Country Inn Days at my favorite Country Inn

 

The Red Lion Inn and I go back a long way, not all the way back to 1773 when it first opened, but back to my single days.  I happened upon it quite by accident as I was driving to Boston. I was on my way to a house where I was renting rooms for the Summer.  The house was in Cambridge.  There I would meet up with friends I knew from Boston University.

I didn’t know a thing about this Inn when I first saw it but I later learned it began as a simple tavern.  During its first 120 years the Inn expanded several times and went by several names, but it always featured a red lion in its sign, and it has been known as The Red Lion Inn since the 1890’s.

The formal dining room
The formal dining room

I remember walking into the Inn back then and straight ahead was this dining room. Someone was at a grand piano playing light classics and I was immediately enchanted.  I took a seat and enjoyed a lovely fruit salad.  That was the beginning of my relationship with this Inn.  I returned many times over the years and very recently I was there again, not for one, but for a few extremely delightful Country Inn Days.

What are Country Inn Days?  They are days where I step out of life’s usual routines and simply enjoy my favorite things.  No matter how good one feels it’s always wonderful to make time for favorite things, and if one needs a little boost, well, you know how that famous song goes – “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.”  It’s true.

One of my favorite things are flowers and this Inn has lovely flowers everywhere. There is a feeling of informal formality in every corner.  There are so many places to sit here at the Inn enjoying  a book or writing a letter with a cool drink at one’s side, all in the presence of beauty.  Delightful!

 

Sometimes it is nice to have an action-packed getaway, and a Country Inn Day can involve action and sometimes does, but I love slow Inn Days too, days filled with simple quiet pleasures – dreaming dreams, people watching, chatting with strangers who could become pen friends, taking leisurely walks in the country past old houses, down country lanes and through historic cemetaries.

 

The Red Lion Inn is located in the town of Stockbridge, such a pretty little town with many old charming sites.  There are shops to investigate, a number of little coffee houses and restaurants, and important historic houses belonging to famous people of the past.  These houses are in Stockbridge or in Lenox, the next town over.  I’ll share some of these places with you in another post.

When it’s time for dining there are three options right in the Inn. This is Widow Bigham’s Tavern.  It’s named after Anna Bingham, one of the Inn’s original owners. She is believed to have been the first business-woman in the country. This tavern reminds me of some of the oldest places I love in Boston.

But when in the mood for a little more informal formality I dined in the main dining room, usually by the window, so I could see the flowers outside. This was the room I first dsicovered all those years ago so when I’m here I feel 40 years younger.  It’s funny how returning to places from our past can make us feel we’re back in time.

But on a lovely Summer’s day it’s also great to enjoy a meal on the Inn’s open porch.  I got here early so I could choose a table near the railing.  Sitting here made it possible to people watch all the diners below at the umbrella tables.  I do always bring a book with me when dining alone, but people watching is great fun too.

And here I sit waiting for my pasta meal to arrive.

YUM!

Of course there’s a swimming pool and sauna and all that jazz, but I’v never been one for baking in the sun.  I’m more the porch type of person with my books, letters, pens and paper. But you never know, maybe on one of my visits here I’ll surprise myself and take a dip.

This trip you could usually find me on the porch.  I would come very early in the morning with my coffee.  I remember one man taking the rocker next to me saying, “Isn’t this wonderful?”  I had to agree.

After an hour or two of sipping and writing or reading I’d take off for an outing, then it would be lunch, and around 5 I’d be back on the porch with a cocktail until dinner.  I met a number of very nice people and had quite a few lovely chats.  All this is great fun for a person who likes people, and that’s me.

Of course the Inn has a gift shop.  Over the years I’ve bought all sorts of fun things in this shop – paintings, rugs, shawls, books and this trip was no exception.  I bought 6 Red Lion Inn mugs and two Red Lion Inn cocktail glasses… oh yes, and a Red Lion Inn cookbook.  I’ll enjoy testing lots of the recipes in this book.

Before leaving The Red Lion Inn I spent some time in the patio garden.  What did I tel you about flowers everywhere.  My flowers at home should be so robust.  How do they do it?

Don’t you love the cute little patio bar?

My last meal at The Red Lion Inn (this sounds so sad)  was a tasty fish fry with a glass of wine from that cute little bar, then coffee for the road as I made my way from the Bershires into Boston proper. It was a lovely few days here.  I have memories which will last me until I return. But now, simply to close my eyes and remember beautiful things I saw and moments I experienced will be a creative visualization exercise capable of refreshing my spirit whenever refreshemnt is needed.

Until I can return to The Red Lion Inn I will be enjoying lots and lots of my very own County Inn Days back in Hudson, Ohio.  The Red Lion Inn inspired these days and I’m working on a book explaining just how these days work.  The outline for this book was created right here at the Red Lion Inn.

So if you’re looking for a getaway my suggestion is to visit a Country Inn and not just any Inn.

Visit The Red Lion Inn.

Tell them Carol Ann sent you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Winter’s Country Inn Day

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There’s snow on the ground and the temperature is 16 degrees.  It seems like a good day to stay all cozy and warm indoors, a good Country Inn “in” Day.

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The Red Lion Inn painted by Norman Rockwell

“Of all the places I’ve been to wine in, to dine in to have a good time in you can’t beat an old Country Inn.”

This poem was found in an old Red Lion Inn scrapbook penned by an anonymous guest and I quite agree.  I’d love to enjoy today’s Inn stay at my favorite Red Lion Inn, but alas, it’s 500 miles away and I just can’t zip over to Massachusetts  –  so the next best thing is to experience an Inn stay in my very own historic home, the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House.  Here I will step out of regular routines just as I would do at The Red Lion Inn and I’ll treat myself to a nice escape.  Everybody needs a break from routines now and then.  Don’t you?

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My day begins with breakfast in bed.

If you plan ahead as I did the Inn kitchen is stocked and the breakfast tray is standing ready. This morning it’s set with Laura Ashley ‘Tea for two’ china,  a warm croissant, raspberry jam, orange juice and coffee. My husband was invited to join me, but today I’m on my own here at the Inn.

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Breakfast in Bed menu at the Jeremiah Brown House
When my husband does join me for breakfast in bed he can order off the menu which the Inn cook (me) created for him.  Little touches like this menu are fun to create and make Country Inn “in” days special.  I like nothing more then taking an ordinary day and dressing it up with little treats.  To me this is more enjoyable then elaborate holiday festivities.

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After a leisurely breakfast I make my way to the dressing room and put myself together for the day.  I may not have a lady’s maid (though that would be nice) but just to take my time with a little primping feels delicious.  No rushing  –  for rushing destroys grace, just time to sit quietly and think about the day ahead as I put myself together.

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Once dressed I leave my room and go downstairs to the public areas of the house.  A walk would be nice.  I usually take a walk when I stay at The Red Lion Inn, but looking outside at the snow on the ground and remembering the 16 degree temperature I decide on another favorite activity.

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There’s never enough time to read and one of my New Years resolutions is to read much more this year so now is the perfect time to get comfy by the fire in the Inn library and honor that resolution.  In preparation for my Country Inn Day I visited the Hudson library yesterday even though the Inn bookshelves  are bursting with my own books.  Oh,   so many books, so little time, but if we take control of our schedules, step out of our work routine, we can find at least a little time for favorite things – things like reading, and reading is a perfect Inn day activity.

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I love all things English so today’s reading consists of back issues of “The English Garden” magazine.  Perhaps the Inn gardener in me will discover some great ideas for the grounds around the Jeremiah Brown House.  And Country Inn Days are the perfect days to dream of such things.  You know what Oscar Hammerstein II said, don’t you?  He said, “You’ve got to have a dream.  If you don’t have a dream how you gonna have a dream come true.?”

After a little garden dreaming I’ll then push on to begin reading the novel, “Villette” by Charlotte Bronte.   I’m very fond of all the Bronte sisters.  I met Emily first when my dear pen friend, Bruce Youngblood, sent me one of her poems at the time of my father’s death, but eventually I got to know Emily’s sisters, Ann and Charlotte, also great writers in my opinion.  I consider all three women to be favorite “dead friends”.  What is a “dead friend” you wonder? They are people of the past who I get to know through their letters, their biographies and/or their works.

Charlotte wrote “Villete” when she was at the height of her artistic power.  She drew on her loneliness after the death of her three siblings.  I’ve heard this book is her most accomplished and deeply felt work even though it’s not her most popular creation. You’d think reading about the struggles of Charlotte’s heroine would be depressing to me, but somehow it’s not.  In fact, I gain strength from Charlotte’s characters who persevere through tough times.

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The Tea Table at The Jeremiah Brown House

But time flies when one is having fun and reading on a Country Inn Day or on any day is my kind of fun, still I must leave the library now because it’s Tea Time. And what a wonderful invention Tea Time is.  P.G. Wodehouse, an English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century said, “The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which … I particularly enjoy.”( and that goes for me too!)

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

If you have a tea table there’s not much to setting it up for a daily afternoon tea  – a cloth, some flowers, a candle, a pretty tea pot, china, and of course the tea.  The food need not be fancy. Today’s afternoon tea treat consists only of cinnamon toast, but “The mere chink of cups and saucers turns the mind to happy repose”.  That’s a well known tea quote from George Gissie.  And yes, that sound is music to my ears too.

On Country Inn Days I like my house, my Inn,  to be filled with guests.  Sometimes I host teas or dinner parties for my personal friends and relatives, but other times I fill the Inn with other sorts of guests, my “dead friends”. It’s very easy to come up with these guests for all I have to do is use my imagination.  I have so many great “dead friends”.  I never know who will be popping up next.  Guess who is seated at my tea table waiting patiently for me to join her?

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It’s Mrs. Emily Whaley formerly  of Charleston, South Carolina, but now residing in heaven. Emily’s spirit will be joining me for afternoon tea today by way of her book entitled, Mrs. Whaley and her Charleston Garden.  I’m absolutely delighted she’ll be sharing her stories with me because I remember touring her garden and other gardens in Charleston some years ago. Now thanks to her book I’ll not only learn about her garden but also about her life, a life  lived in a grand house of the old South.  What could be more fun at tea?

Emily’s garden was famous.  Back in the day the New York Times sent reporters to interview her.  Southern Accent magazine did a layout. Two or three thousand visitors toured her garden during Charleston’s garden festivals and as I said I was one of those people.  I have a feeling Emily enjoyed lots of afternoon teas at her own historic home and now she’s here with me all through the magic of books and a little imagination.

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But time moves on as it always does and I must morph from Inn guest into Inn chef because my husband will be joining me for dinner at the Inn before long and someone must prepare that dinner and that someone is me.  Luckily I love to cook.  The menu is set.  Leek and potato soup, simple chicken tenders prepared in olive oil, butter, herbs and white wine, fresh green beans and a special Red Lion Inn rice.

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

 I’d love to share the Red Lion Inn’s rice recipe with you because sharing doubles the joy and I think you’ll like it as much as I do.

Red Lion Inn Rice

Ingredients:  1/2 cup butter, 2 stalks celery, finely chopped, 1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped, 1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean and finely chopped, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons dried thyme,  bay leaves, dash of salt and pepper, 4 cups chicken stock, 2 cups white rice

Process:  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the vegetables and seasonings, and cook for 7 minutes over medium heat until the vegetables are wilted.  Remove the bay leaves.  Add the chicken stock and bring to  a boil.  Stir in the rice, cover, and cook over medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and it has absorbed the stock.

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And here it is – Red Lion Inn Rice.

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with Potato Leek Soup

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and Chicken tenders accompanied by fresh green beans.

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Oh yes, and a dessert of Grand Marnier Crepes.

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

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It’s now time to enjoy that dinner by candlelight in the Jeremiah Brown House dining room.

It was fun creating tonight’s Inn dinner but even more enjoyable  devouring it and I am not ashamed to admit it for as William Makepeace Thackeray wrote in his Memorials of Gormandizing, “If you like your dinner, man; never be ashamed to say so…remember that every man who has been worth a fig in this world, as poet, painter, or musician, has had a good appetite and a good taste.”

And what to do after dinner?

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I’ll settle in here.  The Inn recently added new rooms to the old house and this is one of them. It’s a pleasant place to watch a movie, entertain other guests or in today’s case, sit comfortably doing needlepoint with a good classic movie.   Country Inn Days are all about simple pleasures.

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I love needlework and it’s time I finish this needlepoint design picturing a crossing guard on the streets of Bermuda, a design I purchased there and started years ago.  Needlepoint and most types of needlework are very relaxing and relaxing activities are just right for a Country Inn Day or a Country Inn evening.

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And after an hour or two of needlework the evening turns into night and before bed I think a bubble bath would be just the thing to end a lovely Country Inn Day.  Bubble therapy I call it, another simple pleasure that is not to be underestimated for the delight it offers.

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 And so this Winter’s Country Inn Day ends where it began.

I would’ve enjoyed a visit to The Red Lion Inn today for sure, but this faux Country Inn Day was quite delightful too for I accomplished most Country Inn Day goals, the goals being: To refresh body, mind and spirit; To relax; To enjoy favorite things without interruption; To exercise imagination; To take time to dream; To focus on beauty in all of its forms; To enjoy spa activities; To read fun materials, watch interesting films and spend time with interesting people; and To capture Inn Day images for my own future reflection and for sharing  because…

Sharing Doubles The Joy.

Thanks for coming along.  I hope you had half the fun I had today.

“Our life is nothing but a winter’s day; Some only breakfast and away; Others to dinner stay and are full fed.  The deepest age but sup and go to bed.  He’s worse in debt who lingers out the day.  Who goes betimes has all the less to pay.”

(Old Tavern Song)

It’s another Country Inn Day – Come on along

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Today and every Wednesday my 1853 home is magically transformed into a country inn where I step out of my regular routines and enjoy a little (or a lot) of imagination.  I flip from being innkeeper( hosting afternoon teas)  to inn chef (creating mouth-watering  romantic dinners) to  inn  gardener (planting and weeding) to inn maid (tidying and polishing), to inn guest.

Each of these inn characters could tell you lots of stories, and I’m sure one day you’ll hear from all of them, but today Carol Ann , as inn guest,  would like to share with you a delightful outing she enjoyed as part of her inn day.  That outing took her (me)  to a charming town called Chagrin Falls.  Why share?  You know.

 Sharing doubles the joy!

So grab your hat and off we go!

We head north east from my town of Hudson, Ohio and in about 20 minutes we find ourselves in a neighborhood that could easily be mistaken for the town of Edgartown on the island of Martha”s Vineyard, but it’s not Edgarton, it’s Chagrin Falls.

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Most of the charming old houses in Chagrin’s historic district  have a uniform look of white clapboard with black or dark green shutters creating a very crisp and clean look.

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We see architectural  details  on many of the houses and charming plantings that add a finishing touch to the landscape.    Dogwoods, azaleas and so many old majestic trees that only old neighborhoods will have.

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An all green palette is very restful to the eye and maybe that’s why this neighborhood has such a comforting effect on me.

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And the fences… so many picket fences –  a very New England thing, and having lived many happy years in Boston I suppose that’s also part of why I feel so comfortable and at home here.

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But though I could spend  my whole outing walking around this neighborhood and taking pictures of pretty houses and gardens  we need to move on and go into town where the action is.

IMG_3286[1]And here we  are …looking at the gazebo on the triangle.  It’s a Chagrin Falls trademark right in the center of things.

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As we stroll around town on this beautiful day we run into some very friendly ladies  of the Dogwood Valley Garden club who are planting  flowers in town.  They tell me about “Blossom Time”.  This is a festival celebrated on Memorial Day weekend.  There’s a carnival and a parade and if you live anywhere near Chagrin Falls, Ohio you should google it and stop by.  If everyone is as friendly as these nice ladies I’m sure you’d  have lots of fun at these festivities.  I’m having a lot of fun on this very ordinary day.  I hope you’re enjoying yourself too.

There are all sorts of nice places to eat here Al fresco style.  You could go to the Gamekeeper’s Tavern (my favorite)

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The Gamekeeper’s patio

or you could choose the restaurant next door called West End.

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West End

West End has out door seating in its small front yard and also seating in its backyard.

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And there are many other restaurants too.  You’ll not starve if you come here.  And if you’re from out of town fear not.  There’s the Inn of Chagrin Falls that would be happy to have you stay with them.  Yes, a real Country Inn!  If I didn’t already have my inn of imagination so close by you could be sure I would check in myself.  It’s lovely.

IMG_3282[1]and it has its very own patio beyond the gate.

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Chagrin Falls … ah!  Isn’t it a cute place?  And there truly are falls here —  waterfalls …  there are two, and let’s take a look at them.  You get a different view from each side of the street.

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On this side of the street you see the falls and  there is a park with lots of green grass and even a playground set back for the younger set.

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A path along the grassy park

On the other side of the street you walk down flights of wooden steps to see an even larger water fall.

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You might wonder how this river and this town got its name.  Well, in the book “Early History and Early Memories” written by Clarence A. Vincent he writes:  The little neighborhood of my childhood and the village were 16 miles from the city of Cleveland.  The name of the village originated in a peculiar way.  The discoverers of the river, now called the Cuyahoga, at the mouth of which Cleveland is built, returned to the east for supplies.  On their return to the wilderness they came to a river’s mouth which they supposed was the river of the other trip; but when they tried to ascend the stream, they soon found it too small and not suitable for navigation.  In their disappointment they called it the Chagrin River.  Later when the village was settled and named, it was called, on account of the falls at this place in the river, Chagrin Falls.”

Though it’s just beautiful out here with a gentle breeze blowing and the smell of fragrant spirea in the air let’s walk around to the red building you saw across the river.  It’s a Starbuck’s coffee shop and I’m in the mood for some good coffee.  How about you?

IMG_3251[1]We walk down the street past the popcorn shop

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and the book store

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and we settle in at Starbuck’s where I write a letter and we both  rest our feet for a little while.

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We got a good table by the window so we not only can look forward to see the whole shop

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but we can also look out the window at our side to see the street and the falls below.

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As you may know from my previous posts I love coffee shops and I could stay here for hours, but I did want to do a little shopping so off we go to The Herb Shop.

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There are lovely herb gardens out front

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Just one view of the many herb gardens

and many different  herbs in pots of assorted sizes are for sale.

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I feel like a kid in a candy store, but I restrain myself and purchase only 5 pots of sweet woodruf.

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Some day the inn gardener will have to show you where the sweet woodruf gets planted.  But that’s for another day.

I had a lot of fun on my outing seeing many people and  lots of things and I’m very proud of myself for spending only a little money.  I resisted the cute pedestal server I saw inside the Herb Shop.

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 Oh yes, that shop sells all sorts of goodies inside its doors.  Lots of things the innkeeper (me)   could use for her teas.

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And did I tell you part of the shop is rented to a lady who sells beautiful yarns?  I was so tempted to buy the materials needed to make  this eyelet knit scarf.

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But I resisted temptation.  I resisted Herb Shop temptation and Antique shop temptation too.   I gave you the highlights of my outing, but I left out a few things –  like the fun antique/gift shop where I saw  these sconces which would look mighty pretty in the bedroom of my inn of imagination.

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It is possible to have a fun outing without spending a lot of money, but I  may have to go back to  Chagrin Falls and pick up  those sconces for the more I think about them the more I like them.

So that was my little outing on this Country Inn Day.  I’m glad you came along.  After a day out and about I always return to my inn of imagination with renewed contentment.  I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of Chagrin Falls, Ohio. too and I hope you take time off  from your routines regularly in order to  enjoy lots of outings in your own neck of the woods.  We don’t have to check into  real inns or hotels,  nor do we have to go far away in order to have  fun.   We just need to use our imagination and give ourselves permission to take time off now and then and do whatever makes us happy

And what would that be for you?