It’s a Country Inn Day – Nature Day!

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Today I escape from my daily routine.  It’s a Country Inn Day, a day of imagination and play.  I enjoy one Country Inn Day each week.  Not only is this day great fun, it is also crucial to my creative life.  Country Inn Days  take on all sorts of forms.  There’s Culture Day, Adventure Day, Spa Day, Sharing Tea Day, Nature Day, as well as six other varieties.

But whatever the Inn Day, my home base is my Inn of Imagination, my 1853 home in Hudson, Ohio, USA.   Here, in between special excursions,  I partake in many simple pleasures, the kind of pleasures I would enjoy when visiting my favorite “real” Inn, The Red Lion Inn of Stockbridge, Massacusetts.   I call these simple pleasures enjoyed on Inn Days  “Country Inn Tidbits.

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One such delightful tidbit is starting the day with coffee, something yummy to eat, and the writing of a letter.  Some say The Art of Letter Writing is dead and gone, but they’re so wrong!  I’ve been writing one letter every morning  for the past umpteen years and umpteen people have been writing back to me.  Maybe you’re even one of those people.  Well, they don’t call me “The Lady of Letters” for nothing.  so here in my library, just as in the lobby of The Red Lion Inn, I start the day in thoughtful sharing with a friend.

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And as I consult my beautiful journal today, a journal given to me by my Rhode Island pen friend, Barbara (Hi Barbara)  I am delighted to see that the featured book of the week in this journal is Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”.  I remember hiking around Walden Pond years ago when I lived in Boston, even seeing the exact spot where Thoreau built his cabin. How appropriate  I should be reading about Thoreau on this, a Nature Day.  So with my morning letter writing completed it is now time to experience a little bit of nature for myself.

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I hop in my car and head out through the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley, home of The Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a most wonderful place to hike, picnic, fish, go horseback riding, enjoy archery, or just relax.  But this Nature Day I have another destination in mind.  I’m headed for a Visitor Center run by the Metro Park System of Cleveland/Akron.

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After a delightful ride through the country I reach my destination, park my car, and walk through the lovely grounds of the park.

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How cleverly this Nature Center, called “The Nature Realm”,  is placed in the landscape.  It barely disturbs the natural vista. There’s a large pond behind the building  and paths of lovely brick and stone work to stroll, paths  that blend beautifully with the surroundings.

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I love all the bird feeders set out so the visitor can delight in the sight of not a few, but many birds feasting.  The center provides literature too to help the novice birder identify the birds they are seeing.

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Any questions can be directed to the many naturalists on the scene. Let’s go inside the Nature Realm and I’ll show you around.

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Come this way!

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The first exhibit that greets us is this one.  Do you recognize this bird? It’s a Blue Heron.  If you read all the information posted here you’ll be a heron expert.  I learned that the Bath Road heronry in my county, Summit county of Ohio, is a popular nesting site with roughly 130 nests every year.  I must go see them, perhaps on my next Nature Day.

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There are also displays about early days in Ohio, how Ohio was a melting pot for Indian tribes, including the Delaware, Seneca and Mingo. There are Indian artifacts on display and plenty of books for sale detailing the history of these early inhabitants.

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I love all the large murals.  This one explains how later settlers who came to Ohio made their living farming and how by 1820 in order to ship grain and other products to market a canal was built.  It’s the 300 mile-long Ohio and Erie Canal.  Perhaps you heard of it.  This canal was so successful by 1840 Ohio was the 3rd most populous state in America.

But besides the natural history of this area there are all sorts of other interesting things to see.

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Here we learn about Tom Baldwin and how he turned woodworking into a rewarding profession.  We see the detail of his carved birds and the tools he uses to create them.  Very interesting. Mr.Baldwin teaches wildlife painting too.  In fact, the park is offering a class in which Mr. Baldwin promises to teach participants how to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, a painting of the prized charadrius vociferus.  In case you don’t know just what a charadrius vociferus is I will tell you. It’s a bird, a killdeer which is a medium-sized plover.  What’s a plover?  A plover is a wading bird of which there are 66 species.  I just might sign up for this class.  It could be perfect for another  Country Inn Nature Day.  after all, I always wanted to create a masterpiece!  You see how one Country Inn Day  leads to another?

There is so much to see at the Nature Realm.  Let me show you just one more thing, well, a few more things, a few of the animals on display here. Unfortunately, these animals aren’t alive anymore, not so good for them, but good for us because this way we can get a close up look at them.  Some I know, but some I have never seen before today.  How about you?

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Red Fox
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Red-necked pheasant
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Bob White Quail
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Red-breasted Merganser
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Common Loon
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Grey Fox
I hate to think of animals being stuffed.   Jeepers!  However do they do that? But this process does give us the opportunity to get a good look at them. I would’ve thought the Loon was just another duck, but thanks to my Nature Day now I know better.

This visit to The Nature Realm, seeing things in nature  that I don’t usually see, hit the spot for me on this Nature Day. But now it’s time to move along for Country Inn Days contain many more pleasures.

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One such pleasure is a visit to my local coffee shop where I enjoy a favorite drink.  Country Inn Days are filled with these simple but delightful pleasures.

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You’ve heard the song that proclaims “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad”.  Yes?  Well, more then remembering, it’s good to actually partake in our favorite things -and on a regular basis. Then we not only don’t feel so bad, we actually  feel terrific!  Country Inn Days give me a regular opportunity to enjoy my favorite things.  And there are so many favorite things to enjoy.

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How ’bout a walk around the block with your dog or your husband or just by yourself?  This is another of my simple Country Inn Day pleasures.  A walk is not only good for our health, it is also  good for clearing  our mind of clutter and focusing on the nature all around us. I may miss my daily walk some times, but not on Country Inn Days.

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Another Country Inn Day pleasure is a special dinner.  The magic of Inn Days transforms me from Inn Chef to Innkeeper to Inn Guest and later to Inn maid as I clean up.  As Inn chef I create a special meal.  As Innkeeper I prepare the table.  Only my prettiest things are used, things I may not bother with on ordinary days. Candlelight, linen, flowers, music… we have these things so we should use them.  Country Inn Days are the perfect time.

Oh, there’s so much more, but I’ll share other Country Inn Day pleasures with you on my next Country Inn Day.  What will it be? An Adventure Day, a Spa Day, a Culture Day?  You’ll just have to wait and see.  But till we meet again, remember to live richly, use your imagination and share, for though you can have a lot of fun on your own…

Sharing Doubles the Joy

It’s a Country Inn Day

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Today I’m enjoying  a Country Inn Day.  Country Inn Days are a little invention I created more than twenty years ago.  I had to invent them because I absolutely love Country Inns and my very favorite Country Inn is about 600 miles away situated in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.  Though Ohio has a few here and there I needed to  come up with something that would satisfy my craving for regular  inn experiences.

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Luckily I have a wonderful imagination so this was not a difficult challenge for me.  Also, it happened to be very convenient that my husband, an avid golfer, seemed to need a handy place to play golf most every day.  He therefore joined The Lake Forest Country Club in my Hudson where he happily enjoys his golf and  I am able to enjoy the clubhouse, its gardens and amenities.

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I do love historic preservation, and lucky for me, Lake Forest is an old place and looks even older  because of its architectural style.  It’s also quite nice that it sits at the edge of a lake, Lake Forest.  There’s nothing quite as refreshing as viewing a body of water, well,  except for viewing beautiful gardens and Lake Forest is truly endowed with beautiful gardens.

 I love flowers, don’t you?  I love flowers  almost as much as I love letters so Lake Forest  is a very good place for me to spend time writing  letters.  Just look at some of the flowers I can feast my eyes on as I write.

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I keep telling my husband I need  the Lake Forest gardener to help me with the garden at our house.  He seems to really know what he’s doing.  The view from every window here is a vision of natural beauty.

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And though my Country Inn days take me on all sorts of adventures in and out of Hudson, as well as all over the world, having Lake Forest right here in my own neighborhood helps me enjoy some of those very nice inn experiences I love so much – experiences like being served food and drinks in a beautiful old world setting.

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The Jeremiah Brown House

Of course many of my inn days are had at my very own home, The Jeremiah Brown House.  This house was built in 1853 so it has what many of my favorite inns have, a historical feeling.   Here at the house I have the fun of playing the part of inn chef, inn gardener, inn maid and innkeeper – inn guest too, but it is still nice to have Lake Forest in the picture.

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I do like to remain at my home for many inn days though, because the Jeremiah Brown House is personal and very private.  Any inn guests that do appear must be invited by me.  Sometimes these guests appear for tea or intimate dinners.

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 Sometimes I plug in my imagination and the Inn hosts my “dead friends” – so many –   Chopin will be at the piano in the next room playing his waltzes (via cd),

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Agatha Christie will be telling me stories of her life on the porch over cocktails (via biographies)… so many wonderful inn experiences are powered by my imagination.  So you see, staying at The Jeremiah Brown House can be the setting for a wonderful inn day.

Still

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popping over to Lake Forest for lunch, dinner, or some letter writing adds a little spice to any Country Inn Day.

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Step inside with me.

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I’ll take you for an interior tour on some cold, rainy Autumn day. but the weather is so nice today, we’ll cut through the building and go out to the terrace.  Here in the entrance you see the staircase that goes up to the women’s locker rooms.

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And in this picture you see a bit of the living room looking into the entrance and up at the very high ceiling overhead.  It’s here at Lake Forest Country Club that I  give talks on The  Art of Letter Writing to interested groups while they enjoy lunch, dinner or tea.  If you belong to a club and have interest in such an event contact me via my website (carolannmccarthy.com)

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See out the window where we’re headed?

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Now, standing on the patio we are looking out over the pool to the lake beyond.

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And a  nice pool it is too, quite peaceful now that most kiddies have gone back to school.

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 But I prefer the lower terrace where food and drinks are also served, but where the view of the lake is so much better.

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I rather like the tables way at the end of the terrace for here I have solitude yet the society of my letter friends – and here it is I write today’s letter,

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I’m answering a letter from Candi.  She lives in Mankato, Minnesota.

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I am so behind in answering Candi’s letter, but she is a darling and I’m sure she forgives me.  I haven’t even sent her pictures of my son’s graduation from UCLA in June.   Well, better late, than never.

So I write Candi and you from my Country Inn Day.

Country Inn Days happen regularly for me –  every week.  After all, everybody needs to get away from it all now and then, don’t they?  Don’t you?  And what’s better than getting away without having to pack a suitcase,  spend a lot of money and get all tired out?  Country Inn Days grant us adventures, if that’s what we want, or rest and relaxation.  We have the power to design our Inn days  any way we like.  How would you design yours?  Plug in your imagination and  see what you come up with …create some Country Inn Days for yourself.  You’ll be glad you did.

So till we meet again I’m signing off from the Inn.

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Love, Carol Ann

Nature, Travel, Tea and Letters

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It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a perfect day for letter writing, but then every day is a perfect day for letter writing.  The sun is shining.  The birds are chirping.  There’s no humidity.  It’s a lovely temperature, about 75 degrees, and all is calm and right in my world.  I hope that’s the case for you too. Today I decided to write my morning letter to Janet.  Janet is a real nature lover as I am, maybe as you are too.  I wanted to tell her all about the alpaca farm I discovered when meeting the owners at Hudson’s farm market last week.  I also wanted to send her this bookmark picturing one of the very cute alpacas. I knew she would be interested because Janet loves animals.  Are you an animal lover too?

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 I’ve mentioned Janet to you before.  She lives in a  beautiful country setting in the state of Virginia.  Her house is right next door to her sister and brother-in-law’s farm.  Janet is always taking me on excursions through that farm via her letters.  It’s so fun! Thanks to Janet I can share in her early morning walks without even leaving my comfy sofa.  Ah, the magic of letter writing!  Are you in the mood for a little creative visualization?  Well, I’ll share a bit of one of Janet’s letters with you.  I’m sure she wouldn’t mind because Janet is wonderful about sharing her joy.

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She writes,

“Just returned from my early morning walk to the fish pond, strolling by the sheep and lambs in the pasture…

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the donkeys keep watch…

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a few birds too”.

Janet continues, “When I reached the pond a dozen geese were on the water honking.  I like to watch them as they glide along and every now and then they’ll flap their wings, take off, fly to the shore or another spot on the pond, splashing when they land, and then glide along once more.”

Can’t you just picture those geese as Janet describes them?  I sure can, and I have to smile with delight as I share their joy.

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 Janet is always sending me pictures in her letters.  I love them.  Like I always say – one picture is worth a thousand words.  Janet makes post cards too like this one of Mr. Rooster.  She cleverly snapped his picture and added what she knew he was thinking.  If you hang around animals enough you do get to know what they’re thinking.  On the back of the postcard Janet wrote,

“Every morning roosters crow somewhere in our community.  My sister now has three roosters and this is one of the newest.  He’s very strong and feisty, but a smaller one we call ‘Roger’ has been there the longest and none of the new roosters mess with him.  He’ll squawk and chase the other two.  Roger let’s the others know he’s the King rooster…”

Don’t you know people like Roger?  I sure do.

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I enjoy travel, but I also enjoy my creative visualization with the help of letter friends.  Having pen friends from all over the world gives us an “up close and personal” look at places and things near and far.  As you can see from the postmark above I have a pen friend in The Netherlands.  She’s a veterinarian.  I bet she would love Janet’s letters about nature and animals as I do.

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Vronica takes me along to places she visits like Stadtkyll and she adds her  personal commentary. Because I have wonderful  pen friends like Vronica and Janet I see more of this beautiful world than I would see otherwise.  And I care about, and become interested in, places I would never even know existed if not for letters.  After all, you can’t love what you don’t know.  Do you see how letters can expand our world?  If a person can’t get out and about for any reason, but even if they can,  they really ought to take up letter writing.

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How ’bout a little sightseeing in England?  No problem, just find yourself an English correspondent like my pen friend Tracy.  Tracy lives in Jacob’s Well, Guildford Surrey.

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I’m getting to know Guildford pretty well because  of all the literature Tracy sends me on the place.  I love it!

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We tour neighborhood houses together via her local newspaper

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and we also visit historic properties in and around Guildford like this museum, The City Museum.  Its galleries tell the story of the city from its origin as a prehistoric trading center and Roman regional capital, through to modern times with reconstructed 19th and 20th century shops.

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But Tracy also sends me gifts, large and small.  She is a very giving  and  generous person who loves to share.  My kind of girl.  Tracy knows how sharing doubles the joy.  She sent me these neat London coasters

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and this pretty tablecloth for my tea parties.  Tracy, being English, thoroughly approves of all my tea parties.

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She also sends me recipes for tea bakery.  Of course she included a conversion table so I could understand the recipe measurements.

What can I say?  We have our private world, our world of family and local friends, our loved ones who move far away, but then there’s this entirely different world, our world of

Letter Friends

Can you see how they expand one’s life experience?

I sure hope you have a few dozen of your own letter friends, but until you get them, I’ll be happy to continue sharing mine with you.  Why?  You know.

Sharing Doubles the Joy!

So Glad You Could Join Me For Tea and a Chat

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Sugar, Mint or lemon?

Did you notice I’m wearing the apron my former English teacher gave me at one of my last afternoon teas?  Thanks Miss Kaftan.

Now do come in,  sit down on the sofa out here on the porch

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or maybe you’d prefer to sit in a rocker.

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Just make yourself comfortable.

Modern life can keep us so on the go and it’s good to be on the go, it really is,  but not every minute!  We  are so wise to recognize our need for regular pauses in our day.  Some people never take time for themselves, poor things.  We’re enriched when we pause to take time for intellectual reflection.  Our days feel  brighter when we include others – sharing, exercising courtesy and cultivating friendships.  We grow in  peace and hope when we take time to reflect on our spiritual roots, and we’re  refreshed  when we pause from our busy work  to do a little daydreaming or to focus on the beauty that’s all around us.

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Beauty like a  birdie at the window feeder…

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Beauty like a lovely flower…

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Beauty like the nature outside our window.

It’s so nice you could join me today.  We’re both taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life.  What have you been doing today?  Maybe you’ll leave a comment at the end of this post and tell me about your day.  I’d like that.  Can I offer you a chicken croissant?

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Don’t worry about the calories.  You have to eat, don’t you?

I was in the mood to do a little baking today.  I’m  always searching for good scone recipes and today I found two.  Both recipes came from a book by Tricia Foley called Having Tea  and here it is.

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I made Buttermilk scones and Cream scones. Both turned out quite nicely.  I cut back on the salt a bit, but other than that Tricia’s recipes were the best I’ve found so far.  Here are the ingredients for both recipes:

Buttermilk Scones

1 and 3/4 cups of all purpose flour, 1 tsp. sugar, 3/4 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, approximately 3/4 cup buttermilk

Cream Scones

2 cups all purpose flour, 2 tsp. sugar, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 cup heavy cream

The buttermilk scones bake at 450 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes

The cream scones bake at 425 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes

For both recipes you mix the dry ingredients, cut in the butter or liquid till a soft dough forms, then roll out on a floured board to the thickness of 3/4 to 1 inch.  Cut dough with a sharp 2 inch round cookie cutter,  bake.

AND YOU HAVE SCONES!

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Please, have one.  Have two!  I made plenty.  Add a little Raspberry jam

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and Devon cream.

When you serve scones at tea, adding  jam and Devon cream or whipping cream, it’s rightly called a CREAM TEA.  If you bake a batch of scones, leftovers can be frozen, and at a moment’s notice you can enjoy a cream tea yourself or delight any friend who pops in unexpectedly.    Of course, when was the last time you experienced drop-in company?  Sadly, the days of visiting seem to be a thing of the past. People today are too busy for such civilized pleasures.  Not me!  I am the champion of old world pleasures lost to modern times – Hosting afternoon teas, Creating handwritten letters, Calling ahead to pay a visit to a friend or relative.  Such things as these add a gracious element to life, an element that  doesn’t cost much money (if any at all), but rewards us with  a certain joy which no amount of money can buy.

Think how you would delight a friend if you popped over to their home bearing a pot of flowers or a basket of strawberries.  That’s exactly what my friend Joni brought me on her last visit.

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 This is Joni.  She is one of my intelligent friends who not only takes time for herself,  focusing on her many blessings, but she also makes time for others, doing nice things for them.  That’s a winning combination. I’m so lucky to have Joni as a friend.  I hope you have friends like Joni too,  and  I hope you are a good friend to others, making time for them.

Maybe tomorrow you’ll mix up a few pitchers of ice tea,

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call a friend or two, and invite them over

or

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buy a pot of flowers

or

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a cake

and go visiting.  Call ahead and visit a friend or relative showering them with your time and appreciation.  Sharing doubles the joy, and taking this time out in your day is well worth the effort.  But in between visits with others remember to take time for yourself – time to dream, time to putter, time to exercise your creativity, time to relax.  It’s so good for your health and it’s so good for your spirit.

And speaking of spirit, you can always enjoy tea time with God.  There’s even a book to help you with that. and here it is.

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This book is a Quiet Moments with God  devotional, published by Honor books.  If you need a little company and no one is available why not share your teatime break  with God.  This book will help.

I remember seeing an old film called The Ghost and Mrs. Muir way back when.  I loved this film and wished  I too had a friendly ghost who shared my old 1853 house, a ghost I could talk to and gain inspiration from  –  and then it hit me!  I do have my very own friendly ghost and so do you.  It’s a ghost , who though invisible, is with us all the time.  It is a very special ghost too.  It is the HOLY GHOST!

Yes, I’m a spiritual person, aren’t you?   So why shouldn’t we  invite the Holy Ghost to tea now and then just as we would invite other friends?  There’s an idea!  (BIG SMILE)  And these great ideas  do not come to us unless we  take time from our busy routines to pause and relax and ponder.

So, I’m very glad you stopped by for tea and this chat.  I was having fun with my birdies and  baking , but sharing with you made my fun even better because… you know…

Sharing doubles the joy!

So drop by again, and until then, be sure to take time out of your days to dream, to share, and to BE!

Like my Boston University tee shirt  says

B U

(That’s short for Be You!)

Notes from the Country Inn Day Gardener

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This lady greets you at the porch entrance

“It is a natural consequence that those who cannot taste the actual fruition of a garden should take the greater delight in reading about one.  But the enjoyment next below actual possession seems to be derived from writing on the topic.”

QUARTERLY REVIEW ( 1851)

And so, when I’m not weeding, pruning, mulching or planting, I, the inn gardener,  delight in photographing and writing about the goings on around the grounds of our country inn of imagination.

I was thinking about what Sir George Sitwell wrote in his ESSAY ON THE MAKING OF GARDENS  back in 1909.  He wrote “To make a great garden, one must have a great idea or a great opportunity.”  Well, I do have a great opportunity here  for the grounds are blessed with very mature trees and shrubs. Such materials formed over time are precious and create a foundation that is worth its weight in gold for any gardener.  There are tall trees and evergreens shielding the front yard from the street.

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There are lovely old trees edging the driveway

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The entire  perimeter of the grounds are edged by tall trees of one sort or another.

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These trees when leafed out provide a screen which keeps the barn hidden from the rest of the property.

 Other trees edge the circular drive, the drive which surrounds the herb garden found in its middle.  The trees also help keep the secret garden behind them a real secret.

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The early  owners of this 1853 property (the first being Jeremiah Brown, brother of John Brown , the abolitionist)  obviously loved trees and people for they planted all sorts of trees in all sorts of places.

“He that plants trees loves others besides himself.”

Thomas Fuller

GNOMOLOGIA (1732)

 In the picture below you see black walnut trees at the edge of the driveway and you don’t want to sit below these trees nor park your car under them when their nuts begin to fall.  They fall with conviction.  Closer to the house there are two river birch.  They do well there because it’s a low area and  rather wet.

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I like our trees.  No, I love our trees, for they are no work for me at all, well, maybe a bit of work when the leaves begin to fall in Autumn, but as Willa Cather said, “They seem  more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.”

And when Spring arrives and the leaves of all the trees begin to form,  it’s like magic! –   hundreds of tiny specks materializing before our eyes.  If you were to try to paint a picture with such detail you would realize just how wonderful and artful trees really are.  Then Summer comes and trees are in their full glory.

“Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing “Embraceable You” in spats.”

Woody Allen (1935-  )

When I first set my eyes on this property I thought it looked a lot like an arboretum.  So many different kinds of trees  Some are very big and others are quite small like the fringe tree.

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The fringe tree

And it only seems right that we add more trees of our own to this property, so after seeing a dwarf Japanese willow at a friend’s garden with its very white leaves which only gradually turn to green, it was decided to make this tree the centerpiece of the inn herb garden.

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closeup of the white leaves of the Japanese dwarf willow

Maturity has value in people and in gardens.  It’s worth a lot.  I was pricing small boxwood plants recently and was amazed at their prices.  $40 would only buy a very small plant.  I therefore couldn’t help but wonder how much one of the inn’s 5 to 6 foot boxwood plants would summon  if they could be transplanted.

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Boxwood at the porch entrance
I, as inn gardener, may have my work cut out for me.  So much to weed, prune, plant, and redesign.  There are times I am quite overwhelmed.  But if I focus on the job at hand, enjoying it, and if I count the blessings of what already exists in this garden – namely the mature bushes and trees, I feel quite contented and joyful for I have something here and now that even Thomas Jefferson would have killed for…

“I never before knew the full value of trees.  My house is entirely embosomed in big plane trees, with good grass below, and under them I breakfast, dine, write, read, and receive company.  What would I not give that the trees planted nearest round the house at Monticello were full grown.”

JEFFERSON TO MARTHA JEFFERSON RANDOLPH ( 1793)

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?

Afternoon tea, philosophy, and me

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 As my “dead friend” Mister Rogers used to sing:

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood

a beautiful day for a neighbor

Would you be mine?  Could you be mine?

Won’t you be my neighbor” …

and join me for afternoon tea?

The dogwood tree is beginning to bloom

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I see it out my windows bringing me joy at every appearance.

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so the porch is the perfect place to entertain guests today.

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and some of the hydrangeas are changing from green to a lovely lavender color

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It truly is a beautiful day in my neighborhood, the perfect day for a tea party — but then any day is a perfect day to share with friends.

 Most times when I entertain I like to experiment with a new recipe.  Today that recipe comes from the book “Tea and Inspiration” by Mary Pielenz Hampton.

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I’ll attempt to make little tarts called “Maids of Honor”.  Legend has it that  these tarts were enjoyed very much by Henry VIII.  Supposedly, he came upon the maids of his wife Catherine eating them, so he named these tea goodies in their honor.

If these tarts were fit for a king, queen and her maids of honor I should think they would be just fine for me and my guests

So let’s gets started.

First I make the pastry by using my mother’s tried and true recipe.

2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 3/4 cup crisco, 5 T cold water

Mix in a cuisinart for a minute and you have a lovely pastry dough.

Now  to roll out the pastry onto a lightly floured surface and cut 3 inch circles out using a wine glass.

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Next, we place the rounds into a greased and floured muffin tin pressing the pastry to the sides.

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Now to prepare the filling

In a mixing bowl, lightly beat 2 egg yolks.  Beat in the 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of blanched ground almonds, 1 tbsp flour, and 1 tsp finely grated lemon peel or lemon zest.  Slowly add the 2 tbsp of heavy whipping cream.  Carefully spoon about 1 tablespoon of mixture into each pastry cup.

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Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the filling is set and a light golden brown color.

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 Carefully remove from tins and place on a wire rack until completely cooled.

And we have a yummy “Maid of Honor” tart.

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An up close look at the tart

With my baking finished it’s now time to organize the tea.  Because I’m not sure which teas my guests enjoy I will be offering them a selection.IMG_3072[1]

I set out four tea pots ready to be of service once my guests declare which teas they’ each prefer.

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And because I’m never sure if my baking experiment will turn out I like to have insurance.  Today the insurance is a fruit and custard tart.

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This tart along with my Maids of honor mini tarts could be enough, but being Polish and the daughter of a great hostess, I was taught to always have more than enough goodies at a party.   I purchased a few more things which I’ll slice and make ready for my guests in the hope that they will surely find something that appeals to them.

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Now that the food is under control it’s time to check that the setting is ready.  Let’s go out to the porch.

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I set out the tea cups, adjust the silver and napkins, check that the tea treats are nicely arranged and start the music.

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So you see there’s not much to planning a tea party.  Afternoon tea is an exercise in gentility and like letter writing it is almost a lost art in today’s world, but I think it is an art worth our time and attention.

Amy, one of my favorite pen friends who lives in Kingston, Pennsylvania, recently sent me a quotation.  The words are from Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and the father of Taoism.  It reads:

“To attain knowledge, add things every day.  To attain wisdom, subtract things every day.”

Lao Tzu’s words make sense to me.  If we clear our lives of clutter and create time for learning and solitary reflection or reflection with others, we just might find our lives to be more rich, in fact GOLDEN.

Any minute my guests will be arriving.  Today I have 3 ladies invited to tea — an old friend, Barbara; a new friend, Gerry ( who happens to have been my high school English teacher.  I never knew Gerry well back then , but after meeting her at a wedding recently I thought it would be lovely to get to know her now); and Gerry is bringing a friend, Sandy. (Sandy was in my high school graduating class but we never knew each other back then).

Someone old, someone new, someone borrowed, and this time only one borrowed guest, not the usual two,  because my seating  arrangement only has room for four.  And here they are.

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I always ask my guests to be prepared to share a passion or favorite thing so Barbara brought a book of the poetry she’s written.  Barbara was a teacher and she’s a very good writer.

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Sandy talked all about the joys of being a grandmother.  She told us of her fun in babysitting  her little granddaughter.

Here you see Sandy and Gerry looking over some of my letters for I shared my delight in the Art of Letter writing.

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Gerry told us all about her mother who almost lived to be 100 years old.  Her mother’s passion was sewing and all forms of needlework so now Gerry’s passion is to find a home for all those things her mother made.  Each month she gives something away and this month it’s a pretty apron.IMG_3091[1]

Guess who gets that pretty apron?  If you guessed me, you’re right!

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Now I have that apron to wear at my next tea!  As you may know when you give good things come back to you and with this tea I gained a pretty apron.

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a lovely bowl of flowers thanks to Sandy

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and the best gift of all – new and old friends.

Back in 1895 there was talk that it was probably inevitable that the excessive nervous tension and high speed of life was bound to have a deteriorating effect on all branches of art including  the art of conversation.

They were right to worry for with time it’s only gotten worse.  Letter writing, afternoon tea, in person conversations are truly taking a hit.

But

 the good news is all these arts are still there for us.  They’re just waiting for our participation.  Take Lao Tzu’s advice and cut out some clutter, make some tea, read  an intelligent book, write a letter and/or invite some friends for an afternoon soire,

The mere chink of cups and saucers tune the mind to happy repose.

So till next time

Relax and live richly

Emerson, Tea, Nature and Me

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Ralph Waldo Emerson
Are you familiar with the life and work of Ralph Waldo Emerson?  I met Emerson some years ago when I lived in Boston.  Because I’ve always  loved old houses and historic towns I spent a lot of time in Concord where  Emerson lived.  Concord  is a charming town just outside of Boston proper.  I’d pop over to Emerson’s house often, stroll through his rooms, look over his books – why I even was in his bedroom many times  where I saw quite a few of his personal things, like the actual dressing gown he wore most  evenings.  I’d walk around his garden and spend time with him, pondering his shrewd observations and penetrating perceptions.

Now you may wonder how I could do that.  After all, Emerson was born in 1803 and  I’m not 210 years old as Emerson is.  Well, if you know me at all you know I have lots of friends – some local,  some letter friends far away, some living and some who are what I call “dead friends”.  “Dead friends” are people from the past who I get to know through their writings, accomplishments  and other work.  Emerson  is one of those “dead friends”.

Emerson was not only a fine and popular lecturer in his day, but lucky for us he was also a writer, capturing his thoughts on paper.  It’s so important we all do this, write,  or how will people of the future know we ever existed, not yet understand what we were all about?

We should all keep journals and write letters.  I write one letter every morning.  This morning’s letter went to my good friend Evelyna.

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Evelyna’s letter
Though Evelyna  lives nearby allowing us the pleasure of in-person get-togethers  our letters provide us with extra opportunities to share, and this sharing is lasting.  My great grandchildren will be able to get to know me and my friendship with Evelyna some day thanks to those letters – just as I have gotten to know Emerson thanks to his writing.

By the way, Emerson thought letter writing was a very good thing as I do for he felt it helped people communicate gentle thoughts to each other.  In his essay on friendship he wrote:  “Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection.  The scholar sits down to write, and all his years of meditation do not furnish him with one good thought or happy expression; but it is necessary to write a letter to a friend, — and, forthwith, troops of gentle thoughts invest themselves, on every hand, with chosen words.”

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Then there’s the subject of nature.  I love nature!  Emerson loved nature too.  How about you?    Do you take the time to wander fields and streams, hill and dale?  I do hope so.  Nature is so refreshing.  Though my friend Emerson values friendship as I do, we both have felt the need to escape  from society at times and enjoy the solitude and beauty that nature provides.  Emerson put it this way:  “Society (sometimes)  seems noxious.  I believe that against these baleful influences Nature is the antidote.  The man comes out of the wrangle of the shop and office, and sees the sky and woods, and is a man again … But how few men see the sky and woods!”

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A walk in nature can refresh us like nothing else.  To focus on the details we see, like a patch of pretty daffodils… improves us somehow.

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Perhaps this is because,  as Emerson states in his essay on nature:  “Every moment (in nature) instructs, and every object:  for wisdom is infused in every form.”

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Instruction can be had at tea time too.  If I pull up a chair, open a book ( maybe one of Emerson’s books) light a candle and pour a cup of tea, new ideas come forth.  So many ideas –  for so many wonderful “dead friends” are there for us to enjoy.  They have so much to share with us.   But living, breathing friends make wonderful tea guests too, sharing their ideas.

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I prepare a tray of goodies,  invite a friend or two, and we take a break from our busy lives.  Just as a stroll through nature can relax and refresh,  so too can in-person sharing , especially if the setting is calm and peaceful.

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I was pleased that the day of my last tea was cool and rainy for I was able to light a fire and fill the room with the twinkle of candlelight.  In this setting time seemed to slow down and my friends and I could enjoy each other’s company – talk of our current interests and inspire each other with our joys.

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Joni spoke of her love of baking,  and in fact she brought me a beautiful box of her homemade cupcakes and fudge.  She’s such a wonderful friend and such a culinary artist, not only whipping up luscious goodies in her kitchen, but  packaging them so beautifully  and sharing them with others – others like ME!

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Joni’s pretty box of goodies
My other guest was someone new to me,  Mary.  I love to invite new people to tea, people  I like but don’t know very well – YET!  Tea can help  transform acquaintances into friends and who doesn’t enjoy having lots of wonderful friends?

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Mary spoke of her love for tennis and  her work for our community foundation.  She was a lovely guest – and not only because she also brought me  homemade goodies, goodies that she baked just for me.  Sweet, sweet, sweet!

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Mary gave me  lemon bread which I promptly wrapped in freezer paper so it will be fresh and ready for Sunday brunch.  Yum!  Oh to know ladies who have domestic skill and a generous spirit.

Another “dead friend” , Robert Louis Stevenson, said “The world is so full of a number of things I think we should all be as happy as kings”.  I’m happy.  You happy?

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There’s tea.   There’s nature.  There are  new, old, living and “dead friends to keep us company… and there’s so much more.  I hope you are focusing on all that good, and I hope you’re sharing your joy.  Why?  You know.

Sharing Doubles the Joy

Till next time then.

Be Happy!

I feel like going visiting today!

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“Oh how this spring of love resembleth, The uncertain glory of an April day! Which now shows all the beauty of the sun And by and bye a cloud takes all away.”
Shakespere
I feel like an outing on this first day of April.  How about you?  But not just any outing for me.  I think I’ll go to England or Scotland… or maybe I’ll go to both places.  After all, I have an hour or two free.

You see, I am very blessed to have a wonderful imagination.  I suspect we are all born with wonderful imaginations but some of us fail to exercise them, and as with so many things, we  “use it or lose it”.  I use my imagination regularly.  Do you?  Oh, I hope so.  Imagination is a terrible thing to waste.

So today I decided to leave Hudson for a few hours and take a little trip.  I feel like spending some time with my lovely “dead friend” and nature artist Edith Holden.  What is a “dead friend” you ask ?  A “dead friend” is a person from the past who we get to know,  admire. and enjoy.   We meet these people by reading their biographies, autobiographies, and/or by studying and becoming  familiar with their work.  I bet you have a few “dead friends” of  your own, at least I hope you do.  “Dead friends” add so very much to life,  more than a great many living, breathing people we meet.

I met Edith years ago when I discovered her beautiful book, Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady. This book was published in 1906 by her husband Ernest.  It was published after Edith’s untimely death at age 49.   You see, Edith  drowned in the Thames while gathering buds from chestnut trees which she intended to paint.

Edith was born at Kings Norton, Worcester, in 1871 and was one of seven children of a Midlands paint manufacturer.  Her family lived in the small village of Olton Warwickshire and it was there that she wrote and illustrated her Nature Notes.

I think I’ll join Edith on one of her trips to Scotland where she studied painting for a year.  Would you care to join me?  Ok, let’s go!

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Nothing like an old fashioned train ride through the English countryside toward Scotland. Our train is powered by steam and imagination.
And here we are (That was fast!) at the home of her art teacher and his family.  They invited Edith to stay with them since she was so very far from home.  Romantic and peaceful setting, isn’t it?

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Edith’s home away from home one Summer
But let’s pop into the art studio and catch a glimpse of Edith working with her classmates.  I personally love how people ‘dressed up’ back in the old days.  No blue jeans and  t shirts for them.

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Practice makes not perfect, but improvement
Of course one can’t get very good at drawing nature while sitting in a classroom so after a certain amount of instruction in basic  technique off to the outdoors we all go.  Put on your sweater for it’s early April and the air is chilly.

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Let’s watch Edith paint a horse or two
Do you ever draw?  You should.  It’s great fun and anyone can do it.  As I said, practice makes improvement.  I love to draw flowers creating original stationery for some of the letters I write.  Maybe you’ve received one such letter.   Flowers are easy to draw.  Try drawing this one:

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Come on. You can do it! I’ll take a break from writing this post and draw this pink flower myself. I’ll create a floral notecard, then use this card for the letter I’ll be writing tomorrow to a friend in the state of Washington
Ok.  Here’s what I came up with.  I wonder what drawing you came up with.

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Erika, this is for you
If you have not  made your drawing yet, it’s ok.  You can finish reading my post and then get busy.  Art  play is really a lot of fun.  You’ll see.  But if you think flowers are tricky I wouldn’t suggest you try animals… not yet anyway.

Edith drew all sorts of animals and she was wonderful at the task.  She drew snakes, birds, butterflies, bees, mice, so many creatures –   even the occasional cow.

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MOO!
Between reading Edith’s book and viewing a wonderful four-video series I own all about her life, I can experience a faux visit to Scotland and the English countryside any time I like, getting close up looks at its flora and fauna.

I can sit beside Edith using my imagination and watch her sketch picturesque vistas.  She’s encouraged me to try my own hand at sketching.  Friends always encourage each other you know.

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The making of landscapes
We then explore streams with all their exuberant life forms and I don’t even have to get wet.

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An April flood carries away the frog and his brood — (just a bit of Folk-lore)
My time spent with Edith, looking at nature and looking at her drawings of nature, soothes my soul.

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It may indeed be only phantasy that I essay to draw from all created things deep, heartfelt, inward joy that slowly clings
Coleridge
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I love the season well when forest glades are teeming with bright forms
Longfellow
 I’ve read that spending time with things of beauty helps that beauty enter into us.  The beauty becomes us.  I can sometimes feel that happening.  Can’t you?

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Our expedition in search of wild flowers takes us across hill and dale.
To be off with Edith is a wonderful escape from one’s daily routine.  And when we’re tired from all our walking we can sit quietly together,  meditate, or share our favorite lines of poetry.

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Can trouble live with April days, or sadness with the Summer moons?
Tennyson
Yes, spending time in England and Scotland with gentle “dead friends” like Edith Holden is a wonderful experience.

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My “dead friend” Edith Holden
 And  Edith’s  spirit stays with me long after these imaginary visits.  As I walk  the garden paths in my own town, in my own time,  I can still feel her calming presence dignifying my every step.

So now I’ve introduced you to Edith, but  it’s up to you to cultivate your own friendship with her.  Perhaps she’ll inspire you to create your very own nature notes or you might get yourself some watercolor pencils and take up sketching, creating art for your home or floral note cards to send to your friends.

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Edith loved to write letters as I do
Why here’s an idea for you.  Take a walk outside and sit yourself down to sketch a flower, plant, or creature and then send your picture  to me with a note – or better yet, a letter.  I would love that!  Here’s my address:

204 E. Streetsboro Street

Hudson, Ohio 44236

USA

I’ll be watching my mail box, and of course if you write to me I’ll write back to you.  So from me and Edith  too — a fond farewell.  We’ll leave you with the entry from Edith’s nature notebook dated April 1, 1906.

STILL, WARM, CLOUDY DAY.  GATHERED SOME WILD DAFFODILS IN A FIELD.

Happy Art Play in Nature

Note:  Pictures used for this post are attributed to Central Independent Television’s video entitled The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady starrring Pippa Guard as Edith

My Friend Phil

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Phil and his Punxsutawney friends
Hi there!  I want you to meet my friend.  It’s Phil.  He’s the furry fellow second from the left.  I’m so very lucky to have many friends.  I have my delightful  local friends, my wonderful pen friends, all my outstanding “dead friends” and of course,  my  extraordinary animal friends.

Each category of friendship adds its own very special element of delight.  Each is worthy of discussion, but today, on the Eve of Groundhog Day, I’d like to focus on an animal friend, one particular animal friend I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since I was a very little girl.  That fellow is none other than Groundhog Phil.

You’ve probably heard of him.  Phil is a famous weather  man, (well, not really a weather man!  He’s a weather critter)  from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  Phil was the first to predict just when Spring will arrive based on seeing his shadow or not seeing it.  He’s had  lots of copy cats, but isn’t that what always happens when people and critters spot a good idea?

I had the opportunity to meet Phil and get to know  his world first hand because my father happens to be from Punxsutawney too, just like Phil, and I’ve been to their sweet Pennsylvania town many times over the years.  You may have seen Phil in the movies, but I have had the good fortune of seeing him many times in person.  Don’t you love to meet celebrities?

Phil lives in a neat groundhog  abode equipped with everything a groundhog could want.  It’s built into  a lovely modern public building  with a big, fancy picture window.  His home  is located right in the center of Punxsy’s town square.   Location!  Location!  It’s not surprising  to find him in such a cushy residence  because after all, you wouldn’t expect a famous personality to live in a dump, now would you?   There, in his own private world, he has fun lounging about, enjoying  the good life, with a great view of the town he loves so much,  the  town that put him on the map – made him world famous.  Of course like all celebrities he has to sacrifice privacy.  The picture window he likes so much allowing him to look out at the world  also allows his many fans to spy on his every move — fans like me!

You would be impressed to see the statue of Phil in downtown Punxsutawney, but it’s no surprise for a famous townsman — oops, townscritter, to  be memorialized in this manner.  After all, Phil is not only a famous weather critter, he’s also a  movie star.  You must’ve seen his film, Groundhog Day, where he co-starred with Bill Murray, but if you haven’t seen it yet, or even if you have,  tomorrow would be the perfect day to watch it again or for the first time.

A scene from Phil's hit movie, GROUNDHOG DAY
A scene from Phil’s hit movie, GROUNDHOG DAY

I’ll have to make a point to schedule one of my next Country Inn Days in  Punxsutawney, pay Phil a call, and visit a few country cousins while I’m at it.  Groundhog Day would be the perfect time for such an outing, but then again, any time is a good time to visit friends and family, isn’t it?   Come to think of it, Phil would  probably be too busy on Groundhog Day for company anyway.

So if you’re looking for a really different escape from your work-a-day world take a jaunt over to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and if you drop over at Phil’s place say hello to him for me.  I’m happy I could give you this idea and  share my friend with you today.  You know what I always say —sharing doubles the joy!   And by reminding you about Groundhog Day a day early you still have a little time to plan your Groundhog Day party.  (I bet you almost forgot.)  That’s what I’m going to do right now…so I guess I’ll just catch you later… and one more thing.

Famed weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has only one eye open as he prepares to make his annual prediction on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney

HAVE YOURSELF A HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY

PS – Meet one of those country cousins,  Jason.  A director of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club— a Punxy man and proud of it!

Cousin Jason
Cousin Jason