Shall we have another outing?

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Flying the friendly skies to California once again
I’m in the mood for a little culture.  How about you?  Let’s go to Pasadena, California and visit the Huntington Museum.  The Huntington Museum is a wonderful private non-profit collection-based research and educational institution founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington. Huntington was an exceptional businessman who built a financial empire that included railroad companies, utilities, and real estate holdings in Southern California.

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The Huntington complex is  huge.  It’s composed of a library containing rare books and manuscripts in the fields of British and American history and literature, but that’s not all.

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It is also an art gallery composed of two separate buildings.  The Huntington Gallery, completed in 1911, originally was the Huntington’s residence.  You would love walking through its rooms of elegant furnishings.

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Just look at this gorgeous dining room.  Though the Huntington family was not known to have entertained regularly, the dining room was nevertheless suitable for important functions.  One such occasion was a dinner for the crown prince and princess of Sweden, who visited the Huntington mansion in the early 1920’s.

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Every room is exquisite.

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I’m sure you would be most impressed with the building itself, but there’ s also the extensive art collection it contains.  When planning the residence Henry Huntington first envisioned a more modest retreat, but his uncle’s widow, Arabella Huntington, whom he would marry in 1913, was looking for a home on a grander scale.  Looking at one of the staircases in their home I think you would agree Arabella achieved her grand vision.

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The floor to ceiling windows are lovely.  I had such windows in my last 1829 house.  I miss them.

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The Huntington rooms are painted white and off- white with gold accents.  The look is very elegant and peaceful.  I might copy Huntington’s color palate should an addition ever materialize on my own home.

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The 2,900-square-foot hall was added in 1934 for displaying the Huntington’s Grand Manner portraits.  Now called the Thornton Portrait Gallery, this addition followed a trend begun with the Wallace Collection in London and the Frick Collection in New York where grand homes were converted into museums.  (That’s my son Patrick standing in the gallery).

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The loggia on the east side of the house represents a concession by the architect.  Archival documents show that Myron Hunt preferred a modest terrace on the east side; Henry Huntington envisioned a bolder, more spacious “outdoor living room.”  Huntington ultimately prevailed.

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I think Huntington had the right idea, for a grand home like his truly needed a bold and spacious loggia rather than a small modest one.  Don’t you agree?

IMG_3749[1]Of course such a wonderful residence has wonderful vistas too.  It must have been fabulous to live in such a grand home, but all along Henry Huntington intended his home to function as a public gallery which is why less remarkable spaces such as bathrooms and the kitchen were not saved.  The Huntington opened to the public in 1928, a year after Henry’s death.

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Sculpture of George Washington by Pierre-Jean David

The Huntington ‘s art collections occupy two separate buildings on the grounds.  A third structure, The MaryLou and George Boone Gallery hosts changing exhibitions.

If you visit the Huntington you will find the finest collections of European art in the nation and  The Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art bring together American art from the colonial period through the middle of the 20th century.

Besides all this the Huntington contains  an incredible Botanical Garden.  There is too much to see at one visit.  People are truly blessed who live in or near Pasadena California for they can and should return over and over again.

I hope you have enjoyed popping over to the Huntington with me today and I hope you manage to get there one day yourself.  In the meantime look for the beauty that’s all around you.

 The beauty we focus on becomes us.

Girls just want to have fun in Cleveland the best kept secret!

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Me and the girls

Yes, girls do want to have fun, especially this girl (Carol Ann), for it’s another of my wonderful Country Inn Days. (Hurray!)

I could call this particular  Country Inn Day an “Adventure Day” for I traveled  far across the city of Cleveland to parts unknown to me.  I headed for West 65th Street and a restaurant known as Stone Madd.

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Stone Madd

It’s here I met up with a band of merry girlfriends, girls who want to have fun and girls who manage fun quite regularly.  Everyone should have a band of merry girlfriends.  Do you?

Stone Madd is owned and operated by people who came straight from Ireland, so I consulted my friend Olive  who was born and raised in Ireland too, for though it seemed obvious the owners were mad about stone from the  look of the stone tables and benches, and the

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   stone arches,

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and stone flower boxes,

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and the massive stone fountain,

I suspected there was more to the name stone madd than that, and I was right!  Olive explained stone madd is an old Irish expression.  Her father used it often to describe a person who was acting really crazy. (example:  “Kathleen, your behavior is wild and peculiar.  I think you’ve gone stone madd.”

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Since the day was lovely my friends and I enjoyed dining outside, but we did peek inside to admire the dark wood of the bar and  the various dining rooms.  There were a few dining rooms.

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Here’s just one of those dining rooms

We were all impressed with the attention to detail given to this establishment.  From the shamrocks in the windows to the Gaelic words mounted in the sidewalk at the  entrance door.  Olive translated those words for me.  The words mean

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A hundred thousand welcomes

I wonder how many people pass through the front door never realizing what those words are saying to them.  It’s details like this that make a place special and worthy of my business.

There’s more too.  Take a look at the decorative gate.

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Something tells me there are some Gaelic symbols woven into this design.

And you wouldn’t believe the gorgeous tile work in the rest rooms.  Here are just a few images.

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Entire walls of the restrooms are filled with hundreds of these tiny tiles creating a most beautiful and artful space.  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather frequent establishments that go this extra mile creating ambiance for their patrons.

Everything from the flower and ivy-filled walls around the parking lot

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to our friendly and fun waiter, Travis, (seen here with one of the girls)

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made our time at Stone Madd most enjoyable.  And did I mention the food?  It was delicious and quite snazzy.  Cleveland is becoming famous for its many fine chefs and restaurants.  I should have taken some pictures of our food, but we were all too anxious to eat it up!

We talked.  We laughed.  We hugged.  We ate.  We drank.  We explored.  We girls had a ball together and it was another great Country Inn Day for me.

On my way home I drove through a bit of downtown Cleveland and enjoyed a few glimpses of the city.  I would’ve shown you more, but it’s not easy taking  pictures while driving.  Luckily I had a few red lights.

You know, Cleveland gets a lot of bad press, but we like that because Cleveland has much to offer and is a great place to live.  If too many people realize this they’ll all start moving in and crowding us out!  Take a peek at my city.

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So —  when it came to naming this post I couldn’t decide.  Should I call it Girls just want to have fun (for we do) or Cleveland the best kept secret (for it is)?  Finally,  after much deliberation, I decided on calling it Girls just want to have fun in Cleveland the best kept secret!

Hope you’re having fun too

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?

Day at the coffee shop

ImageHere I am in my favorite coffee shop, a Caribou in downtown Hudson, Ohio, on a very snowy, blustery day.  I could be home , snug as a bug in my home library, with my pink fuzzy slippers on and a fire blazing in the fireplace, but some things  pulled  me here as they often do —   One of those things is really a person – my wonderful son Patrick, home from UCLA on Winter break.  The other thing is an idea, the idea of solitude and society experienced simultaneously.  Lord Byron, one of my “dead friends”,  first mentioned solitude and society to me.  He said only in letter writing do we have solitude and society simultaneously,  but  he was only half right.   Though it does exist every time I write a letter, I guess Byron never popped into his neighborhood coffee shop to work on his poetry.  If  he had he would know  solitude and society exist in a coffee shop too.  Patrick and I share a table, but we are lost in our own work.  And there’s more.  There’s the possibility  of running into friends, and strangers too, chance meetings  which can make our day.

A  little while ago I experienced one of those meetings.  I noticed a fellow at the next table who looked familiar.  He was actually sitting with  two women, one was a lady I knew, a mother of two of my former piano students.  Could this fellow really be one of the handsome male singers in the group Straight No Chaser?  No.  What are the chances?  But I did hear him mention singing,  and a little later I heard him mention Indiana and I knew the singer who he looked so much like was truly from Indiana.  Well, I couldn’t stand the mystery so I  approached  him and sure enough, he was who I thought he was.  So fun!  And because I carry a camera with me at all times, ( you never know when a picture wants to be taken)  well, here we are:

ImageRyan Ahhlwardt, his wife who happened to be my former piano student, my son, and little ole me.  What a very nice fellow he was  and what a nice conversation we had.  Running into these people really made my day.  If I stayed home in my fuzzy slippers I’d have had the solitude, but not the society, and society is fun!  Here at the coffee shop I have it all – society, solitude, letter writing and of course, coffee.

Have you enjoyed any or all of these pleasures today?  Well, it’s not too late.  Seize the day and enjoy!