A Winter’s Country Inn Day

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The Jeremiah Brown House 1853
On some Country Inn Days when the weather is cold and snowy it’s nice to stay all cozy and warm at the Inn not venturing out at all.  That’s today!  Though it’s a bit gloomy outside, inside the Inn is bright and buzzing with activity for the Innkeeper, the Inn chef, the Inn maid, the Inn gardener, and the Inn guest are all keeping quite busy… and all those people are me!

As you may or may not know the magic of Country Inn Days has the power to transform me into all these characters as I use my imagination.  What fun I have!  I hope you are in the habit of using your imagination too.

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One of the Inn’s new rooms

The Jeremiah Brown House, my 1853 Country Inn of imagination, is where I spend much of my time, and its been undergoing an addition ever since last Summer.  The Innkeeper, me, has been busy buying furniture and designing the new rooms.  Today I stroll this and other rooms imagining how it soon will look for workers are coming in a day or two to sand, stain, and finish the floors and once the floors are finished the furniture will be delivered and then it won’t be long  till guests can be entertained at the Inn once again. I’m anxious for that day to come because I can’t wait to host my sharing teas and dinner parties once more.  This place is not for me alone.  It must be shared  with friends and family.  Sharing doubles the joy.

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A few garden books from the Inn’s library
As Innkeeper I study the new rooms, but as Inn gardener I  have other things to do. A gardener can’t work outside when the snow is a few feet deep and the temperature is only 29 degrees, but she can study the gardens found in books to give her ideas and that’s exactly what I’m doing on this cold Winter day.

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One particular book with lots of lovely old fashioned garden ideas is “Grandmother’s Garden” by May Brawley Hill.    It features gardens popular from 1865 to 1915.  Though my Inn was built earlier, it was still around in those later years too, so this book just might have some fine ideas for me. I do love old world ways and the Jeremiah Brown House needs old world ways to keep hold of its historic character.

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There’s never a dull moment on a Country Inn Day.  So many things to do.  As Inn maid I always seem to have  ironing waiting at the Ironrite, the ironing machine I inherited from my mother.  It makes ironing table linens a breeze.  And of course the Inn always uses fresh, crisp linens in its  dining room.

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What’s cooking?

The linens have to be prepared but the Inn cook, me, has other work to do in the kitchen.  Busy, busy, busy!  A new kitchen is being designed here, but until the new kitchen is ready the old kitchen works just fine. It will become a butler’s pantry when the new kitchen is finished. I’ve always wanted a butler’s pantry.

Here in the old kitchen I’m preparing a menu of  chicken with wine  accompanied by a pasta containing carrots,  mushrooms, and caraway seeds.  This pasta is seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika.  There’s also  an asparagus flan in the works.

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Asparagus Flan

This flan combines asparagus, bacon, eggs, milk, and heavy cream, with parsley, salt and pepper.  It bakes in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees – very French!

I hope the Inn guest, me,  enjoys the meal.  I’m sure she will.  After all, she’s been enjoying the whole day free from  her usual music work.  All regular daily activities are aborted on Country Inn Days in favor of other playful and relaxing Inn experiences.   One of the Inn’s wonderful relaxing experiences is snuggling up with a good book.  Today that book is Jane Austen’s  “Mansfield Park”.

And another favorite activity at the Inn, or anywhere at all, is letter writing. I am an avid letter writer.   Today I’ve written two letters – one to my  pen friend Amelia in Minnesota and another letter to Susie in Virginia. As my dear “dead friend” Lord Byron always said – “Only in letter writing do we have solitude and society simultaneously.”   How true that is.  I relax all by myself at the Inn but I’m able to connect with friends through letters.

How nice it is to get away from it all without packing and traveling long distances.  Of course I would love to bop over to my favorite Red Lion Inn in the Berkshires of Massachusetts every week, but that’s not possible. Having my Country Inn Days really helps keep me amused between my visits there.  Just a little imagination makes the simple things in life great fun.

What was it Mary Poppins said? – “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun.  You find the fun and then the job’s a game”!  She was so right.  My Country Inn Days truly make ordinary life a sort of game.  And adults have to play too.

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The dinner bell has rung.  I must leave you now. Linens, candlelight and a yummy meal just for me, well, for my hubby too.  He always joins me on my Inn getaways. Others check into the Inn too, but I’ll tell you about them another time.  So I have to run.

After dinner perhaps a bubble bath and then hopping into a warm and cozy bed with sweet dreams ahead.

There’s nothing like a Country Inn Day, a day to  hibernate at the Inn and escape from the world if that’s what I need or it could be a day out in the world  exploring favorite places and looking for adventure.

I’m happy you joined me today because  sharing doubles my joy.  It really does.  Maybe now you’ll go off on your own Country Inn Day adventure.  If you do, let me know.  I’d love to hear all about it.

Till next time.

Bye

Charlotte, Jane, Carol Ann (and Artie too)

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My daily letter

Today, as usual, I began my morning by writing a letter.  It was a letter composed of four  pages, 8×10 inches.  This is the usual length of one of my letters, though sometimes I’ll create a letter booklet, smaller in size, but made up of at least ten pages.  I send these letters off for the cost of a 46 cent U.S. postage stamp, providing the letter is staying in the United States.  Postal rates are higher if letters are going over seas.  Is my letter writing  an economical pleasure?  Whether it is or not I plan to continue writing and sending letters off because it is such a complete treat – a physical, social, intellectual and spiritual treat.

Today I wrote to Artie in Staten Island, New York.  Artie is a very nice gentlemen, and reading his letter, then responding, made for a very pleasant start to my day, but I had even more interesting fun reading a letter from Charlotte … you know, Charlotte Bronte, one of my talented “dead friends”.  I came upon a a letter she wrote to her publisher back on January 12th, 1848.

You’ll find the letters of your “dead friends” to be very interesting  reading, but that’s only if you choose very interesting “dead friends”.  Of course, why would you choose any other kind?

Well, Charlotte’s letter was full of surprises.  Did you know she didn’t think very much of Jane Austen’s writing?  I didn’t know that till I read this letter to her publisher who also happened to be Jane’s publisher.  Charlotte wrote”

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…”Why do you like Miss Austen so very much?  I am puzzled on that point.  (She writes) an accurate, daguerreotyped portrait of a commonplace face!  a carefully-fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but no glance of a bright, vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no sonny beck.  I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses.  These observations will probably irritate you, but I shall run the risk … Miss Austen is only a shrewd observer.”

Charlotte doesn’t mince words, does she?  I bet she must be quite surprised and annoyed to know just how popular Jane Austen’s work has become in today’s world.  Though Charlotte and Jane weren’t chummy on earth I wonder if they met in heaven and became friends.  They must both be pleased that their works are still being read by people like us.

Those of us who believe in an afterlife must wonder what people in heaven are doing.  MAYBE THEY’RE WATCHING US!  MAYBE THEY’RE INTERESTED IN OUR CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THEM!  Maybe so, maybe not.  But I like to imagine they’re reaching out to us, and I sure enjoy hearing what my “dead friends” think  and have to say for it’s often more interesting than what a lot of living, breathing  people have to share.  I’m very happy to hear from “dead friends” in all sorts of ways,  by discovering their work, by reading  books written about them, by film, and especially by reading their letters,  JUST NOT BY PERSONAL APPEARANCE!

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All Charlotte’s talk about Jane Austen got me thinking it was about time I paid a little visit to Jane myself so I picked up a copy of “Jane Austen’s Town and Country Style”  written by Susan Watkins.  What a great book to help us go back in time into Jane’s world.

I started this missive by telling you about current U.S. postal rates and the length of my daily letters.   Well, it was most interesting to read what Susan Watkins had to say not only about postal rates in Jane and Charlotte’s world, but also about letters.

Did you know in London, until 1801, letters were picked up and delivered four to eight times daily for the price of one penny, but the Penny Post became the Twopenny Post in 1805, and by 1812 the cost of a letter was four pence for 15 miles or less, rising to 17 pence for 700 miles.  And we complain about our rate increases!  Susan also explained that postage was paid by the recipient.  Boy, if postage was paid by the recipient today we’d all be getting a lot less junk mail.

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Reading “Jane Austen’s Town and Country Style” is a great book if you want to learn all the ins and outs of life in her world spanning the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth.  For example, did you know back then “The postage charge was based on letters of a single sheet – more paper meant more money – and because of the cost, letters were usually written on a single page, which was then folded to make a small rectangle envelope and sealed with a wafer of wax.”   To save money  letter writers  would fill the whole paper, then write at right-angles across the first lines of their writing.

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Yikes!  I tried this technique and I don’t think it makes for easy reading, do you?  Many of us like to romanticize life in the past, but I think we have it a lot better these days… at least most of us do.

Speaking of Jane Austen and her time,  you might like to see the film, “Lost in Austen”.  I thought it was great fun, all about a modern London girl going back, not only in time, but also into a Jane Austen book.

Well, letter writing really entertains me.  Today without leaving home I had visits with Artie from New York and Charlotte and Jane from England.  Of course there’s you too, but if I’m to feel your presence you’ll just have to write me a letter.  Go ahead.  Do it!

So till next time…

Sharing Doubles the Joy

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Home Sweet Home

Here I sit, in my kitchen at my laptop, wondering what we should talk about today.

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I have a smoothie at my side.  It’s a delicious and nutritious Summer drink.  My smoothie today consists of  yogurt, bananas, grape juice, strawberries and blueberries.  A quick spin in the blender and I have an easy and healthful breakfast.  Do you enjoy smoothies too?  They say berries are so very good for us as is all fruit.  I hope you’re enjoying a nice drink too as we spend time together today.

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A room with a view

It’s another beautiful day in Hudson.  I’ve opened my kitchen doors so I can enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of nature as we visit.  I make a point of using all the different rooms of my house.  Do you?

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A room with “another” view

 If I look straight ahead I have the pleasure of viewing a wall of green trees.  They stand beyond our grounds past the dining room and porch.  Nature is so tranquil and refreshing.

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My heroe

 The music I’m listening to is also tranquil and refreshing.  It’s a cd of Glen Gould playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations.   In this, my  romantic old world setting, it’s easy to get lost in all sorts of  lovely romantic ideas and artful activities and as you might guess The Art of Letter Writing is  my favorite artful activity.

So speaking of The Art of Letter Writing let me share something that popped up in a recent letter I received from a new correspondent who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She started her letter to me with these words, “Where shall I begin?  Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”

 With a beginning like that I wondered how interesting the letter would be, (Important nothings?) but her letter really was quite interesting, and one of the interesting things I learned from her was that those opening words were first written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra.  My pen friend read and liked Jane’s words so she now uses them in her own letters.  I bet Jane is flattered up there in heaven that people aren’t only reading and enjoying her books, but they’re also reading, enjoying and sharing her letters.  My pen friend’s idea to borrow Jane’s words really charmed me.

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A letter from Gwen

Here’s another thing that charmed me.  It was a beautiful letter from my pen friend Gwen.  Gwen lives in Ohio not too far from me, but we’ve never met in person … not yet anyway.  How would you like to receive such a pretty letter in your mail box?  I bet you would.

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So sweet

I could just imagine Gwen’s creative mind working overtime when she discovered this pretty paper napkin with all its lovely cut work.  Gwen likes fairies too.  She told me she has created a fairy garden in her yard.  (Gardeners know fairy gardens are quite the thing these days.)  So Gwen took one look at the shape of this pretty napkin and decided she had to use it for a letter.  She  fit letter paper within its square center using a fairy sticker to create a cute little letter package.  So sweet!

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Such a pretty letter
More fairies adorn each page of Gwen’s letter, and her neat handwriting and cheerful, positive thoughts combined to create a most beautiful and uplifting  present (the gift of a letter)  which added immeasurably to the delight of my day.

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My letter to Gwen

Today I finally had the pleasure of responding to Gwen’s letter.  I do wish I could answer all the letters I receive more promptly, but I keep thinking of what Robert Louis Stevenson said long ago, the  words that I recently shared with you.  Remember?  Robert said. “If I wrote all the letters I ought to write, and at the proper time, I should be very good and very happy; but I doubt if I should do anything else.”  I guess through all of time men have never had enough time for those things they love the most.”

And so speaking of the crunch time places on us, I must run along and attend to some music planning for the children’s choir I direct.  But I’ll be back with you for another visit before you know it because sharing doubles my joy and I hope my sharing adds to your joy too.