It’s a Country Inn Shopping Day

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Let’s go shopping!

It’s really a good thing that I began scheduling fun shopping excursions as part of my regular Country Inn Days because I now shop less, but enjoy the shopping a lot more.  I’m not talking about grocery shopping or shopping for washing machines or lawn mowers.  I’m talking about ‘fru fru’ shopping.

I don’t know about you, but though I don’t like to think of myself as a material girl I guess I am one.  It’s pretty hard to live in this material world, at least for me,  and not encounter lots of wonderful material things that make my heart flutter.

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You’ve heard the song “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad”?  Well, that sure is true for me and though lots of my favorite things don’t require shopping there are those that do.

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So on this and every Country Inn Shopping Day I choose three shops where I give myself permission to indulge in a purchase of something that delights me.  This ritual really saves me money in the long run because it limits my fun shopping days to only one every sixteen weeks.  After all, there are so many different kinds of Country Inn Days to enjoy – there’s Spa Day, Dinner Party Day, Culture Day, Nature Day, Elegant Lunch Out with Friends Day, and about eleven other kinds of Country Inn Days.  I wonder how many kinds of Inn Days you could dream up.

It’s quite a challenge choosing which shops to enjoy on a Country Inn Shopping Day.  There are so many to choose from – book shops, fashion boutiques, home decorating stores, stationary shops,  and the list goes on and on.  So what will it be?

Today I decide to do a little business with a jeweler, a cooking establishment and garden shop. So come with me and let’s see what mischief I can get myself  into on this fine Country Inn Day.

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Here we are strolling down Main Street in Hudson’s historic district.  There’s the old clock tower in the background and just ahead is my first shopping destination.

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Jewelry Art is a very fine store that carries all sorts of artful items for ones home or for ones self. I happen to know its owner for I taught piano to her children in years past.

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And here she is now.  This is Barbara Johnson, owner of Jewelry Art, and one of her able assistants.

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It’s fun to look through the shop admiring all the very lovely things for sale.  Beauty in all its many forms is delightful, even though we can’t take it all home with us.

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I love to study the gleaming silver

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and the crystal is so beautiful too.

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Alishan

but today I’m in the market for a ring, and not just any ring.  I’m interested in buying a certain ring I’ve had my eye on for years.  It was designed by this man, Alishan Halebian.  Alishan has a shop and studio in Irvine, California, but luckily for me, Barbara discovered Alishan and his art, so she carries his creations in her shop right here in my little town of Hudson.  

Alishan is a self-taught goldsmith who has become a master in his treatment of precious metals.  Years ago my husband gave me one of his rings and ever since then I have been a fan of his work.  I had discovered a companion piece for the ring I own and have patiently waited for just the right day and time to purchase it for myself.

Today is that day!

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Would you like to see my pretty new bauble?

IMG_6963[1] Here it is!

Notice the detail in this ring.  Alishan uses sophisticated techniques to create his works of art.  Barbara says its his Armenian heritage that brings the philosophies and cultures of east and west together, bursting into creative expression of style in his distinctive collection.   Like other Alishan admirers I appreciate his designs for their individual characteristics and emotions confronting line and form.

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It’ s not every Country Inn Shopping Day that I treat myself to such a very special gift, but if we’re to be our own best friend, then now and again treating ourselves to a very special indulgence seems like a good idea to me, especially if that item is lasting and can be passed on to others in future generations – after all, a thing of beauty is a joy forever and sharing doubles the joy.

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I met Alishan years ago when he was in Hudson for a trunk show at Jewelry Art.  He’s such a nice man.  Being a letter writer I plan to write him a nice letter thanking him for creating such beautiful art work. Every time I look at my new bauble I appreciate its graceful beauty and elegance and I feel happier.  Beauty does that to me.  If you want to contact Alishan you’ll find him at info@alishanonline.com

Well ,that was fun!  Where shall I go shopping next?

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I love to cook and bake so how about a little shopping at The Western Reserve Cooking School.  It’s right down the street from Jewelry Art.

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I step inside and look around.  There are all sorts of tempting kitchen items.  Here are just a few.

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All sorts of shiny pots, pans and cooking utensils

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Chef jackets in assorted colors

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perky dish towels

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and lots of French White serving pieces.

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Decisions, decisions.  But after talking to Lisa Ganley, the shop’s very nice saleslady, I decide to buy a ravioli form .  Lisa said she took a class here at the cooking school where she used this form to create wonderful homemade raviolis. Would you like to see this gizmo?  Ok.

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This is Granpa Dante’s invention.  He is a member of the Fante family of Philadelphia’s historic Italian Market. This family has poured years of experience into their signature line of Italian Cookware.  You might have heard of Great Aunt Gina’s Pasta Machine or Cousin Umberto’s Garlic Press.  Well,  I can’t wait to try out Granpa’ Dante’s ravioli maker.  I have a few very Italian friends and I’d love to impress them with  delicious homemade ravioli at one of my next Country Inn Dinner Party Days.

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I’m lucky to live so close to The Western Reserve Cooking School and one of these Country Inn Culture Days I’ll have to take a class or two.  They have Friday Night Date Night Table Dinners that might be a lot of fun.  You cook with your significant other and then dine right there along with a lot of other happy cookers.

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The Cooking School kitchen is very handsome and all sorts of celebrated cooks offer classes here.  How ’bout taking a class with Jared Bergen on Gnocchi, Risotto and Polenta or Baking French Bread with Kathy Lehr.  It might be interesting to sign up for the “Dining on the Great Wall Class”.  That class is all about Chinese Fusion.

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Lisa set me up with a Cooking School schedule and a sheet full of ravioli filling recipes that were taught at one of the last Italian cooking classes.  Now I’m all excited about donning my chef ‘s coat and cap and going to town with my new ravioli form.  Yum!

But first I have one more shop to visit.  Country Inn Shopping Day always features three shops.

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It’s time for some natural beauty so I head out to Suncrest Gardens.

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 Here I stroll around the greenhouse and take in the smells and sights of so many plants and flowers – all of them beautiful.  Some women love shoes.  I love plants and can never get enough of them.  Just look at some of the lovely growing things.

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There are lemon trees

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This gorgeous fruit has me singing the old Peter, Paul and Mary song, “Lemon Tree”.  Do you remember it?

Lemon Tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

But that’s not true. I eat lemons, don’t you?

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Have you ever heard of the Medinilla or “Rose Grape”?  I hadn’t, but it sure is a big and beautiful flower.  Take a look at its luscious pink blooms.

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Exotic, isn’t it?

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I loved the huge Oleander Tree.  All I can say about this specimen is  “That’s a big one”!

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And here are the luscious Oleander flowers.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

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The Monrovia oranges were pretty neat too.  Wouldn’t you love to grow oranges in your house?  They smell divine.

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I had a great time at Suncrest and part of the reason why I had such a nice time was that I met Trey, a really nice fellow who loves plants as much as I do.  He’s actually an oil painter, but anyone who loves art has to love the beauty of plants so he works here on the side. Suncrest hires the nicest people! I look forward to my visits here not only because I am refreshed by all the natural beauty I see, but also because  chatting with kindred spirits  like Trey, spirits who love nature as I do, is always great fun.  Trey’s  red shirt matched the begonia I decided to take home with me.  The two of them together are pretty enough to be the subject of one of Trey’s oil paintings.

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And once all my shopping fun is finished I return to my Country Inn, set my new red begonia on the table of my porch (in front of the  painting I whipped up.  I wonder if Trey would approve of it.) and I prepare to enjoy cocktail hour with one of the Inn’s guests and one of my “dead friends”, Oscar Wilde.

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Cocktails are served

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Oscar is now seated beside me on the porch sofa.

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And after a day of shopping and enjoying the material world I am now very happy to settle down with a man of literature, sipping my drink while listening to him expound on various subjects, including his personal adventures in life.

Country Inn Shopping Day will not return for a very long time, but I will return for another fun Country Inn Day in one week.  I hope you will join me then.  I do believe it will be a Country Inn Spa Day. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  See you then.

It’s a Country Inn Day – Sharing Tea Day

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Here I am on another wonderful Country Inn Day.  I’m so glad you could join me.  What do you do first thing every morning whether you’re at home or off on holiday at a gracious Country Inn or snazzy hotel?

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My idea of fun is to write a letter with my first cup of coffee every day and that’s exactly what I do here at the Inn this morning.  I’m writing to Erika, a professional chef who lives and works in the state of Washington, but as I read her letter and respond I feel as though Erika is here with me at the Inn.  Letters are like that.  They help friends transcend the miles.  John Donne, the late sixteenth early seventeenth century English poet, put it this way – “Letters mingle souls.”

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But I could use more than Erika’s spirit and soul here at the Inn today.  I could use her professional expertise because on this Country Inn Day I will not only be playing the part of Inn Guest, Innkeeper, and Inn Maid, but I’ll also be playing the part of Inn Chef.   I’ll don my special coat and cap in preparation for a Sharing Tea.  I bet if Erika were here in person she could help me whip up some extraordinary tea treats.

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I do have these guys to inspire me.  They “hang out” (literally) in my kitchen, but though they look pretty cute they’re not a lot of actual help.  I get my help from cookbooks, and do I have cookbooks, only about a million of them.  At each Sharing Tea I like to experiment just a little, so I always choose one new recipe and today that recipe  comes from a little historic book.

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The book is called “Victorian Parlors and Tea Parties”.  It’s written by Patricia B. Mitchell.  After reading and enjoying notes on the tea meal and how it came to be, along with information concerning the role of the Victorian wife and details of the Victorian parlor, I settle down to find that new recipe which I can make for and serve to today’s Inn guests.

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High Muck-a-Muck Crabmeat Spread

I look through all the recipes and decide on this simple crabmeat spread which is served on crackers. The little green pepper garnish is my idea.  You might like to try it yourself.  Here’s the recipe.  It’s quick and easy.

High Muck-a-Muck Crabmeat Spread 

Ingredients:  1 lb. crabmeat, chopped, 1 c. Cheddar cheese, grated, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 2 green onions, finely chopped

Process:  Mix.  Spread on toast rounds, triangles, or crackers.  Heat 5-10 minutes at 400 degrees until hot and bubbly.  Serve hot.

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Today’s tested recipes come from a favorite little booklet called “Tea Time”.  This booklet is created by the Gooseberry Patch people and I’ve discovered many tasty treats within its pages as well as amusing general information concerning the tea ceremony.

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Today I make  “Tea Time’s” Caramelized Pecans.  These sweet nuts are a great garnish for chicken salad puffs ( another recipe in the “Tea Time” booklet), but they can stand on their own quite nicely.

Caramelized Pecans

Ingredients:  1/2 cup sugar  3/4 cup pecan halves

Process:  In a heavy saucepan, heat sugar over medium heat ’til melted (about 4 minutes.)  Stir constantly to avoid burning sugar.  Stir in pecans until well-coated.  Remove pan from heat.  Pour mixture onto wax paper.  Cool.  If stuck together, break apart.  Use whole or coarsely chop is using as a garnish.

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But now as Inn Chef it’s time to do some baking.  How about some Cream Scones?  Scones are  always perfect for a tea party and my “Tea Time” book has a good recipe for them.

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Scones are yummy, generously topped with Devon Cream (imported from England) and jam.  Here’s the recipe.

Basic Cream Scone

Ingredients:  2 c. flour, 1 T. baking powder, 1/4 t. salt, 4 T. sugar, 6 T. butter, 2 eggs, beaten, 1/3 c. cream, milk or half-and-half

Process:  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  With a pastry blender or Cuisinart cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  In a separate bowl, combine eggs and cream until well blended.  Stir cream mixture into dry ingredients until they are moistened.  Divide the dough into two 8-inch rounds on a greased baking sheet.  Cut the dough with a sharp knife into 8 wedges.  Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or till scones are golden brown.

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Tips for tender scones

Rule No. 1  Thoroughly mix dry and liquid ingredients in separate bowls before combining together.

Rule No. 2  Don’t over-mix when adding dry and liquid ingredients, and don’t over-handle the dough.

Rule No. 3  Over-baking will result in dry scones.  Oven temps may vary so check your scones every 5 minutes before baking time is up.

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The only other tea time treat I’ll be serving today is a chocolate covered apricot which is topped with crushed pistachios.  There’s nothing to this recipe.  All you do is melt semisweet chocolate chips, dip the apricots into the melted chocolate and then roll them in crushed pistachios.

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These apricot nibbles are a yummy snack anytime you crave something sweet, but they’re also a nice addition to the tea table.

Today’s  recipes are all simple to make and require little preparation time.  Of course, if you happen to be a pastry chef you can go all out and dazzle your guests with impressive creations, but if you’re not, the idea is simply to have some little treats for your guests to enjoy.

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My work as Inn Chef is now complete.  I feel a magical change coming over me.  I am now being transformed from Inn Chef into Innkeeper and as Innkeeper I have other duties.  I must assemble the tea treats onto a tray…

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and I must light the fire, fluff the pillows, turn on the music and stand ready to welcome the Inn guests.  This is the moment I’ve been waiting for and voila…

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The Inn guests have arrived!

Did I tell you how a Country Inn Day Sharing Tea works?  There’s always someone old invited (an old friend), someone new (a new acquaintance on the way to becoming a friend), someone borrowed maybe two (old and new invited guests may be asked to bring a friend).

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Joni is today’s someone old for she’s been a friend for ages.

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Carole is the someone new.

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And Carol brought Lynn along so she’s the Inn’s borrowed guest, just one today, not two.

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The tea is poured and this Country Inn Day Sharing Tea Party has begun.  Once again I am transposed from Innkeeper now to Inn Guest.  This is  the magic of a Country Inn Day!  I can now relax and enjoy.  I wish you could be here with us for there’s nothing quite like taking a nice break every now and then to relax and visit with friends in a serene setting over a cup of tea.  Our worlds are so full and our tasks can be very demanding.  It seems to me relaxing break-times are not only nice, but a must.

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And when the Inn guests take their leave and the Inn Maid (me) does her magic, cleaning up the dishes, I’m left with a feeling of sweet satisfaction, for Henry James had it right when he said,   “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”, except maybe the hours of preparation leading up to afternoon tea.

It’s all fun – Country Inn Days, Sharing Teas, Imagination, Creativity and Play.  These things are great escapes from ho hum ordinary days.  Don’t take my word for it.  Indulge, and you’ll see for yourself.  Go ahead.  Have your own Country Inn Day and/or Sharing Tea and …

PLAY

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.

 

Country Inn Valentines/ Theater Day

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As you may know I’m not much of a holiday person.  It’s not that I don’t like to celebrate life.  It’s that I invent my own ways to celebrate regularly and one of those ways is to enjoy Country Inn Days each and every week.  But when a Country Inn Day falls on a day everyone celebrates for some reason, well, I take that into consideration.

People buy and send flowers on Valentines Day, but we don’t need Valentines Day to enjoy flowers.  I buy and send flowers all the time, especially on Country Inn Days.  Why would we need a holiday in order to enjoy the beauty of flowers?

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When Valentines Day rolls around lots of cards are sent to friends and loved ones, an excellent idea, but again, we don’t need a holiday to enjoy this pleasure.  I send cards and letters out each and every day and  I’m happy to have many wonderful pen friends who do the same.

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On Country Inn Valentines Day my sideboard is filled with beautiful correspondence.  See?

When we think of people, sending them thoughtful cards any time of  the year, they return the favor.  That’s because when we give good things come back to us.

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The same is true for wonderful long friendly letters.  If you write them you will receive them.  I can’t understand why all people don’t enjoy writing letters anymore.  Sure, there are new forms of communication, but that doesn’t mean old forms must be abandoned.  We have modern, efficient ways to heat our homes, but don’t we still enjoy the glow of a fireplace?  We have fast food, but isn’t a home cooked meal still fantastic?  We have automobiles, but don’t we still walk?  So why can’t we use our smart phone and laptop computer some times and other times pen beautiful, personal handwritten letters?  We can.  I do, and there really are people out there who still write letters too.  I hope you are one of them.

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And of course we don’t need holidays to enjoy the company of loved ones, at least the loved ones who live near to us.  I treated myself to the company of my son Rory for lunch on this Country Inn Day. This would be a lovely treat for any of my Country Inn Days if I could just catch this twenty something fellow who is out and about in the world having his own fun.

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I don’t need Valentines Day or any holiday in order to fuss with a nice dinner in my dining room either.  I hope the same is true for you too.

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Though I may not use linen every night of the week I do make candlelight and flowers a regular thing.  Why not?  They’re beautiful!  But Country Inn Days give me the chance to celebrate and go the extra mile using even more pretty things.  Why have these things if not to enjoy them on a regular basis?  Of course Country Inn Valentines Day calls for something even more special. How ’bout  my husband’s  favorite dessert?

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I consult Ina Garten’s book, “Family Style” and whip up a raisin rice pudding with rum.

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This pudding (served with ice cream) is a little rich for every day of the week, even for every Country Inn Day, but  for Country Inn Valentines Day, it’s just fine.

But besides it being Country Inn Valentines Day it also happens to be Country Inn Theater Day.  You see, every Country Inn Day has a theme.  There are about ten different themes.  Theater Day comes up every now and then and it coming up on Valentines Day is no accident because going to the theater is really special.

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I purchase tickets for the Broadway musical, “Porgy and Bess”.

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It’s playing at the Palace Theater in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. Do you know Cleveland has the biggest theater district second only to New York City?  It’s true.

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In Cleveland we can choose from a number of theater productions at any given time.  The theaters are old and lovely too, recently refurbished to their former glory.

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I love everything Gershwin ever wrote so this Country Inn Day it was easy to decide which play to see.  And I was thrilled to meet two of the four leading characters of the play.  This is Bess on the cover of the program with Porgy.  Bess is played by Alicia Hall Moran.

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You see, my husband and I went to the Wyndham hotel  down the street after the play for a bite to eat.  Who sat next to us at the bar, but two of the play’s producers.  Yes.  How fun is that?  My husband had a nice chat with one of the men, then a little later the actors started pouring in.

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Though I didn’t see Nathaniel Stampley, the actor who played Porgy, or Kingsley Leggs, the actor who played Sporting Life, I did have a very nice chat with Alvin Crawford.  He played the nasty villain Crown, but in real life he was the nicest fellow, a Juilliard graduate, very friendly and very tall.

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See?

Of course, I’m pretty short, even shorter than Alicia Hall Moran who I also talked to.  She was really wonderful and excited to be playing Bess.   How fun for me to meet these actors, and  not only meet them, but also to have a picture taken with them.  I didn’t even have to go to New York for this to happen.  I only had to have a Country Inn Theater Day.

 I tell you, Country Inn Days are really great, interesting and fun.  They are a wonderful way to celebrate life.

I don’t need Valentines Day or any holiday to celebrate life.  You don’t either.  Sometimes holidays only make work  for us and if you’re like me you may have enough work already.  We can make fun for ourselves quite nicely without their help.

You probably don’t even need a Country Inn Day to celebrate life, but they really are delightful fun.  They help me step out of my usual routines so I am able to focus on my favorite things.

So, however you do it, be sure you’re making a point of enjoying the life you’ve been given and all the good things around you AND remember also to share that joy with others.

Why?  You know.  SHARING DOUBLES THE JOY!

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!

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.

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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!

It’s a Country Inn Day – Culture Day

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The Cleveland Museum of Art

On this snowy Country Inn Day I decided a cultural outing was in order so I left my cozy Inn mid-morning and took a 45 minute drive north to the University Circle neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. This neighborhood always makes me feel more intelligent just by driving through it because genius seems to be in the air here; that’s because University Circle is home to many fine institutions and brilliant minds.  There’s Case Western Reserve University, Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra, The Cleveland Botanical Garden, The Natural History Museum, The Cleveland Institute of Music where I went to school, University hospitals, and many more outstanding establishments, but today I’m after Art!

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The Cleveland Museum of Art is a wonderful place.  It was established in 1913.  It has had a number of additions, but my favorite part of the museum is its original, very classical building. This museum is internationally renowned for its substantial holdings of Asian and Egyptian art, but it also houses a diverse permanent collection of more than 43,000 works from all around the world.  And best of all it has remained historically true to the vision of its founders, keeping general admission free to the public. This is possible because the museum has a $600 million endowment.  It is one of the wealthiest museums in the world.

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The museum has  a lovely lagoon and garden out front.  This is how it looks in Winter, but it’s really gorgeous on a Summer’s day.

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See?

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But since it’s not Summer, today I appreciate the newly constructed Atrium with its glass roof which is now covered in snow.  Better the roof covered in snow than me.   The Atrium connects the new part of the museum to the old part.    It has beds of grass-like greenery at one end.

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This greenery is most interesting.  It has a moss-like appearance, but I couldn’t identify exactly what the plant material was.  Also interesting is the way it grows in slanting hills and valleys.

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The other end of the Atrium is a great place to sit and relax.  Here you might pause for some refreshment purchased at the cafe or read over the material you just bought at the gift shop which is a few steps away.

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Ah, the gift shop!  I always enjoy browsing in this shop and today  I had some delightful conversations with museum employees. Ohioans are so friendly. Even when I go off on a Country Inn Day outing all by myself I always find nice people with whom to strike up a conversation.  When I’m here I always buy museum postcards and note cards to send my many pen friends. But the shop has so much more – books, jewelry, prints,  etcaetera etcaeterorum.

But how ’bout I show you a few things around the museum? Would you like to see the Armor Court?

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Follow me through this grand room with its marble pillars.

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And here we are.  I was told this armor collection, popular with the children, was put into the museum because Cleveland was a steel town way back when so armor seemed to be just the thing to get the museum off and running.

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I happen to love portraiture.  Here we have the portrait of Elizabeth Beltzhoaver Mason .  It was painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1803. Stuart was an American artist who lived from 1755 to 1828.

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And this is a portrait of Hugh Hope painted by the Scottish artist Henry Raeburn in 1810.  Raeburn lived from 1756 to 1823.  I love the clothing of these early times.  How ’bout I show you one more portrait though I enjoyed looking at lots and lots of them.

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This painting is called “Portrait of a woman”  It is quite old.  Rembrandt van Rijn painted it in 1635 or earlier.  You may know Rembrandt was Dutch and he lived from 1606 to 1669.

I know I said just one more portrait, but I lied.  I have to show you another.  It is perhaps my favorite, or at least one of my favorites.

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This is a self-portrait of a Belgiun named Joseph Paelivick.  He lived from 1781 to 1839.  He created this painting in 1812.  I love his pose. I love his clothing.  I love his expression.  I love portraiture.

But as I said earlier there is so very much to see here, 43,000 works.  Each time I visit the museum it’s all almost all new to me.  Of course I always enjoy revisiting my favorite things…

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things like this great doorway from the Issac Gillet House.  It was created by the famous American artist, Jonathon Goldsmith back in 1821. Goldsmith lived from 1783 to 1847.  He and all the other artists I admire are not forgotten when I leave the museum.  I try to get to know these people by reading their biographies. Many become my “dead friends”.

Viewing exceptional art, viewing anything beautiful, becomes us.  Just walking through the elegant rooms of this museum is energizing and uplifting.  Come along.  Look at this!

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And this!

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And this!

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a close up of a Louis XV Savonnerie carpet with royal arms made of wool and hemp somewhere around 1740.

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And these Tiffany lamps dated 1898 to 1910 made by The Tiffany glass and decorating company of New York.


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And when we pass a window don’t forget to look outside at the beautiful snow-covered garden below.

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We pass gallery talks in progress.  This one is all about Monet and other Impressionists.  I stick around for a few minutes, but it’s time for a ‘sit down’.

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I find an empty table in the Atrium, order a cappuccino and relax for a bit with a little letter writing.  I tell my friend in Rhode Island all the things I’ve been seeing.  Sharing doubles the joy you know. That’s why I enjoy sharing my Country Inn Days with you too.

I’m getting hungry. I could stay at the museum longer and have some food in the charming restaurant here.

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This restaurant has a view of nature out its windows – beauty in art, beauty in nature, and culinary beauty to boot, but no, after my cappuccino I must get back to the Inn.  Once there the magic of Country Inn Days will transform me from Inn Guest into Inn Chef and I will create a masterpiece of my own.

It’s called Dinner

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Tagliatelle with Red Wine Bolognese Sauce

The recipe

Ingredients:  1 onion, 1 small carrot, 1 celery stick, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 tbsp olive oil, 14oz minced beef, 1 and 1/2 cups red wine, 1 cup tomato puree, a small handful of oregano, parsley to garnish, 1 and 1/2 cup beef stock, 1 lb tagliatelle pasta, salt and pepper

Process:

1.  Chop vegetables finely. Heat oil, add vegetables and cook over low heat 5 to 7 minutes.

2.  Add the minced beef and cook 5 minutes.  Stir in wine and mix well.

3.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add tomato puree, herbs and stock.  Salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Cover pan and cook slowly for 30 minutes.

5.  Meanwhile cook pasta.

6.  Add a salad and a glass of wine.

7. Light a candle or two and enjoy!

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I am now transformed once again from Inn Chef back into Inn Guest.  Ah, the magic of Country Inn Days!

And though this particular Country Inn Day held many other delights, I will leave you here, sharing more next time.  So until we meet again, be sure to exercise your own imagination and live richly experiencing much beauty.  Remember

Leave behind ordinary.  It’s not enough!

It’s a Country Inn Day – An Adventure Day

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Parlor of The Jeremiah Brown House 1853
My personal Country Inn

Here I am at my Country Inn.  I’m scheduled for a little adventure today, but before I take off I need to explain a few things about how Country Inn Days work.

Inn Days are days of imagination.  I can enjoy sharing breakfast, lunch, tea, cocktails and/or dinner with other inn guests and not who you might think.  Inn guests are usually interesting spirits of the past, but sometimes they are spirits of the present too.  The critical word here is spirits. These spirits arrive at my Inn for a few days at a time, usually from the library or the local book shop. They are the spirits of people contained in biographies. Many of these spirits become what I like to call my “dead friends”, but others are still alive and well.

You see, with imagination  a biography  can bring a spirit to life. With imagination I can enjoy the company of all sorts of great and famous spirits who become guests at the Inn  just as surely as I can enjoy visits with living, breathing friends.  Imagination does it all.

I invite some of these spirits to be guests, but others sort of come on their own.  This is how it works: I go to the library or book shop each week and select  biographies. For chance to work I close my eyes, pick a few more books, and voila!  The Inn has an interesting and varied guest list!  After all, we’d have no control over the guests who might be staying at a real Inn so why should the Inn of Country Inn Days be any different?   Fun, huh?

Well, guess who’s one of the interesting people who checked into the inn this week.  He was my companion for breakfast today.

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Yes, it was Stonewall Jackson.  He joined me  with the help of a wonderful book written by Donald A. Davis.  I knew very little about Thomas Jackson before breakfast, but after I spent just a little time with the man I can say I really like and admire him. Did you know he made it  into West Point even though he was just a roughhewn frontiersman, not an educated gentleman from a prosperous family like the other newcomers to the school?  He said, “I knew I was very ignorant, but I had the energy and the intellect to succeed.”  I love that sort of confidence in a person, don’t you?

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Over a breakfast of poached egg, orange juice and coffee  I sat spellbound as Tom told me details of his life – how he swung 28,000 soldiers out of the front line, moved them across the front of the enemy, and outflanked the Union army in one of the most important battles of the Civil War.  I learned the South always thought they had a chance as long as Thomas was around, but sadly hecame to his end when his own men fired upon him as he was returning from a scouting mission.  They mistook him for the enemy.   He had been hit three times and lay mortally wounded. Several days later, with his left arm amputated, he died of pneumonia brought on by his wounds.

I hate sad endings, but Jackson’s life was one to be proud of and I look forward to getting to know the man better.  Hearing the stories of such dynamic people is nothing but inspiring.  I’m so glad Stonewall Jackson is here at the Inn.  I shall look forward to hearing more of his adventures, but it was time for a little adventure of my own.

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Today’s Adventure Day took me to a town called Ravenna. Ravenna is very much “Main Street USA”.  It was founded in 1799 and developed throughout the 1800’s.  The downtown area is full of nostalgia, reminiscent of a time when Main Street was a place where people would congregate, converse and do business.  I happen to love historic towns.

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I love the architectural detail found in the old buildings of old towns.  Maybe it’s my years living in Boston, but I’m always looking for old places to explore and I found one today.

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Here in Ravenna I found a big, old antique shop full of treasures. The building is a treasure in itself.  Just look at the detail at its ceiling.  They don’t make ’em like that anymore.

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I love all things old so I was in my glory here.  What an adventure to look at household items that were used by people of the past, people like Stonewall Jackson. It’s a little like going back in time, isn’t it? Of course I was hoping to find some treasure I could take home with me too, a souvenir of my Adventure Day.  What would it be?

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This china was absolutely beautiful, but my cupboards are bursting with china already.  I dare not add more, at least not until I add more cupboards.  I’ll keep you in suspense as to what treasure I found  today, but let me now introduce you to a nice lady I met here.

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This is Pam.  She is one of the antique dealers responsible for this shop and she is a very nice and engaging lady.  On Adventure Days I not only discover places and things, but I’m happy to say I also discover very interesting people, people who sometimes become great friends.  I hope Pam will be a future guest at one of my Sharing Teas on another Country Inn Day so she can tell me all about her passion for antiques and how she got into the business. We had a very fun chat at the shop and I know she’d be an entertaining companion at tea. But it’s time for refreshment and speaking of tea Pam told me about a tea shop a few doors down.  I must investigate.

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And here it was.   It’s Susie K’s Cafe and Tea Room.  I love a privately owned and operated tea room.  I guess I have a little bit of English in my blood, or at least in my spirit.

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I stepped inside.  It’s quiet.  I missed the busy lunch crowd.  Good!  I found a table against the wall where I could sit, relax, and enjoy the company of another “dead friend” who happened to come along with me on this Adventure Day.  As I enjoyed lunch I could be entertained with her stories.  Who is this person?  I’ll tell you in a moment, but first let me introduce you to Susie, the owner of this tea house.

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Doesn’t Susie K look happy?  She must love her work.  She was very sweet and friendly full of good old Midwestern warmth.  We chatted and she told me how she rents her place out for parties and meetings, how she bakes her own pies from scratch,  and how she’s always there to mingle with her guests.  I liked that! She offers the personal touch.

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But how ’bout some tea.?  It was time.  And what a pretty cup!  I ordered my favorite, Earl Grey.

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JoDel was my server.  She’s another happy person.  You know it’s good to surround yourself with happy people.  JoDel told me about all the specials on the day’s menu and it’s always quite the decision –  what to choose.  Everything always sounds so good to me. I love food, don’t you?

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I finally selected the chicken salad with strawberries, blackberries and a  raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  There was a little bonus sweet bread on the side.  Yum!  So there I sat with my food and my tea and my “dead friend” having a yummy break on this Adventure Day.

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Who was my “dead friend”?  It was Audrey Hepburn.  Don’t you love her?  She shared her very own words with me through the book, “How to be lovely” written by Melissa Hellstern.  Here’s a few of the things Audrey told me at lunch:

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy –  that’s all that matters”.

“I heard a definition once:  Happiness is health and a short memory!  I wish I’d invented it, because it is very true.”

“I could always hear my mother’s voice saying, ‘Be on time,’ and ‘Remember to think of others first,’ and  ‘Don’t talk a lot about yourself.  You are not interesting.  It’s the others that matter.'”

But my favorite thing that Audrey told me at lunch was this:

“All my life I’ve been in situations where I’ve had no technique, but if you feel enough, you can get away with murder.”

Yes, Audrey was a very entertaining companion for lunch and she always  inspire me. You just don’t meet many true ladies these days, ladies who have her looks, but also her lovely spirit.  Audrey could eat anything without gaining a pound.  I’m not so lucky, but when I heard that Susan makes her own pies from scratch I had to try the coconut creme pie.  How could I refuse it?  It is a Country Inn Day after all, a day to celebrate life.

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YUM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But time was marching on.  I needed to get back to the Inn for evening activities.  Before I left Ravenna though I drove around a little to view some of its old houses.  I love old houses.  If you aren’t familiar with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Haunted Houses” you must look it up for it says it all.  Here’s just a bit of Henry’s poem:

“All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses … there are more guests at table then the host invited …the stranger at my fireside cannot see the forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear; he but perceives what is; while unto me all that has been is visible and clear.” 

Let me show you a few of Ravenna’s haunted houses.

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Aren’t they great? But it’s time to return to my own haunted house, The Jeremiah Brown House, and here I am at its side door.

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But before you go let me show you what I brought back from my Adventure Day.  I brought home these lovely cordial glasses.

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There’s eleven of these delicate, old gems in assorted colors.  I look forward to using them for an after-dinner indulgence with or without coffee on Country Inn Days or whenever I’m entertaining.

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I also picked up a bottle of Chambord on the way back to the Inn because fancy new glasses deserve a fancy new liqueur with which to christen them.  I’m told Chambord is a cordial made from  the world’s finest raspberries, blackberries and the exotic flavors of black raspberries,black currant, Madagascar vanilla and cognac. According to legend Chambord was inspired by a luxurious raspberry liqueur produced for King LouisXIV during his visit to Chambord in the 17th century and if it was good enough for King Louis it’s good enough for me.

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And there’s one more goodie I brought back to the Inn from my Adventure Day.  It’s a stack of very old Woman’s Day magazines. They were printed back in 1952.

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Can you imagine a magazine that costs only 7 cents?  I will enjoy future Country Inn Days curled up by the fire reading the pages of these  great old periodicals.

So another fun Country Inn Day has come and gone.  I’ve only told you about a small part of it,  but next week I’ll be back at the Inn and I’ll share more highlights of these wonderful days of imagination and fun.

Now let me wish you happy days and leave you with some words from my lovely “dead friend’ Audrey Hepburn.

“Not to live for the day, that would be materialistic- but to treasure the day.  I realize that most of us live on the skin – on the surface without appreciating just how wonderful it is simply to be alive at all.  Pick the day and enjoy it to the hilt.  The day as it comes. People as they come…”

Great Advice

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

Country Inn Day – “Adventure Day”

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Dreary skies over Cleveland
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hale , nor very dreary skies can prevent me from enjoying a Country Inn Day.  My Country Inn Days are delightful escapes from routine.  If you know me, you know I have all sorts of Country Inn Days.  There are “Spa Days” and “Culture Days”.  I sometimes enjoy “Nature Days” or “Sharing Tea Days” where I invite new and old friends to my personal Inn for relaxed conversation and tasty tea treats.  If the weather is really wicked I may stay cozy and warm and have an “Inn Day” where I hibernate, enjoying my favorite simple pleasures at home, or if the weather’s only a ‘little’ wicked I’ll partake in a “Hudson Day” where I take advantage of all that my historic Hudson has to offer me. BUT I sometimes have “ADVENTURE DAYS”!  On Country Inn Days marked for adventure the only rule is that I must go off to explore places totally new to me, and on this particular Country Inn “Adventure Day” I am headed to the near west side of Cleveland, The Tremont area, to be precise.

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A street in downtown Cleveland

I head north and drive for about 35 minutes and eventually end up at one end of  downtown Cleveland near the baseball stadium.

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The Lorain-Carnegie bridge
Making a quick left I cross over the Lorain-Carnegie bridge which has the impressive sculpture of Henry Hering  decorating it.  The sculpture is titled Progress in Transportation and was created in 1932.  A very tall figure is holding  a carriage.  I would’ve liked to take a better picture, but (shhhhh) I was driving after all.

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A mural depicting famous Clevelanders and sites

Once over the bridge I found a parking lot, parked, took a short walk passing this neat  mural on an old building, and  headed for a coffee shop I admired in the past, but never visited.

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Sorry, but I didn’t catch this coffee shop’s name

I stepped inside and was pleased with the ambiance I found there.  I ordered a cappucino and settled in at a table near the window.

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I loved the windows  of the coffee shop that allowed me to look out at people who passed by.   The sun came and went as did the raindrops,  all the while I sat sipping,  cozy and happy inside the shop.

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Great Lakes Brewery with its blue awnings

Just last week my husband joined me and son Rory for a meal at The Great Lakes Brewery.  Rory lives in this neighborhood called Ohio City.

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If the weather was just a little bit better I might have sat outside having my coffee on the sidewalk, but inside was very nice just the same.

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Today’s stationery designed expressly for Katie

I pulled out my fountain pen and got busy writing my daily letter.  This letter is going to my son Patrick’s friend back at UCLA.  Katie is a dear girl and a very smart dear girl.  She is working on her doctorate in statistics.  The coffee shop was quiet with only a few people present so I sipped, wrote, and enjoyed the view out my window.

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An impressionistic view of the coffee shop situated behind me

Coming to this coffee shop could’ve been enough to satisfy the rules of “Adventure Day”, but the morning was young and there was so much more to see and do in the area.

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A courtyard looking out at the Old 1925 United Bank Building now housing one of my favorite restaurants, The Crop Bistro, and Penzey’s Spice Shop

I walked over to Penzey’s and browsed around the store.  I love to cook so all their products interest me.  Many have suggested recipes attached.

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A few of Penzey’s products
I purchased a large jar to hold my crop of basil (once I dry it) and I needed to stock up on their Country French Vinaigrette salad dressing base which I love.  I also bought  a ‘shallot-Pepper seasoning’ which is supposed to be good on fish, vegetables, chicken, pork or veal.  We’ll see.  I also purchased a seasoning called ‘Sunny Paris’ which is made up of purple shallots, chives, green peppercorn, basil, tarragon, chervil, bay leaf, and dill weed.  All that in such a little jar!  I put the ‘Sunny Paris seasoning’ on my eggs this morning and liked the taste very much.  If you don’t have a Penzey’s nearby you can order online at http://www.penzeys.com

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The West Side Market

From Penzys I crossed the street to enter The West Side Market.  Its origins date back to 1840 and that makes it Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market.  You should google it because it’s a pretty neat place.  If it’s food, you’ll find it there.  But though I could easily make  the rest of this post on The West Side Market, I had new places to investigate.  I hopped in my car after browsing the market and headed to the area called Tremont.

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One of Tremont’s historic churches

Tremont is one of Cleveland’s oldest neighborhoods.  It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  It is just west of the Cuyahoga River and south of Ohio City.  In recent years many people have been moving to Tremont, restoring its old houses, building new residences, opening restaurants and shops of all kinds, and it is becoming “the place to go”.

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I drove around for a while looking at old houses that were restored and old buildings that were turned into condos.  I saw a lot of new construction too and I bet in 20 years Tremont will be even more interesting a place than it is now.  But I was getting hungry.  It was lunch time  and I also needed to find a  map in order to  better understand the town’s layout.

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Halle, my girl Friday – and it WAS a Friday too

Just then, exactly on cue, who happened by, but a sweet young woman named Halle.  She was crossing the street and I flagged her down to get a little information.  Well, Halle was so very nice and so very friendly.  (That’s Ohio for you!)  She was on her way to a shop that usually had maps so I said “hop in” and off we went to that shop.  But just my luck, the shop was all out of maps, so Halle gave me all sorts of directions, as well as a great suggestion for lunch.  It was funny too, she said she just took some relatives from Hudson to the restaurant that she was recommending to me.  I said, “Hudson?  I”m from Hudson!”  That was a coincidence all right.  I told Halle she was so nice, when she next visits her relatives in Hudson she’ll have to look me up.  I gave her my card and she promised to call me. ( If you’re reading this Halle how ’bout an email hello?  I’ll write you one of my friendly letters once I have your address.)  I was so happy meeting Halle on my “Adventure Day”.  There’s nothing like making a new friend.  Halle and I hugged good bye, and off I went to the restaurant she recommended.

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Some new looking condos

I parked my car right across from these condos and walked over to Lucky’s Cafe.

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 Halle said Lucky’s was featured on the Food Network and Cleveland’s iron chef, Michael Simon, was crazy about one of their breakfast dishes.  Oh boy, this is exactly what “Adventure Day” is all about.

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Lucky’s Cafe

Before I stepped inside I had to stroll around Lucky’s garden just next door.

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How fun to see such a lovely  garden in a city neighborhood.

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There were also picnic tables set under an awning so dining could be enjoyed outdoors on nice days, but not today, though it was clearing  up a little.

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Being a lady who loves art play I really enjoyed all the sunflowers painted on the wall of the outdoor eating area.

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Lucky’s counter

I walked inside and liked the looks of the place.  The old counter was very handsome.  You can get breakfast all day at Lucky’s and it’s also a full service coffee shop.  I love my coffee shops, but I was really hungry by now.  It was time  for lunch.

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My server, Kelly

Kelly stepped up and we had a nice chat.  She just recently moved to Cleveland.  She was a college girl. She not only told me about all the great homemade goodies Lucky serves, but she also went out of her way to find me those maps of Tremont I was seeking.  I tell you, Cleveland people are soooo nice, helpful, and friendly.

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My very own Tremont map
Kelly suggested I order the Reuben sandwich for everything in it was made right there – fresh as could be.  I took her up on the suggestion.

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My Reuben and home made chips

The sandwich was delicious and my time at Lucky’s was very pleasant…

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especially because  there were fresh flowers at my table.  Don’t you appreciate restaurants going  the extra mile providing floral beauty in addition to good food?  I sure do.  I will definitely return and bring a Hudson friend or two with me, or invite Halle to meet me here for a nice little lunch or coffee. Wouldn’t that be fun?

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Impressionistic rear shot of Lucky’s dining room

I could’ve enjoyed staying for dessert, but I wanted to find the local bookshop before I had to leave Tremont returning to Hudson.  One of the customers heard me asking directions (even though now I had a map) and she called out the exact route I should take.  Like I said, Clevlanders are very friendly people.

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Tremont’s cute book shop

I found the book shop easily.  Don’t you love book shops?  It was a cute old building and I sure love old buildings and historic preservation.

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The bookshop’s courtyard

I bet this place fills up on a nice day or evening.  I think I saw something about  entertainment and refreshments.  But today wasn’t such a nice day, so I went inside.

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If I lived in Tremont I would be here all the time.  I liked the chairs and tables tucked here and there for cozy browsing.

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A restaurant to try
There was so much more to see and tell you about, like all the restaurants run by top Cleveland chefs.  Cleveland really is becoming a foodie location.

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A wine bar to try too
There are lots more places I will need to look into, visit for drinks or dinner, but it was getting late and I had a forty-five minute drive home, and things to do back at the inn, but I will surely be back to Tremont one of these days,  because it’s a really fun location.

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And it’s so very close to downtown Cleveland, but when you’re in this little old town you can’t imagine a busy city is so very near.

I hope you step out of your daily routine now and then and have a Country Inn Day of your own.  It might be a totally relaxing day where you stay home alone in your private inn or a day where you enjoy culture, nature, or afternoon tea with friends,  but whatever it involves, a Country Inn Day will take you away, and when you return to your normal routine, it will be with renewed contentment.

If you don’t believe me,  have yourself a Country Inn Day and see for yourself.

Life is short.

Seize the day!