A Winter’s Country Inn Day

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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.

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The Red Lion Inn painted by Norman Rockwell

“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?

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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.

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Breakfast in Bed menu at the Jeremiah Brown House
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Tea Table at The Jeremiah Brown House

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!)

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“Tea…became more than an idealization of the form of drinking: it is a religion of the art of life.” — Kakuzo Okakura

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?

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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 her Charleston 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 York Times 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.

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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.

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This is the lovely formal dining room at The Red Lion Inn, the Inn which inspired my Country Inn days.

 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.

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And here it is – Red Lion Inn Rice.

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with Potato Leek Soup

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and Chicken tenders accompanied by fresh green beans.

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Oh yes, and a dessert of Grand Marnier Crepes.

The Inn cooks job is done.  Now it’s back to being Inn guest.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.”

(Old Tavern Song)

Country Inn “Travel” Day

 

 

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German Village, Columbus Ohio
Even though I can have wonderful Country Inn Day experiences staying in or close to my Inn of imagination,  my 1853 home, it is sometimes great fun to go beyond my little town of Hudson, Ohio and do a little (or a lot) of exploration.  And so I took a trip to German Village which is two hours south of Hudson.

German Village is a historic neighborhood (and I love historic neighborhoods) just south of downtown Columbus, Ohio’s state capital.  It was settled in the early – to – mid 19th century by a large number of German immigrants who at one time comprised as much as one third of the city’s entire population.

German Village is listed on The National Register of Historic Places and was made a “Preserve America Community” by the White House.  It is one of the premier historic restorations in the world.

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The Book Loft

My travel day in German Village began at a wonderful book shop called The Book Loft. This shop boasts of having 32 rooms of books for sale and each room has a different style of music playing to entertain shoppers as well as to tempt them to buy the musical cds. It would be easy for a book lover like me to spend the entire day in such a place

 

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but after a considerable amount of time browsing I tore myself away, strolling out along the shops beautifully flower-filled alley way, but not empty handed.

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I came away with two books, this one by Martha Stewart because living a good  and long life is important to me as it is to Martha.  Her book has a little bit of everything in it – healthy eating, healthy fitness, healthy brain, healthy home… you get the idea.  I was tempted by books in all these categories, but Martha had a little of everything rolled up into one.

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My other purchase was this lovely and artful book entitled “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life”.  It contains information about the plants and places that inspired Beatrix to write her wonderful storybooks.  Beatrix is one of my “dead friends” so I’m always looking for books like this one.   Beatrix can’t share her life with me in person these days since she moved far off to heaven, but the right books allow her to share with me in a different, but still very delightful way.

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But time flew in the book shop and I was getting hungry so my next stop was a wonderful restaurant called Lindy’s.

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Lindy’s is a convivial American bistro featuring a copper-topped bar and a surf ‘n’ turf menu.

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 I love the elegance of white tablecloths so Lindy’s dining room was the place for me.  I was seated at this table near a window.  Yes!

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Here with Beatrix at my side (via her book) I ordered a delicious lunch, glass of wine and then relaxed with coffee from this nifty french press stainless steel pot.

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Looking out the window at the gas lamps and the historic buildings as I enjoyed my lunch made it easy to imagine I was back in time with Beatrix.  I was very happy with this restaurant but I had no idea what lay just outside. something that could’ve made my lunch experience even better on this glorious weather day.  Can you guess what it is?

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Lindy’s has an outdoor patio nestled in trees and decorated with lots and lots of beautiful flowers.  Who knew?

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Well, now I know and so do you so next time either of us venture to Lindy’s on a beautiful day we’ll know to take a table out of doors amidst  the fresh air and flowers where the birdies can serenade us.

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But it was now time to hit the brick-lined streets and sidewalks, time to take a stroll around the village.  There were houses and their gardens to investigate.  Let me share a little of what I saw along the way.

So many charming houses with postage stamp size gardens that were small but absolutely lovely.  There were  patios and porches, all  carefully designed and well appointed.  It was delightful and inspiring to stroll along and view such beauty, but after a while it was also time to sit down and rest.  Luckily there was a park just ahead.

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What a welcome sight for my tired feet.

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I found a park bench, invited Beatrix to join me once again by pulling out my new book,  and there in solitude, but with society all around me, I enjoyed the beauty of nature on this Country Inn “Travel” Day.

See?

Ah nature!

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous 

Aristotle

I enjoyed everything about this Country Inn Day, but as usual it went by far too quickly. The bookstore, the charming restaurant, strolling past pretty gardens, houses and then this peaceful  park.  What a pleasant day!

My Country Inn Days are always wonderful escapes.  Be they days where I play the part of Innkeeper and Inn Chef hosting afternoon teas and dinner parties or days where I delight as Inn Guest jaunting around in search of culture, adventurous expeditions or spiritual retreats… whatever the itinerary I know a Country Inn Day will be a break from routine and the break will do me a world of good.  Some Country Inn Days are spent entirely at the Inn with no unusual activities at all, just lots and lots of simple pleasures –  leisurely walks , bubble baths, letter writing, piano playing, reading, art play and always time spent in imagination.

After all, we must be the artists of our lives creating days which make our hearts sing. Lord Chesterfield (another of my “dead friends”) an 18th century British statesman and man of letters once said, “Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it.”  Sometimes that’s hard to do on a daily basis, but it’s easy to do on a Country Inn Day so I’m sure to schedule one each and every week.  Country Inn Days step in and I step out of all regular routines.

I’m so happy you could join me for at least a little of my Country Inn “Travel” Day  Why?  You know.

Sharing Doubles the Joy.

Hope to see you next time wherever Country Inn Days will take us.

Country Inn “Spa” Day

 

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Some Country Inn Days have me going out and about to explore and enjoy the world around me.  Other Country Inn Days have me playing the part of Innkeeper and Inn Chef preparing and hosting  dinner parties and teas, but on this particular Country Inn “Spa” Day I will kick back, hibernate, and enjoy a day of rest and relaxation.  I will not even venture out to one of the professional spas in my area, but instead I’ll partake in spa treatments right here at my own personal Inn.  The day’s itinerary is free and flexible. Today I will do only what the spirit moves me to do.  If you’re usually a busy person this sort of  free and easy Spa Day can really hit the spot now and then.

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Over the years I’ve collected all sorts of books which contain ideas for just this sort of day.  I’ll lounge in my robe and fuzzy slippers reading these books and taking notes.  If  I come upon a treatment which sounds good at the moment I will partake in it.  Other treatments and ideas will be jotted down for future days.  Sometimes we need to stop doing and focus on “being”.  My personal library of spa books will also help me design rituals for every day, not just spa days.  What fun to take a day off, to relax,  to enjoy a little pampering, but also to plan rituals which will make future days better. Incorporating healthy habits and refreshing ideas into our days doesn’t just happen.  We have to make these things happen by planning for them.

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Of course I want to share a few of the ideas I come upon with you because you know what I’m always saying – sharing doubles the joy and divides the sorrow.  It seems Jane Austen felt the same way.

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Country Inn Days are all about imagination and in Margo Valentine Lazzara’s book, “Blissful Bathtimes” she reminds us that we can have relaxing escapes anytime, no matter how busy our day might be, if we take a few minutes to close our eyes and imagine we’re back at some beautiful place we love.  Where would your imagination take you?

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I would go back to The Boston Public Garden and take a ride on the swan boats there. I’d smell the flowers and trees, feel the sun on my back, listen to the ducks splashing in the water and gaze about at the nature all around me in this lovely garden.  Margo suggests  enjoying this creative visualization whenever we bathe, but actually we can enjoy it at all sorts of times and places.  I can easily justify spending money to visit beautiful sites knowing that I can return to them often “in imagination” once they are experienced and carefully registered in my mind.

IMG_7270[1] Here’s another idea.  Drink water.  I’m thinking of a  material that is lightweight, flexible, elastic, waterproof, self-mending, washable, durable and needs water to keep it in good shape.  Can you guess what material  that is?  It’s our skin.  Sources agree we need  6 to 8 glasses of water daily if we want to take care of our skin.  Having a pitcher nearby helps me remember to drink this healthful liquid.

Other skin tips:  Use moisturizer and sunscreen.  Exercise regularly. Relax away tension to help prevent expression lines in the face.  Get a lot of sleep.  Keep weight constant. Eat a well balanced diet.

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Myra Cameron offers all sorts of ideas for skin care as well as care for hands, feet, teeth, hair and eyes in her book “Mother Nature’s Guide to Vibrant Beauty and Health”. Here’s one of her gentle recipes for a daily facial scrub – 2-3 tsp. of baking soda mixed with a little warm water.  For feet she suggests we try this Chinese massage – Rotate your ankles while massaging each toe.  Massage the soles of your feet with your fists. Rub the tops of your feet from ankles to toes in circular motions with the flat of your hand.

Now for a few tips for your teeth from Myra. – She says starches and fats can be as harmful to teeth as sweets.  This is because an enzyme in saliva transforms starch into sugar; fat makes food stick to the teeth.  Myra says raisins and peanut butter are among the worst offenders.  And did you know drinking generous amounts of tea (which contains flouride) can provide just as much protection from tooth decay as flourinated water?  Myra says it’s true.

Let’s talk about hair.  Myra says half-and-half gives hair extra body when left on for 5 minutes.  She also suggests treating your hair to a fruit salad if you’ve been out in the sun.  Here’s how – In a blender mix 1/2 banana, 1/4 of an avacado, 1/6th of a cantaloupe, and 1 tablespoon each of wheat germ oil and yogurt.  Leave on hair for 10 minutes to regenerate sun-abused hair.

And to refresh tired or irritated eyes – try saturating eye pads with warm to room temperature milk, and for dark circles or bags under eyes try creating a compress of moist camomile, pekoe, or rose hip tea (or warmed castor oil) and placing the compress on eyes for 15 minutes or longer each and every day.

Myra’s book is a treasure trove of information.  She also wrote a book called “Treasury of Home Remedies”.  Who needs to buy fancy products with her many simple suggestions?  I plan to try lots of her home remedies on future evenings when I need a little pick-me-up.

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But just taking time to step off the treadmill of life in order to relax our mind, body and soul is a very helpful way to feel happy and at peace.  Work and worry are sturdy weeds, but joy requires cultivation. On Country Inn “Spa” Days I work at this cultivation.

Scheduling alone time, taking it easy for a little while,

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getting some inspiration from a few good books like “Office Spa” by Darrin Zeer,

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or “Relax mind, body and soul” by Barbara L. Heller, and using that inspiration to enjoy a little pampering, then designing  beautiful rituals for future days, well,  that’s a Country Inn “Spa” Day for you.

And that day is today!

Another Country Inn Day – Hudson Day

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The Hudson Clock tower
On some Country Inn Days I like to stay close to the Inn, only venturing out into the neighborhood if and when I need to stretch my legs.  After all, there’s a time for adventure, but there’s also a time to lay low.  A day spent at the Inn, stepping out of regular routines and enjoying quiet pleasures with just a little larking about in town is exactly what I need every now and then, like today on this Country Inn Day, this Hudson Day.

Hudson, like my beloved Boston, is a mixture of old and new.  The town was founded in 1799 so there’s a lot of historic architecture to enjoy here and this I happen to love, but Hudson’s downtown area bustles with new establishments.  These establishments offer a nice mix of shops, restaurants and culture.

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The new Hudson Library and Historical Society

The culture is found at The Hudson Library and Historical Society. It’s here I begin Hudson Days and most other Country Inn Days as well.  The library is a wonderful place to meet  my beloved “dead friends” by way of books and old letters kept in the library archives.

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Here at the library spirits come alive.  I bring many of them back to the Inn with me so at tea time or cocktails I can visit with them and hear the tales of  their interesting lives lived long ago or sometimes lived right in our present day.  On this Country Inn Day I connect with C.S. Lewis, Claude Monet and the Duke of Windsor.  The aisles of the library are full of wonderful biographies just hoping people will pick them up in order to discover the lives described on their pages.

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Just imagine  each of these books to be a live person dying to tell you his or her story.  And with a little imagination that’s exactly what happens for me .  Country Inn Days are  days full of imagination you know,  the perfect time to get to know all these interesting personalities captured in books.

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I love to stroll around The Hudson library and its  many different areas.  It’s a very big place. One could spend the whole day here enjoying different rooms.  This is the main floor open space with magazines on the right, cd’s on the left, a seating area for reading at the windows and beyond the windows there is a great outdoor patio.

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Of course today it’s a bit too snowy and cold to sit on the patio, but come May you’ll know where I will be regularly.

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Today it’s a lot more comfortable reading and sipping a cappuccino here in the library cafe, and if your cup is covered you can take it up to the reference library.

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This reference room is beautiful with windows looking out over the town. How lucky we are in Hudson to have such a facility. There’s an archivist on duty most days too.  Any library is a grand place to hang out, but for a small city like Hudson this library is quite stupendous… and it’s free!  What a treasure.

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But after a nice time at the library I decide to walk through the new Village Green and pop into a shop or too.  This Green (now quite white with snow) is lined with shops and restaurants. There’s even an ice skating rink to the front of the pergolas.

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I first come upon a Talbots and it’s quite nice  that the store happens to be having a big sale just in time for my Country Inn Day visit.

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I take a few garments into this very lovely dressing room and end up with a new cashmere sweater, co-ordinating sweater jacket, plus a very nice blouse.  Every now and then a girl likes something new to wear.  Don’t you agree?  And who doesn’t like a sale?

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From Talbots  I stroll down the lane and pop into another nice shop.  This one is called Heather’s Heat and Flavor.  At this shop I find a most interesting cookbook.  It’s called “The French Slow Cooker” by Michele Scicolone.

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Did you think it was possible to make Creme Anglaise or Creme Brulee or an Orange Souffle in a slow cooker?  I certainly didn’t, but this book promises that even a novice can turn out dishes that taste as though they came straight out of the kitchen of a French grandmere.  I love French food so I had to buy this book.  I’ll let you know if my results are as magnifique as the book promises.

Well, with those purchases I decided I spent enough money for one Country Inn Day so I moved along deciding to take a little walk around the neighborhood before returning to the Inn.  Let me share with you some of the sights along my way.

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There were quiet streets lined with old, charming houses.

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Big houses

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Smaller ones

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and all sorts in between

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Beige ones

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And white ones

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And brick ones too,

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but the quiet streets also have  lots of public buildings which are fun to view  while strolling along.

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Churches

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Buildings on the Western Reserve Academy Campus like the Chapel

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and historic Main Street with the older shop buildings that have been around for more than a hundred years.

Hudson is a great town for walkers and that’s me, so a Country Inn Hudson Day is great fun any time of year. But it is getting late. These Country Inn Days just fly by.  It’s time to get back to the Inn.

IMG_6368[1]And here I am

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 stepping through the garden  all covered with snow and entering the Inn itself.

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After all that walking in the cold it’s nice to be all cozy and warm inside sitting at the piano where I decide to play for a while as cocktails are being prepared.  Playing the piano is one of my favorite things and Country Inn Days are devoted to the enjoyment of favorite things. You know what that famous song from “The Sound of Music”  says  – “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad”.  But it’s not just when we’re feeling bad that we should enjoy our favorite things. We should take time for them regularly in order to prevent feeling bad.

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So as I play the piano a fire is lit and my husband acts as Innkeeper setting out crackers, cheese and drinks.  Here, just as in the lounge of my favorite Red Lion Inn, we relax, chat, and make dinner plans. We decide to dine out of the Inn this evening, going to a fairly new Hudson establishment called The Three Palms.  It’s a gourmet pizza place.

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This is  the exterior of The Three Palms restaurant by day.

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And this is the interior of the restaurant by night. My husband and I sit at the bar so we can look right across the way to the kitchen where the staff is working busily.  Sometimes on Inn Days I am the one-woman kitchen staff, the Inn chef, but on other Inn Days like today I am pure Inn guest.  It is nice to be served now and then.

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It’s fun watching this fellow prepare the pizza dough,  throwing it into the air.  He’s good, never dropped it even once.  A little entertainment while we sip our wine.

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I enjoy the food here and I enjoy the setting too.  The lighting is very pleasant creating  an  ambiance just right for a romantic Country Inn Day.

So all in all I’d say this Country Inn Day was quite the success. Though it was too short, as all days seem to be, it did provide  rest, relaxation, imagination  and sights and experiences outside of my regular routines. That’s all I can ask for on any Country Inn Day so I’m quite content.

I hope you’re happy too, having your own Days of Imagination and Fun,   your own version of my Country Inn Days.  You are the artist of your life.  Only you can create the sort of days which will make your life glisten and glow… so seize the day  and remember…

If you can imagine a perfect day you can make it so.

Enjoy!

Let’s talk about Hand Writing

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I love hand made things.  A loaf of bread, a knitted sweater, flowers and vegetables grown in one’s own garden, a home-cooked meal… these and other hand made creations warm my heart.   You see, it’s all about personal touch.  Therefore you’re probably not surprised that I prefer handwriting to typing.  I view handwriting as a real art form and it saddens me that so many schools are deciding to eliminate cursive writing from their curriculum.

Creativity is enchanting, all sorts of creativity, even the most simple act of putting pen to paper in creating one’s own unique and very personal script.  Handmade script is art – good art or sometimes bad art. but art nonetheless.  And, just as one artist will enjoy viewing the art of other artists, I enjoy viewing the handwriting of other writers.

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Some handwriting is handsome and inspiring. Other handwriting can be a real puzzlement, very hard to read with its haphazard lines and squiggles. Still, I prefer handmade to machine made script.  Beautiful or beastly, the personal touch is always superior to that of a machine.

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When I receive a handsome handwritten letter I experience a lift.  Beauty does that to me.  I’m surprised everyone doesn’t want to develop a handsome handwriting because one’s handwriting is a reflection of one’s self.

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Practice makes… no, not perfect,  Practice makes improvement.  And here’s a handwriting tip if you’re looking to spruce up your script.  Slow your hand down and write a little larger.  These two simple actions will do wonders for legibility and style.  Slowing down will also probably do wonders for your blood pressure.

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Having a legible and pleasing handwriting is something to be proud of and using that pleasing handwriting skill to send personal messages to family, friends and business associates is a lovely practice.  Why? It’s because handwritten messages show we’re thinking of a person and willing to spend our precious time making something unique and original just for them. Because these personal messages are so rare they stand out in a very good way.

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I always knew this, but I was delighted to see a modern technological company, Gracious Eloise, agreeing with me.  This company advertises and sells  faux personal correspondence. Crazy huh?  They will write notes for their customers in what they call realistic digital handwriting, complete with the random quirks and wobbles of real human beings.  They obviously realize there’s value in personal touch, and as they say in their ad, “they’ll help their customers personally connect in business utilizing the power of digital handwriting to cut through the clutter of their fast-paced lives.”

Unfortunately, this digital handwriting, no matter how authentic it may look , is not really personal.  IT’S FAKE!

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To write a real personal note or letter you need a real person doing the real writing, I’m sorry, but only then will that note or letter evoke a  real warm and fuzzy response.

But besides delighting others with our handwritten messages we can delight ourselves with our handwriting.  I find writing as relaxing and rejuvenating as going off to a spa. Have you ever gone to a spa?  I have and it’s a real treat, quite refreshing, but I have had  lovely spa experiences while staying right at home.

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Every now and then it’s time for a “Spa Day”.  I give myself permission to take the day off and relax at home partaking in luxurious treatments – shampoo, facial, manicure, bubble bath and healthful activities too – exercise and/or walks in nature.  And on my spa days I enjoy long and sensuous writing sessions.  I settle in a comfortable location, pull out my fountain pen and enjoy crafting slow, flowing strokes across smooth, clean paper.  As I focus on positive and beautiful thoughts, creating words to express those thoughts, my spirit soars. This physical process is soothing and sensuous and the sharing doubles my joy.

If I’m tense or rushed my handwriting suffers, but as I slow down and gracefully form my letters with care I can almost feel the tension melt away. The slow, flowing movement of my pen across the paper, along with the quiet time spent in reflection, create the effect of a mental and physical massage.  I step away from my writing time refreshed and rejuvenated.

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This is because handwriting is not only physical but also physiological and psychological. David V. Barrett explains this writing process in his book Graphology. He says, “When you write you use manual skills that are learned throughout your life, but handwriting is also self expression.”

It’s interesting how a class of children taught the same handwriting style will all develop that style in different ways.  By early adulthood the handwriting of each class member will be unique, showing each individuals personality.  And writing can actually help us think.

How neat is all that?  Like a lock of our hair or a DNA sample, our handwriting is a bit of our unique self.  Therefore, when we send a handwritten message to someone we are truly sending a bit of our self to them.  It’s personal, and it’s no wonder that receiving such a message makes a person feel honored and special.

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And your handwriting could teach you things about yourself too, things you did not know.  Try this:  Take a sheet of paper, 8 x 10 inches, and fill the whole page with your handwriting.  Write about anything at all – what you did today, what your hopes are for the future, what you need to do tomorrow …

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then pick up a handwriting analysis book like “Handwriting Analysis Putting it to work for you” by Andrea McNichol.  This book was consulted by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice, Scotland Yard, the U.S. Department of Defense, and Fortune 500 companies.

In this book you’ll learn things like: People with small handwriting tend to be modest.   People whose handwriting slopes to the left may be unwilling to go out and fight the world.  People with a right slant often like to show their feelings and take an active part in life.

As you look over your handwriting while reading an analysis book you will discover things about yourself you might be very interested to learn.

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So you see there’s more to handwriting than meets the eye at first glance. It’s art and it’s a fascinating subject, just as you are a fascinating subject.  Your handwriting is you.   Think about it, then do more than think.  Get yourself a pen, some paper and …

Write

Hand Write

Lunch with a few of my friends – a few of my “dead friends”

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The gang’s all here! I’ll take my place and lunch time can begin.

I hate to eat lunch alone so I’ll often invite a few friends in to join me – usually these are “dead friends”.  If you know me at all you know all about my “dead friends”.  You know I meet them in all sorts of ways – through the work they’ve done, the books and films which tell their stories and through their letters.  My 1853 house is always alive with the spirit of interesting people, both living people and those who have moved out of sight, but never out of mind.

At lunchtime, I pull out leftovers from the night before and prowl around the house in search of a few “dead friends”  to join me at my table.  Because I have lots and lots of books about lots and lots of interesting people it’s never very difficult to gather spirits together, and once we’re together my “dead friends” never fail to delight and enlighten me with their stories, facts, and personal philosophy.

Today my luncheon guests are Julia, Harry, Ludwig and George.  That’s Julia Child, Harry Truman, Ludwig Van Beethoven and George Bernard Shaw.  They’re all sharing with me as I enjoy my pasta and wine.

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Bucatini All’ Amatriciana with Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s a good thing my guests weren’t hungry because I had just a little pasta leftover from last night’s dinner.  But I bet they would’ve liked some if circumstances were different.  You might like to try this recipe yourself for it  really is delicious and I’m happy to share.

Bucatini with bacon and tomatoes

Ingredients/ serves 4  1/2c. chopped pancetta bacon, 2 T. solid vegetable shortening, 1 small onion, finely chopped, 2 c. peeled, seeded, chopped firm-ripe tomatoes, salt and white pepper, 1 lb. bucatini or other pasta shapes, 1/4 c. grated pecorino cheese.

Process  Put on plenty of salted water to boil for pasta.  Put pancetta in a saucepan with shortening and onion and fry until bacon is browned.  Add tomatoes, season lightly with salt and white pepper and cook briskly for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile,, cook the pasta until al dente, drain, transfer to a bowl, add cheese and sauce, stir and serve hot.

YUM!

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This yummy recipe came from a favorite cookbook called “The flavors of Italy” by Simonetta Lupi Vada.  I love to cook and I have zillions of cookbooks, and a few are even written by my luncheon guest, Julia Child.  But Julia wasn’t in the mood to talk about food today.  She had other things to say.  She was telling me (by way of a letter to her friend Avis) about life with her husband Paul as they packed to move to Marseilles.

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This little tidbit I’ll share with you, along with other Julia stories, are contained in the  book, “As Always, Julia”.  This book is composed of Julia’s  letters to Avis DeVoto, her pen pal and literary mentor.   Edited by Joan Reardon.  it is easy to read the letters and feel Julia is writing them to me.  Here’s one example. Julia writes:

“Yesterday we did photographs, of which there were hundreds and hundreds. Today it is books, of which we have a like amount.  I never want to throw anything away and Paul wants to throw everything away; so between us it works out quite reasonably.  Paul says women want to keep everything because it is their nesting instinct.  Maybe he’s right.”  (Yes, I agree with Julia.  I do think Paul is right about the nesting instinct women have.  What do you think?)

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 Well,  all this domestic talk bored Ludwig to death, so he left and went into the next room to play some of his sonatas.  The sonatas  were a lovely musical accompaniment to food, wine and lunch time chatter with the others.  (That reminds me.  There’s a great movie called “The Others” with Nicole Kidman.  It deals with the subject of “dead friends”.  You might like it.)  I don’t know if Julia, Harry, and George like Beethoven’s sonatas, but I played some in college and I find them very appealing.  It’s better though that Ludwig stayed at the piano.  He  was never much for friendly chit chat.

 Meanwhile, Harry, who was quiet through Julia’s words, now decided to tell a story.  Like Julia, he was able to  communicate with me by way letters, letters captured in books.  I happen to have quite a few of such books being a lady of letters myself.  I will share with you a bit of what Harry shared with Bess and me,

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Harry and Bess

all from a book simply called “Dear Bess”.  It is edited by Robert H. Ferrell.  The book contains letters from Harry to Bess Truman 1910-1959.  Here’s the  story Harry told me at lunch.  He says:

“I had an adventure yesterday. … a most awful good-looking girl came driving down the road like mad and said her dog had jumped in an open well up the road and would I come and get him out. … I got in the buggy and went with her, got a ladder, and I went down and got the dog – a fox terrier.  There were about a half-dozen women tearing around the top of the well all the time trying to get the dog to climb ropes and jump in a bucket.  They were a most awfully pleased bunch when Dudley arrived at the top in as good condition as ever except for a good swim.  The ornery cuss shook himself while I helped him and I looked as if I’d been rained on.  They were very profuse in their thanks and I believe the old lady and the girl would have kissed me if I hadn’t made a hurried getaway…”

I enjoyed Harry’s story.  He is a very sweet man and he enjoys sharing simple daily life happenings.  But when it is George’s turn to share he tells very different tales, and he loves to spout philosophy.   If you know George as I know George you know he is not much for village chatter.  He and Harry are very different types, but that makes lunch with them so much fun.  Add  Julia  and Ludwig and lunchtime is even more fun.

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George Bernard Shaw

George did like the ladies, especially the actresses he worked with, and thanks to one of them, Molly Tompkins, I have an entire book of  letters, letters  he wrote to her from 1921 through 1949.

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George is able to share a lot of his  philosophy with me  (and you too) thanks to these letters.  If he and other “dead friends” weren’t letter writers we could not possibly get to know these talented people of the past nearly as well .

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One of George’s letters

In case you’ve not been true to yourself lately, in case you’ve been copying other people, in case other people have been trying to mold you their way,  then you might like to hear what George had to say to me and Molly Tompkins on the subject of self.  George said:

“I think you will have to begin making experiments with your own way of doing things.  You must not take the bit between your teeth all at once all the time … There is only one way of getting your own way; and that is making your own way  convincing in action.  It is quite possible that your notion of doing the thing is the right notion, but that you have not yet got skill enough to put it across; and so for the moment you must do as others do, but in the end you must make yourself something more than a marionette worked mostly by somebody who is not a successful actor, or author or critic or connoisseur or anything else that commands an unquestioning deference.”

There!  Got That?

Be an original

I like it!

All my “dead friends” are originals and that’s why they are such wonderful companions for lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, coffee, cocktails … whatever.   I hope you use your imagination and spend quality time with friends who are originals too –  living or “dead friends”,  and of course I hope you are working at becoming an original yourself.

Don’t be afraid to do your own thing, even if it’s a little unusual – unusual like having lunch with “dead friends”.  Use your imagination and have fun.  You only live once!

The “Letter Luncheon”

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A letter from Renee

Today I’m writing my daily  letter to a new pen friend, Renee.  Renee lives in the Adirondack region of New York state.  I met her through The Letter Exchange, that wonderful letter writer’s group I’ve mentioned to you before. Renee and I have a lot in common.  We both enjoy spending time with family, reading, cooking, gardening and partaking in afternoon tea.  We also share an interest in art, music, history and world cultures.  It won’t be  hard to think of things to write about in our letters to each other.  I hope you too have pen friends with whom you have so very much in common.

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Today’s stationery

I whipped up some stationery  for my letter to Renee, for that’s always a most enjoyable activity in itself, but then I got on with my writing.   It wasn’t long, maybe an hour later, that four pages were filled with friendly words.  Even without a lot of things in common letter writers manage to find many things to share, that’s because thoughts run freely when writing – from past to present to future to imagination. Letter writing really helps us reach into ourselves as we reach out to others.

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My letter to Renee
But Renee and I have something else in common.  We both have the distinct feeling that we were born too late.  Do you ever feel that way too?  If you love beauty, decorum and excellent manners you just may feel as we do.  Modern culture does not seem to appreciate many gracious values and customs of the past. Personal touch between people has slipped away, entertaining in our homes, visiting each other, and of course, letter writing .  Another thing is the way we dress ourselves, at least here in America – so casual, casual sometimes leaning toward careless.  Just yesterday I was visiting with my friend Olive who hails from Dublin, Ireland.  She recently returned from a visit to Ireland and France. Olive was saying that  people in Europe dressed up so much more than Americans.  She noticed the Europeans she visited even dressed up for picnic barbecues.  (That would be me.  Would it be you too?)

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I’ll have to ask Renee where she stands on fashion, but I know where she stands on letters.  She loves them just as I do.  I’m sure Renee gets good mail most every day because she’s a letter writer as I hope you are too.

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Some people get terrible mail, poor things.  All they find in their mail boxes are bills and advertisements and appeals for money.  If they’re lucky they might also get magazines and a few interesting catalogs, but so many never enjoy the pleasure of letters.  It’s so sad!

In Alexandra Stoddard’s book, “Gift of a Letter”, she tells about a man who replaced his mailbox with a garbage can.  Besides saving steps, he was making a statement for all to see.  He felt his mail was pure garbage!  Obviously this poor man was not a letter writer.  If only my letter writing friends knew his address.  We could send him some lovely letters and treat him to excellent mail.  We could change his life!

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One days mail delivery – an excellent mail day!

Every now and then I have what I call a “Letter Luncheon”.  I had such a luncheon just the other day. You see, I was about  to sit down for a little refreshment around noon when I noticed the mail truck pulling up to my door.  That little white truck is always a most welcome sight.

I dropped everything and high-tailed it to the mail box at my door and “lo and behold“, five pen friends were there coming to call on me.  They were there in the form of packages, letters and post cards. I was so happy to see them!  That day’s lunch would not need a book or magazine to keep me company.  I had Tracy from England, Tamra from Oregon, Amelia from Minnesota, Lana from Montana and Connie who was writing from her trip in Ireland.  Oh Boy!  Company for lunch!   A “Letter Luncheon”!

I spread my great mail around the table, and as I munched my salad I had a wonderful visit reading letters from great friends. “Letter Luncheons” are truly delightful happenings because sometimes you may not be ‘up’ for going out or dressing up or inviting living, breathing people over, but you’re still quite ‘up’ for visiting  friends in a spiritual sort of way – sharing thoughts, sharing  essence.  Thoughts and essence are easily shared, sometimes best shared, in letters without any bodily assistance.  And this is why many of my closest friends happen to be letter friends (“dead friends” too).

In some cases I have no idea what a favorite pen friend even looks like, and I could care less.  I wrote to my dearest friend Bruce Youngblood for over ten years before I knew he was black.  Who cared what color he was anyway.  It’s spirit that counts.  Black, white, red, yellow… tall, short, slim, fat… these things matter not to letter friends.   But unfortunately, looks will sometimes affect in-person relationships – prevent them from happening in the first place.  It shouldn’t, but it does.

If you haven’t enjoyed a “Letter Luncheon” lately, OR EVER, (gee that’s too bad), but all is not lost.  A “Letter Luncheon” could still happen for you if you start writing letters.  And you can take the matter into your own hands by creating your very own “Letter Luncheon”.

 Here’s how:  Simply  sit yourself down at your next noon time meal with paper and pen at your side. Eat a little,  Write a little.  Eat a little.  Write a little, eat, eat, eat, write a lot, write a little more.   You’re writing notes and letters to friends in between bites.  You’ll be having your own “Letter Luncheon”!  Then send those letters off, and before you know it, the friends you’ve written will be at your door returning the favor of a visit.

How do I know?

It’s because

When you give good things come back to you