Letters help you get away without having to get away

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Look who’s coming up my driveway.  It’s one of my favorite visitors.

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It’s my mail man.

Though this fellow is very nice it’s not his good looks and winning personality that make my heart sing.  It’s the letters he brings to me, letters from all over the world.  These letters offer friendship and not only that, they have the power to take me away to far off places without having to leave the comfort of my home.  Now that’s pretty special.

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Today’s letters carried me off to some pretty interesting places in the United States.  Kim wisked me off to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, then Amelia took me along on her trip to South Carolina. From there Nancy showed me a thing or two in Florida and because I was so comfy in my chair I could handle even more touring so  Greg carried me off to Missouri and I ended up in California with Carolyn.  It was the magic and art of letter writing that managed to share so much with me on a lazy Summer afternoon.

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Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden

If you have some time come along and see  some of the neat places that my pen friends shared. Sharing doubled their joy and it doubles mine too.  That’s why I’m sharing all this with you!

We’ll start our sightseeing at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden.  This is a complex of buildings and grounds set in Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, U.S.A.  It is a historic landmark listed in the National Register of Historic places.

This complex was founded in 1893 by steel and real-estate magnate Henry Phipps and was given to the city as a gift.  Its purpose is to educate and entertain the people of Pittsburgh.  It contains formal gardens and various species of exotic plants.  The greenhouse, Victorian in style, was designed by Lord and Burnham.  It contains interesting glass and metal work and is one of the greatest buildings in the world because it is the “greenest”… or so I’m told by Kim.

Once my pen friends introduce me to a place I can google it and learn so much more about it if it appeals to me, but without the introduction I would never even know the place existed.  Are you into Botanical Gardens?  If you live near Pittsburgh you ought to check it out.

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The French Huguenot Church of Charleston, South Carolina

Have you ever been to Charleston?  It’s a charming place I’m always ready to return to and Amelia has made that possible for me and you today by sharing this picture with us.  Do you know this church is the third church to be constructed on this site? The first was built in 1687 and this third and last structure was built in 1845.  It was the first Gothic Revival building constructed in Charleston.  Today it is the only independent Huguenot Church in America.

Don’t you love the horse drawn buggy?  I’m a Romantic and anything old world appeals to me. Hearing all about Amelia’s vacation to South Carolina brought back lots of good memories.  If you’ve never been there you owe it to yourself to take a trip and visit this old and charming city.

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Bok Tower Gardens, Florida, U.S.A.

We’re zooming around from one state to another and I’m not even a little tired.   How ’bout you? Now we’re off to Florida and the Bok Tower Gardens.  My friend Nancy lives in the state of Washington, she’s an old high school friend, but she visits her daughter in Florida often and tours neat places while there. Nancy tells me this place boasts being one of the greatest works of famed landscape architect Frederick  Law Olmsted Jr.  It was designed to be a contemplative and informal woodland setting with breathtaking views of the Singing Tower.

What’s a singing tower?  I wondered too.  It’s a 205-foot Neo-gothic and Art Deco  Carillon.  Concerts from this 60 bell carillon fill the gardens with beautiful music at 1 and 3 pm daily.  Music and nature.  What a glorious combination.  I wish I could hear those bells now.

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Hannibal, Misouri

Zip. Zip. Zip.  Now we’re in Hannibal. Missouri. Letters do help one get around without having to do any actual moving around yourself. My pen friend Greg lives in Hannibal and he loves this town. It is the birthplace of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens.)  Twain was born back in 1835 and he spent his boyhood in the house pictured above.  From  experiences in his early years here he created the tales told in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, two of his best loved novels.

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Greg’s last letter to me

Greg writes very interesting letters and he loves the Mark Twain postage stamp. He uses it on most of his letters.  How generous it was of him to include a few of these stamps for me to use in my letters as well.  I may not have a chance to visit Hannibal any time soon, but I just might have to read some stories by Mark Twain.  Having pen friends in various towns and cities helps me care about these places and care about others, not just about me.

What a good mail day it was for me today.  How about for you?  How many letters did you find in your mail box?  If there weren’t enough perhaps you haven’t been writing enough letters yourself. But there’s one more letter I received today and one more place a pen friend is sharing with me and I’ll share with you.

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California

Have you been to Hayfork, California lately, or ever?  I’ve been to Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, but I’ve never been to Hayfork.  Maybe that’s because it’s wilderness country and I’m not much of a wilderness kind of girl.  My pen friend Carolynn is.  She’s retired army and she lives here and loves it.  Carolynn says she’s had enough people in her life and now she enjoys nature and animals for company.  She pointed out Chanchelulla Peak in the background of this picture.  Its elevation is 6401 feet.   It is the highest point in the Chanchelulla wilderness and is located 50 miles west of Red Bluff, California (wherever that is).

There are no trails, no lakes, but lots of wild life here. The Chanchelulla Peak ranks 102nd on the list of California prominent Peaks.  California has lots of Peaks.  Carolynn enjoys this rugged area and she enjoys roughing it.  She has no electricity.  Can you imagine?  And we may think we’re roughing it some days.  How different life can be for all of us, but as we share with each other we get to experience a little bit more than the one life we lead.

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My outgoing letter to Kathy

Well, it sure has been fun traveling around the country powered by the sharing of my delightful letter friends.   Now it’s time for me to do a little sharing of my own.  I’ll be writing to my long time letter friend Kathy in York, Pennsylvania.  It was fun to share with you too.  Maybe you’ve been to some of the places I visited today.  You can tell me about your fun there if you leave a comment.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles the joy.

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Carol Ann signing off

So till be meet again one way or the other I’ll be signing off, wishing you lots of happy times writing and receiving letters.  Love and best wishes to you!

Shall we have another outing?

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Flying the friendly skies to California once again
I’m in the mood for a little culture.  How about you?  Let’s go to Pasadena, California and visit the Huntington Museum.  The Huntington Museum is a wonderful private non-profit collection-based research and educational institution founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington. Huntington was an exceptional businessman who built a financial empire that included railroad companies, utilities, and real estate holdings in Southern California.

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The Huntington complex is  huge.  It’s composed of a library containing rare books and manuscripts in the fields of British and American history and literature, but that’s not all.

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It is also an art gallery composed of two separate buildings.  The Huntington Gallery, completed in 1911, originally was the Huntington’s residence.  You would love walking through its rooms of elegant furnishings.

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Just look at this gorgeous dining room.  Though the Huntington family was not known to have entertained regularly, the dining room was nevertheless suitable for important functions.  One such occasion was a dinner for the crown prince and princess of Sweden, who visited the Huntington mansion in the early 1920’s.

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Every room is exquisite.

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I’m sure you would be most impressed with the building itself, but there’ s also the extensive art collection it contains.  When planning the residence Henry Huntington first envisioned a more modest retreat, but his uncle’s widow, Arabella Huntington, whom he would marry in 1913, was looking for a home on a grander scale.  Looking at one of the staircases in their home I think you would agree Arabella achieved her grand vision.

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The floor to ceiling windows are lovely.  I had such windows in my last 1829 house.  I miss them.

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The Huntington rooms are painted white and off- white with gold accents.  The look is very elegant and peaceful.  I might copy Huntington’s color palate should an addition ever materialize on my own home.

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The 2,900-square-foot hall was added in 1934 for displaying the Huntington’s Grand Manner portraits.  Now called the Thornton Portrait Gallery, this addition followed a trend begun with the Wallace Collection in London and the Frick Collection in New York where grand homes were converted into museums.  (That’s my son Patrick standing in the gallery).

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The loggia on the east side of the house represents a concession by the architect.  Archival documents show that Myron Hunt preferred a modest terrace on the east side; Henry Huntington envisioned a bolder, more spacious “outdoor living room.”  Huntington ultimately prevailed.

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I think Huntington had the right idea, for a grand home like his truly needed a bold and spacious loggia rather than a small modest one.  Don’t you agree?

IMG_3749[1]Of course such a wonderful residence has wonderful vistas too.  It must have been fabulous to live in such a grand home, but all along Henry Huntington intended his home to function as a public gallery which is why less remarkable spaces such as bathrooms and the kitchen were not saved.  The Huntington opened to the public in 1928, a year after Henry’s death.

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Sculpture of George Washington by Pierre-Jean David

The Huntington ‘s art collections occupy two separate buildings on the grounds.  A third structure, The MaryLou and George Boone Gallery hosts changing exhibitions.

If you visit the Huntington you will find the finest collections of European art in the nation and  The Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art bring together American art from the colonial period through the middle of the 20th century.

Besides all this the Huntington contains  an incredible Botanical Garden.  There is too much to see at one visit.  People are truly blessed who live in or near Pasadena California for they can and should return over and over again.

I hope you have enjoyed popping over to the Huntington with me today and I hope you manage to get there one day yourself.  In the meantime look for the beauty that’s all around you.

 The beauty we focus on becomes us.

Do you need to get away?

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Up, up and away in friendly skies
 Though there’s no place like home, a change of scenery now and then can be very good for us.  Whether we travel across town or across the world, seeing  new sights and new people can and should enrich us in some way – give us new ideas and  inspire us.  And so I leave my home in the Cleveland area of Ohio to visit California and my son who is graduating with a Masters from UCLA. My husband Bill and son Rory are traveling with me.  Maybe you’d like to come along too.

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The shores of Lake Erie

There’s the city of Cleveland in the distance.  Do you see it?  The tall buildings look so small.   It doesn’t take long to be up in the clouds.

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Whenever I fly I get the feeling I could be leaving the earth forever, that I could be on my way to heaven never to return to earth again.  This feeling helps me realize I better make the most of the life I have and accomplish all those things I want to do, use any gifts I’ve been given, live as richly as possible while I can.  For this reason air travel does a lot for me even before it delivers me to a new and interesting destination.

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Over Los Angeles, California

After writing a letter or two, reading a magazine, flipping through a book and consuming a few drinks, I look out the window of the plane and see lots and lots of tiny little houses all in neat rows. We must be over L.A. and  soon to be on the ground. The miracle of air travel.  I bet most people take it for granted.  Not me.

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LAX

We’ve arrived safe and sound at the Los Angeles International Airport.  With structures like this it looks like we could have landed somewhere on another planet, but no, we’re really just in California.  My whole little family will soon be together again and that doesn’t happen often enough.  How ’bout for you?

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Now to wait for our ride, for our Patrick, who will pick us up and wisk us away into the city.

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 My husband Bill and son Rory wait along with me.  We see  cars, cars and more cars, (that’s L.A. for you) but Patrick eventually arrives and we drive into Westwood, home of UCLA,  for a bite to eat.  No food on the plane like in the old days.  Our tummies are demanding attention.

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We’ll give them that attention at a very neat pizza shop called 800 Degrees.  It operates  in an assembly line manner.  As we walk down the line we order our pizza and its topping, our salad, our drink, and by the time we pay for our order it’s ready and we’re off to a table.  Interesting approach.

Travel is tiring,  so after our meal and some good conversation a cozy bed is the place to be, but by morning we’re all rested and ready to explore.  Are you ready too?  Our first destination is to be an interesting historic house, the Gamble House, in Pasadena.

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 This house was designed by architects Greene and Greene for David B. Gamble of the Proctor and Gamble company.  The Gambles lived in Cincinnati but summered in Pasadena until 1908 when they decided to have this house designed and built for their year round living, and an amazing house it is.

The house and most of its furniture was custom-made.  There is great attention to detail. Anyone (like me) interested in and appreciative of house and garden would enjoy touring this place.  Does that include you?

IMG_3707[1]The spacious outdoor sitting areas

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The water garden,

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the Tiffany work in the front door and throughout the house,

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 the brick work in the driveway,  so much is  custom work and quite impressive.  I’d love to show you  inside details of the house, but pictures were not allowed indoors.  You’ll have to buy a ticket and come here in person.  My boys and I bought our tickets

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and waited patiently for the grand  tour. Patience is and was a virtue, but seeing every nook and cranny of this house is worth the wait. We all left most impressed. Seeing this house inspired me to take my house to the next step once home.  The Gambles clearly felt home should be a place of escape, a place reflecting one’s taste, a place capable of  refreshing the spirit as well as the body and  I so agree.  Do you?

But speaking of  the “body”, we’re  all hungry again.   Before any more exploration it’s time for more food.   Did you ever give thought to how often we humans need to refuel these bodies of ours?  The time and money we spend doing this… but it’s delicious fun, isn’t it?

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So come along,  join us as we look for a charming restaurant.  We’re off to  old town Pasadena.  I do like the historic parts of any town

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and here we stumble upon a nice establishment with white tablecloths and outdoor seating.  I love restaurants with white table cloths, so this place spoke to me.   Do you like it?

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 Here we sit and enjoy great Italian food, a little wine and the  lovely California weather.  It’s relaxing.  Are you relaxed?  I’m told L.A. weather is pretty much the same every day, so much so that people who live here hardly notice the continuous sunshine and warm breezes.  They take it for granted.  In Cleveland it’s a little different.  We have great weather, but not all the time.  People in Cleveland say “if you don’t like the weather just wait a minute for it will change”.

From lunch we’re headed to The Huntington Library, Museum and Botanical Garden in San Marino, but that’s another post.  I hope you will join me for that excursion.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles the joy.

If I took you to all the places we visited at one time you would become as exhausted as I was by the end of my time in California.  I’ll be kind and break things up for you.  You can now take a nap, write a letter or enjoy a walk.  Variety is the spice of life.  Maybe you even have the energy to go off on an excursion of your own.  If that happens tell me about it and you know why you should.

Sharing doubles the joy!

It really does.

Good food and friendship is on the menu at Cafe Marcel

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Cafe Monsieur Marcel
Isn’t this the cutest little restaurant?  It’s situated on the Promenade in Santa Monica, California.  I discovered it while visiting my son Patrick who is in graduate school at UCLA.  One evening while Patrick and I were taking a stroll, there it was with its twinkling lights – a fairy tale-like structure, inviting us to step in and enjoy fresh flowers, candlelight, white tablecloths, and French food.  Yes!  This was my kind of place.

We dined here more than once while I was in L.A. because I liked Cafe Monsieur Marcel so very much.  It was just as delightful on a sunny afternoon for lunch.  Of course good company makes most any place delightful and I had great company,  a son I don’t get to see  often enough –  and here he is.

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This is Patrick
As I write this post on the first day of Spring in Hudson, Ohio I’m looking out my window at  snow flakes drifting down from the sky.  Punxsutawney Phil is on the wanted list in these parts for he predicted an early Spring and got all out hopes up.

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The snowy view from my window
To think at this same moment some people are walking about in shorts and short sleeve shirts (maybe even my husband who is on a  business trip in Sarasota, Florida, but could be sneaking in a little golf about now.)

At least I have my  photographs of sunny California to keep warm memories of my recent trip fresh in my mind – not only to help me remember lovely times in charming  places, but also to share some of those moments with you.  Why share?  You know.  Sharing doubles the joy.

To sit with a favorite person, partaking in good conversation while  munching delicious food in a delightful place, well, to me this is what the good life is all about.

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As I look at a photograph of our French-speaking server doing his job I can almost imagine I’m back at that cafe, and my mouth is watering as I think of the yummy dishes he could be bringing me,  if only I were still  there.

But good food was not the only thing this charming restaurant delivered to me.  It also presented me with a new pen friend.  Yes.  It’s true!  I do love to meet new people, and if they’re really nice I love to stay connected with them by suggesting we become pen friends.  You notice the lady and little girl  in the picture above?  Well, I’m delighted to say after asking this nice lady to take a picture of me and my son which she did, and here it is

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we began to chat.  I learned that her name was Deborah and that she’s a social worker.  Her little daughter had an interest in mythology and that is one topic my Patrick knows quite well so the two of them embarked in little quizzes for each other.  It was great fun.  I  asked Deborah at the conclusion of our lunch if she had any interest in corresponding, for as you may know, I am an avid letter writer, and to my great delight she said “YES”!

Some people enjoy coming home from a trip with a new piece of jewelry or some other keepsake, but I’m most thrilled to return home with a new pen friend from the place I visited.  A person can’t be in more than one place at a time, but with pen friends in lots of different places a connection to those places can be maintained.  I find this very exciting.

I’ll be writing Deborah soon and I’ll send her a copy of my pictures, especially this picture I took of Deborah and her daughter.  So sweet!

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People are very nice!  Do you reach out to strangers?  You should.  Strangers are simply great friends we haven’t yet met.  I feel very lucky to be an outgoing sort of gal who enjoys people very much.  I’m happy alone with myself, but to feel best, I also need people in my life, and though I love my old friends I’m always thrilled to make new ones.

You know what they say – People who need people  are the luckiest people in the world.  I feel lucky.  How about you?

I hope you have lots of old friends in your life, but I also hope you are open to new people who can become friends even if they live far, far away thanks to the beautiful Art of Letter Writing.

I’m so excited to add Deborah and her pretty little girl  to my family of  pen friends, for as Sarah Orne Jewett wrote:

YES’M, OLD FRIENDS IS ALWAYS BEST, ‘LESS YOU CAN CATCH A NEW ONE THAT’S FIT TO MAKE AN OLD ONE OUT OF

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So if you find yourself in Santa Monica, California on the Promenade, I highly recommend Cafe Marcel for some good food  -and maybe you’ll be lucky as I was to find a new friend there  too.