A Country Inn Day “Country Day”

Country Inn Days are days when I take a break from my ordinary life.  I may host a tea on such days or enjoy a day of spa activities.  I might linger around the inn relaxing and partaking in favorite activities or I might enjoy an outing day.  That’s today.  Outing days take all forms.  They could involve nature, culture, shopping, adventure, city sites or country pleasures.

Today it’s Country pleasures. . .

as I return for the umteenth time to Hale Homestead and its surrounding historic village.  As you can see from the sign out front The land for this Homestead was purchased in 1810 and the house built fifteen years later.  When I come here I not only feel I’m off in the country, but I also feel I’m going back in time.  I love the old world so visiting historic properties is one of my favorite things to do.

I enjoy Country Inn Days off by myself for this way I can stroll around at my own pace, stopping here and there, thinking and  reflecting upon all I see without distraction.  To be in nature is always a treat, but especially on a beautiful Summer’s day. I don’t know what it is but every time I come to Hale I keep hearing strains of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” in my head.  Thinking about people long ago forging their way through untamed nature, creating homes and farms and lives in unsettled territories – it’s awe inspiring.  Could you do it?  I wonder if I could.

My Dad grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and he would take my Mom, sister and me back to the country every July.  I know it was July because the day lilies were always in bloom along the  roadsides.  Dad loved the country and so did I and so do I yet today.  The smells, the space, the animals, and all that gorgeous nature; it’s like heaven on earth.

I love getting close to the animals

Here we see some newborn lambs with one older fellow to help them feel secure
It’s hard not to think of pork chops when I see this fellow. Pigs sure like mud.
I’m sure my grandmother had one of these speckled chickens or is it a hen? Whatever it is it sure is pretty.
And look at this big fellow – a real work horse or shall I say ox

I do love getting close to animals.  I love animals and this reminds me of what a penfriend, a Hindu nun, used to say.  She said, “Love animals.  Don’t eat them.”  Are you a vegetarian?

If you are a vegetarian or simply if you like to garden you would enjoy seeing the gardens at Hale.  There’s a big one at The Goldsmith House and small gardens here and there.  I love to garden.  Do you?

I peek inside the fences and try to identify all the plants.

My Dad told me he went to school in a one room schoolhouse so I’m always interested to visit such places.  Imagine what such an education would be like.  I stroll down the path to the school house and I like to imagine I’m back in time, my father’s time or the time of the Hale family.


And here it is


On another visit I’ll take you inside the schoolhouse.

It’s easy to feel I’m going back in time when I can talk to people dressed in period clothing telling my about the details of daily life back then.  Take this lady . . .

Earlier I visited a lady who was spinning.  She explained what yarns were used for what, but this lady talked all about how yarns were dyed.  Today I go into a yarn store and find a million yarns in beautiful colors ready for my knitting projects, but long ago it wasn’t that easy.  First you sheer the sheep, then you spin, then you dye the yarn and finally you begin your project.  Nothing was fast or easy back then.  How easy we have it now.

I love needlework. I knit, embroider, do counted cross and needlepoint.  Do you enjoy needlework?  Growing up my extended family would get together for dinners regularly and after the meal the men would congregate in one room playing cards while the ladies went to another room and pulled out their stitchery.  That was great fun.  We loved seeing what each of us was making.  We’d talk and stitch and the time flew by. . .

so when I saw this embroidery inside one of the houses at Hale it brought back memories from my own life.  I still enjoy needlework but now the young women in my family busy themselves with other things – tennis and taking their children here, there and everywhere.  They have no time for stitchery.  I now stitch on my own.  It’s still fun, but I miss the old days.

And when I came upon this dining table set beside a window in one of the old houses it reminded me of a sweet lady I used to visit down the road from my grandmother’s house in the country.  I was about six years old then and Nora was a retired school teacher  She had the most beautiful flower garden outside her window.  When I asked her how she created this garden she said it was easy.  When the bouquet of flowers on the table drooped she’s opened the window and tossed the flowers out.  Apparently they’d go to seed and automatically create the prettiest scene.  I should try that.

I do love old houses.  Do you?

“All houses wherin men have lived and died are haunted houses.” These are the first lines of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The houses are still here, but where are the people who inhabited them?  I can’t help but wonder.

To walk inside the very rooms where people of the past enjoyed daily life is magical to me.

“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.”  That’s a little more of Longfellows”s poem “Haunted Houses”.  I love that poem.  Google it. Maybe you’ll love it too.

Of course the one thing about old houses that never did appeal to me was the lack of a proper bathroom.  I’ve had personal experience with the alternative, the Outhouse.

This particular outhouse, freshly painted, looks pretty cute, but I recall as a little girl going out in the dark to the outhouse at my grandmother’s place… the wet grass, wondering what you might be stepping on in the dark. . . and then the smell.  It’s been a long time but that experience is pretty hard to forget.  I think near the end of my Grandmother’s life she did have indoor plumbing and I bet she loved it!


Coming to Hale Homestead is always a Country Inn Day “Country Day” that is a real treat for me.  I shared with you just the tiniest bit of my experience there.  To be out in nature on a beautiful day communing with plants and animals and looking back through the window of time at houses and their interiors, chatting with people who looked to be of the period – a wonderful thing.  Much to reflect upon and as Lord Byron said, “A life without reflection  is a sad affair.”

I hope you have opportunities to go off to the country and to explore the past as well.

Step out of your daily routine now and then and give yourself permission to enjoy any or all of your favorite things. – Focus on beauty.  It feels wonderful.  Then share the joy; for sharing doubles the joy.  I’ve sure enjoyed sharing my Country Inn Day with you.

So till next we meet

Love from Carol Ann, Lady of Letters

The spirit of an October letter

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Any time of year is the right time to enjoy the beautiful Art of Letter Writing but when temperatures fall and leaves begin to turn those rich colors of Autumn it’s especially nice to cuddle up in a cozy corner with paper and pen and write letters.

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 At this time of year my correspondents often choose stationery that reflects the beauty of the Season adding to my pleasure in receiving their letters.

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I too consider the Season when choosing or creating my stationery.  I’ll often draw  sunflowers or Autumn leaves on my letter papers.  Stationery and art play can be a large part of letter writing fun.

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Did you ever make faux postage stamps for your letter envelopes? It’s easy using your camera and a computer.  In October I like to create these stamps picturing my house with its dogwood tree in Autumn color.   Also, just for fun, I add little pumpkin men to the envelope.

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Some times in October I use a rubber stamp picturing an old spooky house.  I’ll add a tree or two, a ghost, a bit of chalk, and presto – Seasonal stationary.  There are so many possibilities.

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Then there’s color!  With Halloween around the corner it’s not unusual for me to receive letters on bright orange paper along with the talk of ghosts and goblins.  Color is fun! Some people enjoy decorating their houses for the Season, but letter writers often put that effort into the look and subject matter of their letters.

My letter friend Kim’s recent orange letter shared interesting information about the Celtic roots of Halloween –  how some 2000 years ago people thought the division between this world and the other world was at its thinnest nearing the end of October so at this time family ancestors were honored and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off.  People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves from the evil spirits thus avoiding harm. Interesting, huh?

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Kim’s envelope was very “Halloweeny”. and besides containing a good letter it was full of goodies for me.  How nice is that?  What fun to go to the mailbox and find letters, but letters with gifts inside?  Yes!

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See?  The decorated tissues held lip gloss, little packets of body butter and the most delicious-smelling soaps. Don’t you wish you had a generous letter friend like Kim?  Hopefully you do.

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Well I like to share in my letters too.  I share all sorts of things.  In October as Halloween approaches I like to  share a little something to do with old houses.  You see, I love old houses. I enjoy living in this old house. To me old houses are romantic, gracious and mysterious for they witnessed lives and times that have come and gone.

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 I used to live in an 1829 house, but these days I live in a newer house, an 1853 house built by Jeremiah Brown, the half-brother of John Brown, the famous abolitionist.

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In Autumn, especially when Halloween is near, my thoughts wander back in time and I like to think about the people who lived in my old house and what life must have been like for them back then.  I love so many old world ways – letter writing, afternoon tea, chamber music, candlelight, things undoubtedly enjoyed by people of the past… actually I often wish I lived a hundred or two hundred years ago. but by living now I’m able to encourage these and other old world pleasures that modern people seldom consider today.

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There’s a ghost flying outside my house in October and though I’ve never actually seen any other ghosts on the property I have a feeling they’re there.

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One of my “dead friends”. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote a poem about all this and I like to share this poem with all my letter friends each October because it captures my feelings about spirits and old houses. Like Kim’s envelope this poem is very “Halloweeny” too.

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I’ve known Henry for years, first meeting him when I lived in Boston.  I met Henry at a Country Inn and I love Country Inns just as much as I love old houses.  Originally this Inn was named ‘The Wayside Inn”, but it was renamed Longfellow’s Wayside Inn after Henry wrote his “Tales of a Wayside Inn” while being a guest there.  The Inn has a lovely perennial garden and in that garden is a statue of Henry.

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Then later I discovered Henry’s beautiful house in Cambridge, Massachusetts and while there I really sensed his spirit all around me, especially in his study where he did all of his writing. I revisited his house often while living in Boston and even when I moved to Ohio I would return to Boston and pop in at Henry’s place because it was just so nice.  Funny too how one time after visiting there Henry followed me home.  You see, I decided to spend a night at The Red Lion Inn in the Massachusetts Berkshires on the way back to Ohio and whose picture was hanging outside the door to my room?  You guessed it.  It was a picture of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Henry’s house is kept up beautifully by The Department of National Parks and within his house is a little shop which sells materials by and about Henry. It’s because of these materials which I purchased there and studied  carefully that I now feel I know Henry quite well.

These days he is a frequent companion on my Country Inn Days.  His spirit keeps me company at afternoon tea. With the help of his biography, his writings, and other books I feel we’re together, at least in spirit.  “Dead friends” are wonderful.  I hope you have some of your own.

I like so much of Henry’s work but his poem entitled “Haunted Houses” is my favorite and that’s because he puts into words all the feelings and love I have for old houses.  So here I share Henry’s poem with you.  Enjoy!

Haunted Houses

All houses wherin men have lived and died

Are haunted houses.  Through the open doors

The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,

With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them on the doorway, on the stair,

Along the passages they come an go,

Impalpable impressions on the air,

A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts

Invited; the illuminated hall

Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,

As silent as the pictures on the wall.

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.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;

Owners and occupants of earlier dates

From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands.

And hold in mortmain still their old estates,

The spirit-world around this world of sense

Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere

Wafts through these earthly mists and vapors dense

A vital breath of more etereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise

 By opposite attractions and desires;

The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,

And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar

Of earthly wants and aspirations high,

Come from the influence of an unseen star,

An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud

Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,

 Across whose tremblng planks our fancies crowd

Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends

A bridge of light, connecting it with this,

O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,

Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

I’m sure Henry is happy that I’m writing about him and sharing his poem with my letter friends and with you for no one wants to be forgotten nor have their work  forgotten.

So when you see an old house think of me , think of Henry, and think of all those who have gone before us.  Say a little prayer.  We’re all in this life together, but someday we will all be together with Henry, off in the spirit world wherever that may be.  I’m in no hurry to get there, but it will certainly be interesting meeting Henry and others face to face or shall we say spirit to spirit.  Till then let’s celebrate life, letters, and sharing.

And as Henry used to say, “Look then in your heart and write.  I will answer.”

I’ll answer too if you leave me a comment.

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