiful Crop Bistro housed in a gorgeous historic building.  We also have fabulous parks, charming small-town neighborhoods, terrific culture, (I used to work for The Cleveland Orchestra) and we’re working on the sports.

I think I should be hired as a public relations representative for Cleveland because I’m forever bragging about the city, broadcasting its finer points, and sending snazzy picture post cards to my pen friends all around the world.

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Two dashing fellows

Of course it’s lots of fun to photograph people too.  Here you see my husband Bill (in the white) and our friend Steve who was visiting from Florida.  Steve, our friend Susan, (Susan’s not pictured here, sorry Susan) Bill and I, all went to Blossom, the Summer Home of The Cleveland Orchestra where we attended a concert.  Camera in hand (as usual) I got lots of good pictures.  Won’t Steve be surprised to go out to his mail box one day and find this picture post card waiting for him?

Any time  I get together with friends and family is a great time to take pictures for my post cards.  Who wouldn’t enjoy finding not only a postcard addressed “just to them”, but a picture post card featuring their very own picture?  Add a sweet caption and it’s a great way to let your friends know you’re thinking of them. There’s enough room for a short note on the back of the card too.

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My son Patrick “supported” in friendship by his UCLA chums
Any photo post card you send to your friends should put a smile on their face, but some pictures are more fun than others.  The more fun your subjects are having,  the more fun they’ll have revisiting that fun.  Life is short.  Enjoy yourself and share that joy.

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Even though it’s delightful and artful work creating your own picture post cards you don’t have to make all of them yourself.   You’ll find all sorts of post cards for sale.  My letter friend Joy has gone into the post card business and soon you’ll be able to buy her designs.  She makes lovely, artful cards.  I’ll keep you posted on how to purchase them.

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Daniel Gerber’s (American, 1880-1958)
The River’s Bridge

Art museums are  wonderful places to find post cards of great and famous art works. You can use these cards when writing short notes to your friends, start a collection of beautiful post cards for your personal pleasure – looking through them whenever you need  a spot of beauty, or you might  buy a dozen art post cards, tie them in a ribbon, and use them as hostess gifts for the next dinner party you attend.  These cards might be serious …

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Day ‘N Night by JETGLASS
Your Best Water Heater Buy

or they might be a little silly.  At one time this picture was meant to be a serious advertisement, but now it’s just a fun post card.

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And this card is fun too, especially if you’re female.  Note the caption:

“I made some Niman Ranch lamb tenderloin with garlic, black pepper, and Indonesian soy sauce for dinner.  I hope that sounds ok.”

I love this fella’s expression, don’t you?

So many humorous forwards fly around on the internet these days, but snail mail can spread a lot of fun as well.

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Inspiration

And snail mail can also spread a lot of beauty around this weary world.  My friend Evelyna loves afternoon tea as I do and she finds beautiful tea images on post cards to share with me.  These pictures inspire my own tea gatherings.

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Evelyna’s tiny script helps her say a lot on a small post card

So though a post card will never take the place of a long, juicy letter it does have its value.   Just as we appreciate  hor dourves as the small but delicious little treats they are, so too should we appreciate the post card as the lovely little art form it is.

Don’t take my word for it.  Buy or make some post cards, send them out and see what happens.  If you’re not yet a letter writer but you’d like to be, post cards are a nice way to get started.  If you are a letter writer, why not add some post cards to your correspondence ritual?  You just may find

When you give (post cards) good things (more post cards) come back to you

Nature, Travel, Tea and Letters

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It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a perfect day for letter writing, but then every day is a perfect day for letter writing.  The sun is shining.  The birds are chirping.  There’s no humidity.  It’s a lovely temperature, about 75 degrees, and all is calm and right in my world.  I hope that’s the case for you too. Today I decided to write my morning letter to Janet.  Janet is a real nature lover as I am, maybe as you are too.  I wanted to tell her all about the alpaca farm I discovered when meeting the owners at Hudson’s farm market last week.  I also wanted to send her this bookmark picturing one of the very cute alpacas. I knew she would be interested because Janet loves animals.  Are you an animal lover too?

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 I’ve mentioned Janet to you before.  She lives in a  beautiful country setting in the state of Virginia.  Her house is right next door to her sister and brother-in-law’s farm.  Janet is always taking me on excursions through that farm via her letters.  It’s so fun! Thanks to Janet I can share in her early morning walks without even leaving my comfy sofa.  Ah, the magic of letter writing!  Are you in the mood for a little creative visualization?  Well, I’ll share a bit of one of Janet’s letters with you.  I’m sure she wouldn’t mind because Janet is wonderful about sharing her joy.

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She writes,

“Just returned from my early morning walk to the fish pond, strolling by the sheep and lambs in the pasture…

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the donkeys keep watch…

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a few birds too”.

Janet continues, “When I reached the pond a dozen geese were on the water honking.  I like to watch them as they glide along and every now and then they’ll flap their wings, take off, fly to the shore or another spot on the pond, splashing when they land, and then glide along once more.”

Can’t you just picture those geese as Janet describes them?  I sure can, and I have to smile with delight as I share their joy.

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 Janet is always sending me pictures in her letters.  I love them.  Like I always say – one picture is worth a thousand words.  Janet makes post cards too like this one of Mr. Rooster.  She cleverly snapped his picture and added what she knew he was thinking.  If you hang around animals enough you do get to know what they’re thinking.  On the back of the postcard Janet wrote,

“Every morning roosters crow somewhere in our community.  My sister now has three roosters and this is one of the newest.  He’s very strong and feisty, but a smaller one we call ‘Roger’ has been there the longest and none of the new roosters mess with him.  He’ll squawk and chase the other two.  Roger let’s the others know he’s the King rooster…”

Don’t you know people like Roger?  I sure do.

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I enjoy travel, but I also enjoy my creative visualization with the help of letter friends.  Having pen friends from all over the world gives us an “up close and personal” look at places and things near and far.  As you can see from the postmark above I have a pen friend in The Netherlands.  She’s a veterinarian.  I bet she would love Janet’s letters about nature and animals as I do.

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Vronica takes me along to places she visits like Stadtkyll and she adds her  personal commentary. Because I have wonderful  pen friends like Vronica and Janet I see more of this beautiful world than I would see otherwise.  And I care about, and become interested in, places I would never even know existed if not for letters.  After all, you can’t love what you don’t know.  Do you see how letters can expand our world?  If a person can’t get out and about for any reason, but even if they can,  they really ought to take up letter writing.

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How ’bout a little sightseeing in England?  No problem, just find yourself an English correspondent like my pen friend Tracy.  Tracy lives in Jacob’s Well, Guildford Surrey.

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I’m getting to know Guildford pretty well because  of all the literature Tracy sends me on the place.  I love it!

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We tour neighborhood houses together via her local newspaper

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and we also visit historic properties in and around Guildford like this museum, The City Museum.  Its galleries tell the story of the city from its origin as a prehistoric trading center and Roman regional capital, through to modern times with reconstructed 19th and 20th century shops.

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But Tracy also sends me gifts, large and small.  She is a very giving  and  generous person who loves to share.  My kind of girl.  Tracy knows how sharing doubles the joy.  She sent me these neat London coasters

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and this pretty tablecloth for my tea parties.  Tracy, being English, thoroughly approves of all my tea parties.

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She also sends me recipes for tea bakery.  Of course she included a conversion table so I could understand the recipe measurements.

What can I say?  We have our private world, our world of family and local friends, our loved ones who move far away, but then there’s this entirely different world, our world of

Letter Friends

Can you see how they expand one’s life experience?

I sure hope you have a few dozen of your own letter friends, but until you get them, I’ll be happy to continue sharing mine with you.  Why?  You know.

Sharing Doubles the Joy!

Afternoon tea on the patio with friends

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Almost all of us

Greetings everyone!

I don’t know what I love more – afternoon tea,  a beautiful day outside near the garden, or getting together with friends.  Well, this day I was enjoying all three of these things at once for I was serving tea to some of my friends on the patio with my garden in full view. I suppose I like the idea of afternoon tea so much because it’s such a gracious old world pleasure and I find old world pleasures  delightful. They help in offsetting the stress and pressures of  modern life.

So I pulled out one of my many tea books for inspiration – this one is called Tea Party by Tracy Stern, and I got to work.

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Since I had some cream and buttermilk scones leftover from my last tea, tucked in the freezer, I decided to make tea sandwiches for this tea.  So to work I went!  First to cut the bread into rounds,

IMG_3588[1]then to insert a chicken salad mixture and decorate each tea sandwich with a sprig of mint from the garden.

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That was quick and easy.

Next to whip up some cucumber sandwiches –

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a little cream cheese, salt, white pepper, thinly sliced cucumbers and a sprig of fresh dill, and another sandwich was complete.

IMG_3591[1]The sandwiches were placed on a tray, covered with a damp tea towel, and were placed in the fridge where they would stay fresh until my guests arrived.  That was easy, wasn’t it, and it didn’t take much time at all.

So I had scones and tea sandwiches and also a cake which was purchased – something  savory and something sweet for my guests to enjoy.

IMG_3610[1]My only contribution to this cake was the flower from my garden which I placed on top of it.  There’s really so little work involved in having guests in for tea I wonder why more people don’t enjoy this celebration more often.

If a person feels like going all out they can prepare elaborate hot food for their tea and call it a high tea.  If they feel like taking it quite easy, they can serve only cinnamon toast or bread and butter as certain  characters in Agatha Christie’s “Miss Marple” stories do.  As in the Art of Letter Writing there are no hard and fast rules.  The Art of Tea allows us to do our own thing – all sorts of our own things.

I set everything out on the counter in my kitchen, so everything would be ready, just to be carried out to the patio at tea time, and then I could relax and anticipate a fun afternoon doing other things till my guests arrived.

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 Besides the necessary glasses, sugar bowl and silverware, there’s

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strawberry jam and Devon cream for the scones,

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mint and lemon for the tea,

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 the cake, and a selection of plates I needed to choose from,

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 the flowers for the table

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and  of course the tea, plenty of tea, ready for ice cubes.

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I also enjoyed a little art play by creating place cards for each guest which would be set into these cute little silver tea pots at each guest’s place.

Everything was now ready except for me.  Time to dress and make myself presentable.  It was also time to walk through the house and do a little fluffing and polishing, but not too much because my guests and I would be outside on this beautiful day.

At the appointed hour I carried all the ingredients out to the patio.

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The potted geranium was removed and set at another location, and the tablecloth  came out.

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I’ve been collecting vintage tablecloths for years.  They make a table look so happy.

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The scones and tea sandwiches were set out on the tea cart along with the cake

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and the scene was set.  Now all I needed were my guests

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And here they are!

We may not be ladies of leisure all the time, but this afternoon that’s exactly what we were!  We sipped, we munched, we chatted, we breathed in fresh air and enjoyed the sweet sound of birdies and the scent of  old roses.  Was this heaven?  It was heaven to me!  I hope it was heaven to my guests too.

Tea has a long history of being associated with the finer things of life and today vestiges of extravagant associations remain. Having tea is such a simple thing, but such a luxury!  To invite friends to tea  is a fine way to pay them a compliment.  It means  you want to spend time with them.  It means you relish their company.   And just as the gift of a letter is an old world nicety,  forgotten by many, but still capable of creating delight for the writer as well as the receiver, so too is the Art of Afternoon Tea – especially afternoon tea shared because…

Sharing Doubles the Joy.

So Glad You Could Join Me For Tea and a Chat

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Sugar, Mint or lemon?

Did you notice I’m wearing the apron my former English teacher gave me at one of my last afternoon teas?  Thanks Miss Kaftan.

Now do come in,  sit down on the sofa out here on the porch

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or maybe you’d prefer to sit in a rocker.

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Just make yourself comfortable.

Modern life can keep us so on the go and it’s good to be on the go, it really is,  but not every minute!  We  are so wise to recognize our need for regular pauses in our day.  Some people never take time for themselves, poor things.  We’re enriched when we pause to take time for intellectual reflection.  Our days feel  brighter when we include others – sharing, exercising courtesy and cultivating friendships.  We grow in  peace and hope when we take time to reflect on our spiritual roots, and we’re  refreshed  when we pause from our busy work  to do a little daydreaming or to focus on the beauty that’s all around us.

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Beauty like a  birdie at the window feeder…

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Beauty like a lovely flower…

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Beauty like the nature outside our window.

It’s so nice you could join me today.  We’re both taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life.  What have you been doing today?  Maybe you’ll leave a comment at the end of this post and tell me about your day.  I’d like that.  Can I offer you a chicken croissant?

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Don’t worry about the calories.  You have to eat, don’t you?

I was in the mood to do a little baking today.  I’m  always searching for good scone recipes and today I found two.  Both recipes came from a book by Tricia Foley called Having Tea  and here it is.

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I made Buttermilk scones and Cream scones. Both turned out quite nicely.  I cut back on the salt a bit, but other than that Tricia’s recipes were the best I’ve found so far.  Here are the ingredients for both recipes:

Buttermilk Scones

1 and 3/4 cups of all purpose flour, 1 tsp. sugar, 3/4 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, approximately 3/4 cup buttermilk

Cream Scones

2 cups all purpose flour, 2 tsp. sugar, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 cup heavy cream

The buttermilk scones bake at 450 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes

The cream scones bake at 425 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes

For both recipes you mix the dry ingredients, cut in the butter or liquid till a soft dough forms, then roll out on a floured board to the thickness of 3/4 to 1 inch.  Cut dough with a sharp 2 inch round cookie cutter,  bake.

AND YOU HAVE SCONES!

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Please, have one.  Have two!  I made plenty.  Add a little Raspberry jam

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and Devon cream.

When you serve scones at tea, adding  jam and Devon cream or whipping cream, it’s rightly called a CREAM TEA.  If you bake a batch of scones, leftovers can be frozen, and at a moment’s notice you can enjoy a cream tea yourself or delight any friend who pops in unexpectedly.    Of course, when was the last time you experienced drop-in company?  Sadly, the days of visiting seem to be a thing of the past. People today are too busy for such civilized pleasures.  Not me!  I am the champion of old world pleasures lost to modern times – Hosting afternoon teas, Creating handwritten letters, Calling ahead to pay a visit to a friend or relative.  Such things as these add a gracious element to life, an element that  doesn’t cost much money (if any at all), but rewards us with  a certain joy which no amount of money can buy.

Think how you would delight a friend if you popped over to their home bearing a pot of flowers or a basket of strawberries.  That’s exactly what my friend Joni brought me on her last visit.

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 This is Joni.  She is one of my intelligent friends who not only takes time for herself,  focusing on her many blessings, but she also makes time for others, doing nice things for them.  That’s a winning combination. I’m so lucky to have Joni as a friend.  I hope you have friends like Joni too,  and  I hope you are a good friend to others, making time for them.

Maybe tomorrow you’ll mix up a few pitchers of ice tea,

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call a friend or two, and invite them over

or

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buy a pot of flowers

or

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a cake

and go visiting.  Call ahead and visit a friend or relative showering them with your time and appreciation.  Sharing doubles the joy, and taking this time out in your day is well worth the effort.  But in between visits with others remember to take time for yourself – time to dream, time to putter, time to exercise your creativity, time to relax.  It’s so good for your health and it’s so good for your spirit.

And speaking of spirit, you can always enjoy tea time with God.  There’s even a book to help you with that. and here it is.

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This book is a Quiet Moments with God  devotional, published by Honor books.  If you need a little company and no one is available why not share your teatime break  with God.  This book will help.

I remember seeing an old film called The Ghost and Mrs. Muir way back when.  I loved this film and wished  I too had a friendly ghost who shared my old 1853 house, a ghost I could talk to and gain inspiration from  –  and then it hit me!  I do have my very own friendly ghost and so do you.  It’s a ghost , who though invisible, is with us all the time.  It is a very special ghost too.  It is the HOLY GHOST!

Yes, I’m a spiritual person, aren’t you?   So why shouldn’t we  invite the Holy Ghost to tea now and then just as we would invite other friends?  There’s an idea!  (BIG SMILE)  And these great ideas  do not come to us unless we  take time from our busy routines to pause and relax and ponder.

So, I’m very glad you stopped by for tea and this chat.  I was having fun with my birdies and  baking , but sharing with you made my fun even better because… you know…

Sharing doubles the joy!

So drop by again, and until then, be sure to take time out of your days to dream, to share, and to BE!

Like my Boston University tee shirt  says

B U

(That’s short for Be You!)