If you’re a little bored during this pandemic it just might be the perfect time for you to reach out and touch someone with a little love. Send that love in the form of a hand written letter.
Who doesn’t like to find a personal message ‘just to them’ in their mailbox, a message that says someone is thinking of them? Don’t type the letter. Pick up a pen and take your time crafting each word. Your handwriting is a little bit of you. Type is so impersonal. In intimate correspondence the hand written letter will always reign supreme.
You can dress up your letter with pictures. One picture is worth a thousand words. A picture to make your friend smile, a picture to make your friend think of something pleasing. Words and pictures together have delighted human beings for centuries. Why not now?
True, it slows one down to write, especially to hand write, but we need to slow ourselves down sometimes. Streamlining our activities in life may help us get more accomplished, but it’s quality we should be after, not quantity.
“Writing by hand, mouthing by mouth: in each case you get a very strong physical sense of the emergence of language … print obliterates it, type has no drawl”, says American novelist William Gass, and I agree.
If you must type because you have some physical problem, well ok, but most of us should do the human thing whenever possible, not the machine thing. Too many tasks these days are designated away from personal human touch.
Perhaps you’re writing to your friend while enjoying a cup of coffee. Tell them about it. Draw the cup. Take time. Describe where you’re sitting. Imagine your friend is with you and write stream of consciousness style just as though they were with you in person. Dot dot dot, dash, dash, dash. Sure, you could phone them, but maybe they’re busy and don’t care to be interrupted. A letter is always so very polite. It patiently waits to be read. It makes no demands, only offers delight
Turn your letter into a little book. It’s easily done by inserting a few sheets of paper.
Poke holes into the papers and use colored twine or ribbon to tie the pages together. Use your creativity. Turn on your imagaination and GO! Be an artist.
The act of writing is a wonderful discipline. Our minds are forced to send messages to our fingers and our fingers must respond with precision. We can’t be in a rush. We must discipline ourselves to write slowly and carefully so our writing is not only legible, but also handsome. Most of us care how we look. We should also care how our writing looks and if we’re not pleased we should practice. Practice makes improvement!
Writing is like yoga. It forces our bodies to obey our minds. It encourages us toward harmony. A letter should be a work of art that not only touches the heart of our friend, but hopfully also entertains them, and in this pandemic who couldn’t use a little extra entertainment.
Machines have no grace. Hopefully we humans do, and our handwritten, artful letters can sprinkle a little of that grace out into our weary world as we reach out to others in this most personal way.
Speak with your pen! Send the gift of a letter to someone letting them know you are thinking of them. If it’s a heart to heart letter it just might make their day and wouldn’t you feel good about yourself if you could make another so happy. Sure you would.
“More than kisses, letters mingle souls; For, thus friends absent speak.” _____John Donne
During these days of the pandemic we have to do things a little differently. For example, I usually host one afternoon tea in my home each month for though I enjoy daily afternoon tea all by myself it’s so nice to share tea and conversation with others now and then. Sharing doubles the joy you know. But now I can’t invite people into my home so something else had to be done. But what? I can enjoy a telephone tea with friends – once a month, once a week or as often as I like. It’s so easy.
You don’t need many ingredients, but the two ingredients you do need are a telephone and someone to call. Most people have these two essentials.
Next you need a comfortable place where you can talk enjoying your tea. I chose a corner of my living room for this particular telephone tea, but I may choose a different location for the next one. Here I can chat and sip while looking out the window to enjoy what’s happening in the yard.
It’s fun to watch for birdies and see the squirrels scamper by. Ah nature!
I baked some Seed Cake for the occasion. I’m not so sure about this recipe, if it’s a keeper or not. It comes from a good source, one of the Downton Abbey Cookbooks on my shelf.
Did you ever make Seed Cake? This recipe was new to me and quite unusual. Of course I may have done something wrong along the way in making it, but if you are into Seed Cake do write to me and tell me about your recipe. Does my Seed Cake look like yours?
My good friend Barbara suggested that during our telephone tea we do our needlework as we sip and visit. What a good idea! The phone is put into its speaker mode so with hands free we can stitch. I do love needlework, especially knitting and needlepoint. In this area where I’ll be enjoying my telephone tea I have two pillows of needlepoint gracing each chair. They are both scenes from my favorite place on earth, The Boston Public Garden.
One pillow depicts the ducklings from the garden’s frog pond. These ducklings were made famous by the book Make way for ducklings.
The other pillow depicts the romantic Victorian bridge which crosses over the lagoon, the lagoon on which swan boats glide giving garden visitors delightful rides on lovely Summer afternoons.
Many of my favorite places are preserved in needlepoint pictures and pillows. Do you enjoy this art form? I usually do needlepoint in warm months and knitting in cool months. Though it’s Spring in Hudson, Ohio, U.S.A. I’m still finishing a knitting project so this is what I’ll be working on during today’s telephone tea.
Here’s the yarn and a picture of the poncho I’m making. It’s an easy project and if it doesn’t start warming up here soon I’ll still be able to wear it on these chilly May days.
So there you have it. A Telephone Tea. Pretty simple. Instead of an Afternoon tea all by yourself you call a friend, put your phone on speaker, enjoy some food treat, brew some tea and don’t just sit there staring out the window, do something with your hands while chatting. This works for me and maybe it could work for you too. It’s a little physical, social and intellectual activity all at once, maybe even a little spiritual activity depending what you chat about. Hmm? So don’t let this pandemic deprive you of fun. There’s still lots you can do while also staying safe at home.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.“————–Marcus Aurelius
I love to host an afternoon tea each and every month. Have you ever hosted such a party? I hope so. Every tea party I host is set in a different location in or around the grounds of my home. In October I always choose to serve in my outbuilding. Why? It’s because this small building at the edge of our property has a wood burning fireplace and entertaining here on an Autumn day makes me feel all cozy, as though I’m far away off in the mountains.
This builiding is my little getaway place. It has two dutch doors, the five windows you see, baseboard heating and a beamed ceiling.
The outbuilding is always a great escape for me. I love to read in the wing chairs or in the rocker that belonged to my maternal grandparents, but now the rocker belongs to me.
Any time of year I love to escape to this building. Though there’s a house right next door the bushes keep my view out these windows quite private. It’s really a great escape when I yearn to get away, but haven’t the time to go off very far.
I love our outbuilding and because I know sharing doubles the joy I’m happy to host my October tea parties here. Of course the building is great for cocktails before a dinner party too. It’s just a fun place. We would’ve never thought to build such a structure, but some previous owners created it and I’m so glad they did.
For this October tea I decided to serve three items – a blueberry tea cake, pear scones ( the recipe given to me by my dear pen friend, Almita) and egg and watercress sandwiches. The party began with a little champagne. Campagne is always a nice touch.
This tea party began as we sat before the fire toasting our champagne. We sat, we chatted, we watched the fire crackle and burn, but then we were ready for some tea so off to the table we went. The table in this outbuilding first belonged to my maternal grandparents as the rocker did. I was so happy to inherit it. I was happy also to have a good place for it in this building where it could be used and enjoyed by me and others. My grandparents and aunts and uncles who once used this table are now gone, but now the table has new life and new people all around it. It helps me share joy and love with others over tea. Sharing joy and love is what it’s all about, don’t you agree?
My mother created the tablecloth. She was so good with a needle as were many of my female relatives. I have fond memories of us getting together chatting and stitching. I still love to knit, embroider, and do needlepoint. Do you enjoy needlework too? It’s a lovely art form.
I thought the outbuilding deserved its own set of china so I went off shopping at some antique stores and found this pretty pattern.
For tea at an antique table with antique china and antique table cloth I needed to use some antique napkins and I found some in my cupboard. I’m always collecting pretty things for the table. You too?
Every afternoon tea needs flowers and I was delighted to find some orange tea roses which matched the outbuilding china perfectly.
The roses also matched the hair of my “mystery guest”. Look and see Maura’s lovely orange hair.
You may be wondering why I call Maura my “mystery guest”? Well, you see, Maura read one of my past tea posts and she left a comment saying she would love to be invited to a tea. I wrote back to her asking where in the country she lived and I was delighted to learn she lived very near to me … so I invited her to this tea. I never actually met her until she came to my door but she proved to be a lovely lady and delightful guest. What is it they say about strangers being angels in disguise?
Of course I had other guests too – my good friends Lori and Joni were invited. Because I had taken a few hundred trips back and forth from the house to the outbuilding preparing for this tea I was very happy that the ladies helped me carry the last of the food to our little party in the ourbuilding.
There is nothing like afternoon tea. To enjoy tea alone while reading a book or writing a letter is delightful, but to invite others to share in the tea ceremony is double or even triple fun. I certainly hope you are partaking in this simple but most delectable pleasure.
What better way to suggest friendliness – and to create it – than with a cup of tea? ———————–J. Grayson Luttrell 1930
I love writing letters but part of the fun for me is creating my stationery. I come up with all sorts of designs for my letter papers. Some of my designs are quite simple while others are a bit more involved. Whatever kind of art, the activity is always fun. It’s a sort of therapy, relaxing, and I can get lost in the creative process. While concentrating on colors and lines all other concerns temporarily melt away. Hopefully the end result is pleasing but whatever the end result the process is always most pleasing to me. My letter friends often receive my floral letters.
This is because I love flowers, don’t you? I love growing flowers in my garden. I love placing flowers in vases on my dining tables and night stand and I love drawing flowers to decorate my letter papers. I’d love to send fresh flowers to my friends regularly as a way to brighten their days and sometimes I do, but more often I simply send off cards and letters with my floral designs. I created a line of wildflower correspondence cards in past days and recently I’ve added new designs to that collection.
And because I enjoy writing letters on large sheets of paper as well as on cards I decided to create some wildflower stationery on paper measuring 11 by 8 and a half inches. Here are three sample designs.
The educator in me likes to write a little information about each flower presented, either on the back of the correspondence card or around the edges of the stationery. For example, did you know the strange long sepals of the Whorled Pagonia are reddish purple and the petals are greenish yellow, except for the lip. This is a wild orchid usually found in the woods. There are a number of wild orchids in existence.
So you see besides the enjoyment of writing letters to friends and family the art of letter writing gives me the opportunity to look closely at a flower and enjoy the artful activity of drawing that flower. It also encourages me to learn about the flowers I draw. As if that’s not enough, then, by sending my floral stationery to others I’m sharing my joy, and as you know, sharing doubles the joy. It really does.
With all this going on in my life a walk in the park becomes a special delight for when I spot a wildflower I not only take notice, but I feel like I’ve run into an old friend. I’ve heard you can’t really love what you don’t know so studying flowers, drawing them, and learning about them helps me love flowers even more.
It’s all such fun.
I draw flowers and create all this stationery for my own pleasure but the stationery is available for sale because once again, Sharing truly Doubles the Joy. If interested . . .
Stationery -10 assorted floral designs with an extra blank sheet of paper for each design plus 10 envelopes cost $20.00 plus $2 for shipping and packaging.
Packages of 10 assorted wildflower correspondence cards – each card containing extra blank pages for long juicy letters and 20 envelopes cost $20.00 plus $2 for shipping and packaging.
To order send check to
But whether you order my papers or not I encourage you to write letters and try creating your own stationery. Letter writing and art play are two very wonderful activities. You just might enjoy both as much as I do.
You just baked a yummy cake. It came out great! Should you keep it all for yourself or share it with others?
You just cleaned your house. You fluffed the pillows and polished the wood. The tables are dust free. The place looks as neat as it’s ever going to be. Should you sit back and take a nap in this clean, tidy place or invite someone over?
You just bought some new clothes. They make you feel like a million dollars. Should you put them on, sit alone in your clean tidy house having a piece of that yummy cake – all by yourself – or should you invite someone over for Afternoon Tea? The answer seems clear to me. How ’bout to you? Remember . . .
Sharing Doubles the Joy.
You may drink coffee by the gallon as I do, but at four o’clock it’s tea time at my 1853 Jeremiah Brown house. I’m usually alone for this teatime and I usually keep it simple – no bakery or other savories. I simply enjoy sipping some Jasmine, Apricot or Earl Grey tea from a pretty china cup. It’s a peaceful ritual that gives me pleasure. My companions for this daily teatime are usually “dead friends” (that is, persons of the past who share with me by way of their autobiography or personal letters.)
Currently my tea time companion is Agatha Christie. I do so enjoy hearing about her life in England. What a memory she has too. Agatha’s been telling me details of her life as a child – how she would play with imaginary kittens and pretend that she herself was a kitten. So many famous authors were like Agatha. They cultivated rich imaginations from their early years. Children today would do well to put away their technological toys now and then and cultivate their imaginations as well.
Sometimes God drops in to join me and my “dead friend” for tea. He does this as I read a few pages from Tea Time with God, a devotional published by Honor Books. (You see I have an imagination like Agatha.) Tea time becomes quite the “spiritual” time when spent with these types of companions.
But once every month I love fussing to create an afternoon tea for living, breathing friends. I enjoy going off to the local flower market to choose a pretty bouquet for my table. I delight in selecting just the right linen and china for each gathering. It’s artistic. It’s creative. It’s fun! It’s a gift I give to others, but I enjoy this gift right along with my guests.
So you see I have my daily teas which are relaxing and quite spiritual, but also tea parties which are a bit more fuss, but totally delightful in quite a different way. Variety is the spice of life.
My guests always seem to enjoy themselves at tea. What’s not to enjoy? Look at those smiling, serene faces.
Tea time takes us into a world of conversation and beautifully-prepared (whether homemade or purchased) food. The tea setting may be simple, but with beautiful flowers at the table, the twinkle of candlelight and the delicacy of china, it’s easy to create a graciousness that is very out of the ordinary and capable of delighting everyone present. In this dramatic scene the host and guests play roles of equal importance to the tea and food. It’s all about sharing.
The Tea ritual helps everyone feel more civilized and in today’s crazy world we need all the help we can get with that.
So the next time you feel like baking a little something or maybe you go off to the market and purchase some delectable goodies. . . the next time you get the urge to clean up your house getting it looking quite ready to be photographed for House Beautiful magazine . . . the next time you pull yourself together and feel like presenting yourself to the world . . . consider calling a friend or two for Afternoon tea.
You can fuss with finger sandwiches, scones and several pastries or keep it simple serving only cinnamon toast and/or chocolate chip cookies. It’s not the food so much as the gracious sharing in a peaceful pretty setting. It’s taking the time to be. It’s taking the time to share – to share your home, to share some tea, to share yourself.
Sharing Doubles the Joy
Afternoon tea has the power to transport us to a wonderful state of being. We leave our work behind. We enter a gracious state and even when tea-time is over the peaceful feelings linger allowing us to be in a more gentle place.
I’m very lucky to have friends, friends of all kinds and all ages. Those who are older than I am make me feel young and those who are very young make me feel young too. Amazing how that works, but I like it.
The children pictured above are just a few of my young musical friends, the children who sing in the Church choir I direct. We have a lot of fun together making music and sharing our love for singing, but that’s not the only way we have fun. Sharing afternoon tea is another fun thing we do together.
Every tea I host is served in different places with different food. It’s fun to try out new recipes and create a variety of settings. I enjoy playing the part of innkeeper as I prepare for each tea. My teas are exercises in creativity. This month I invited seven choristers to tea. The fun began when the children arrived and gathered in the library of my home. They were excited not knowing what to expect since most of them had never been to a tea before.
Just as a curtain is closed and then opens at the start of a play, a tea benefits from a little suspense too. What’s behind the door the children wonder. The anticipation builds. When the doors finally open I had to say “Whoa, slow down, you move too fast.” Tea is an elegant affair after all, and rushing destroys grace, but I sure liked the children’s enthusiasm. I instructed them to find their seat at the table by looking for their name card.
Everyone enjoyed buzzing around the table looking for their place . . . sort of like an Easter egg hunt, and Jack found his place first. Because my guests were all part of my children’s church choir each place card was decorated with a treble clef and some notes.
I debated with myself about serving cucumber sandwiches. I know not all children (or adults) like cucumbers in the first place and in a sandwich? But I decided it would be good for my young guests to experience this very traditional tea treat. I encouraged everyone to take at least a little bite promising there would be other more familiar goodies coming later. They were great sports.
Everyone tried at least a bite of the cucumber and they also tried the egg sandwiches although they were a little suspicious of the alfalfa sprouts atop the eggs. The sugared grapes were a big hit though.
And a few of my guests actually liked the cucumber sandwiches. Evelyn ate everything! I was proud of her and her adventurous palate. She’ll undoubtedly enjoy trying all sorts of goodies along her way and make a lot of delightful discoveries other children won’t have. But Evelyn wasn’t the only one who liked the cucumber sandwiches.
Lily, seen here with me, was another chorister who will probably become a tea party enthusiast, for she partook in all my treats and drank all her tea and she even asked for more . . . and this always makes a hostess happy. And the whole time Lily kept that beautiful Shirley Temple smile on her face. Do you see why I love these kids?
When it came to the chocolate chip scones served with whipped cream and garnished with strawberries and blueberries I finally had a lot of enthusiastic eaters.
Especially Jack . . .
but Shannon really liked the scones too. Cute kids, huh?
Cupcakes were served too . . .
Anna liked the brownies. You see, I had something for everyone. Anna led the conversation at tea being one of the oldest choristers present. She is a real choir leader too taking on many musical solos at church.
And for a little grown up touch of elegance I served sparkling pink lemonade along with the tea.
I think Sylvia enjoyed holding the fancy glass as much, if not more, than sipping the bubbly lemonade. Who doesn’t feel elegant holding stemware?
Julia was a pretty picture too with her pink eye glasses and her pink sparkling drink . . . and her blue finger nails and her enthusiastic smile.
I made lots of tea thinking I would need lots of tea for seven children, but I discovered tea was not the favorite drink of this group, but no problem. Believe it or not, afternoon tea is about more than tea. It’s about sharing with friends and giving them something new to experience and talk about and enjoy. And I was told by some of the mothers that’s just what the kids did too. They talked about cucumber sandwiches, alfalfa sprouts, sparkling pink lemonade in fancy glasses and chocolate chip scones into the evening. . .the kids had lots of new experiences, giggles, smiles and chit chat and so did I.
I love the ritual of afternoon tea and I love sharing tea with friends – old friends and new friends and young friends too. Every tea is completely different because all guests are different and wonderfully unique. And speaking of unique human beings I’m reminded of a song we sing in choir. Let me share the lyrics with you for sharing doubles the joy. But before I do let me encourage you to host a tea of your own and if you want a special treat invite young people. You’ll be glad you did.
God’s wonderful work of art
(by Carey Landry)
Each and everyone of us is a wondrous work of art
Some of us are masterpieces painted long ago;
on some of us the paint is still wet!
So many different colors, so many works of art,
yet each is the handiwork of God.
Like clay in the hands of a potter;
none of us is finished quite yet!
Though each of us is deeply loved exactly as we are,
there is always more we can become.
Each of us is on a journey started long ago;
a journey full of promise, a journey full of hope.
We seek the way of truth and life that Jesus came to bring
“The world is so full of a number of things I think we should all be as happy as kings” so said Robert Louis Stevenson. I do agree, don’t you? But we have to find those things that interest us if we’re to feel happy as kings. Doing just anything won’t do it for us. We must find our passions.
The bible says “seek and you shall find” and most of us do find plenty of things we truly like to do. Some of us find so many in fact that there’s hardly enough time in the day to attend to all of them. We can get ourselves so busy, too busy, that one might ask the question are we human beings or human doings?
Are you a reader, a gardener, a cook? Do you like to play games, paint, fish, hike, bike or watch movies? Maybe you’re a world traveler. Perhaps you’re an artist or a musician. You might like to build things, fix things or discover things by studying science, history or geography. Some people might find sailing, surfing or skiing their cup of tea.
Me? My cup of tea is writing letters and enjoying art play so I often create my own unique stationery, stationery like this card above. My original stationary may not be great art, but it is hand made with a personal touch and in today’s world where personal touch is so rare I like to think my pen friends enjoy receiving my creations as much as I enjoy making them.
Once that note card or letter paper is designed I might begin writing the letter to my friend by inviting them to pause, sit down, rest a while, and share a little visit with me, yes, over a cup of tea.
A dear friend of mine (you may know Him too) is forever telling me to have abundant life. He wants this not only for me, but for all His children. We would want abundant life for our children too, wouldn’t we? So, since I enjoy writing letters so much as well as creating my own stationery, I think my friend is pleased for me and thinks letter writing is a good and worthwhile activity because it brings me pleasure. But I think He is especially pleased because when one writes a letter the pleasure is not only for the writer. The letter is a gift of friendship to others. And my friend is all about love and friendship.
Sometimes I like to wrap my letter up like the gift of love it really is. I’ll write the letter and then place it in a colored outer folder that I decorate in some way – perhaps with polka dots or cut-out designs.
I tie a ribbon around my little package of friendship and put it in an envelope sending it off to my friend. You’ve perhaps heard the expression ‘gift of a letter’? Well then, why not wrap that letter up with a bow like you would wrap up any other present?
Though letters offer an opportunity for art play they also offer wonderful intellectual exercise as we think, write, and share. But more than this letter writing can become a ministry as we show concern and love for others. I know this first hand for recently I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I received wonderful medical care, but I also received wonderful spiritual care by way of thoughtful friends and relatives sending me cards and dear letters of love and support.
Sharing doubles the joy, but also divides the sorrow and it really helped me to share the story of my treatments and suffering with others who cared. I decorated some of those letters filled with medical details by creating thumbprint designs of doctors around the margins of my paper.
We all meet and know people who go through tough times now and then. What a simple but beautiful thing to send a card or write a letter to those troubled folks letting them know we care. And what therapy it is for us to have people we can write to when we need to share what we’re going through. Our world is a beautiful place, but it can also be a dreary place at times. To say we care, we understand and to have others in our life who care about us – this is no small gift we give to each other.
And even if people aren’t suffering they can still always use a good shot of joy. We share our joy and we’re possibly inspiring others to work harder at creating their own joys. We let them know we like them, appreciate them. This is a gift too and when we give good things come back to us – more letters and more friendship. It’s all about love.
You can write to people you know, of course, but you can also write to people you don’t know – yet. Join The Letter Exchange, an organization of letter writers from all around the world. (www.letter-exchange.com) If you join this great group tell the editors Carol Ann sent you.
Though I frequently talk to a son who lives far from home I also write him regularly just to send a little extra love his way. A person can never get too much love. I’ll enclose a tea bag pinned to a heart in his letter and maybe include a picture or two. With family scattered all about these days every effort should be made to keep close. A personal letter is one great way to remind your loved ones they are cherished. And the letters you write are lasting reminders of your love. One day you may be gone, but your letters will still be around, a testimony of your love.
So why write a letter? Write a letter because it’s a physical delight. It’s art play. It’s social fun. It’s intellectual sharing, but mostly write a letter because it’s an opportunity to spread a little love around the world. Write a letter to share your joys. Write a letter to comfort others when they need that tender loving care. Write a letter to give a compliment or to say thank you. Write a letter to encourage someone or to tell them you were encouraged by them.
I got such a letter recently and it made my day. I met a lovely lady by the name of Carolyn and we had a nice little talk about our work and life in general. I liked this lady very much, in fact, I invited her to one of my sharing teas. But a day or two later Carolyn gave me a wonderful gift in the form of a letter and here’s what she wrote in part:
“Dear Carol Ann, Your visit to The Reflections Spa at The Cleveland Clinic came just when I needed it – like an answer to a prayer! I have been reading your blog and feeling so full of the excitement and enthusiasm that a new friendship discovery brings! I had actually been feeling a little down lately with thoughts that I have not been doing enough… but life had been pretty busy as it was with too much doing. I was feeling swept away, then you walked in and reminded me of one of my guiding principles of life. It is about being rather than doing. As I drove home that day after meeting you I really felt like you were some kind of angel giving me the direction I needed. …I am also excited to think about letter writing. CarolAnn, you were really sent to me as a special gift. Thank you so much.”
It seems I had a positive effect on this nice lady and boy, did her letter have a positive effect on me. We can all be such blessings to each other if we try. We all go through life hoping we’re doing the right things. When we support and uplift each other we know we’re doing the right things.
So share your joy every way you can and as Lord Byron says, “Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life”. We can really make a difference in another person’s life and though there are many ways to do this
As you may already know a Country Inn Day is a sort of “stay-cation day” where I step out of my usual routine and imagine my 1853 house is a Country Inn, but by using my imagination I add play to the agenda. I play the part of Innkeeper, Inn Chef, Inn Gardener, Inn Maid and Inn guest.
These days are not always spent entirely at the Inn either. I’ll often venture out into my town, or nearby towns, and act as a tourist. After all, though long distance travel can be wonderful it’s also expensive and exhausting so checking into my personal Country Inn where all my clothes and books and other favorite things are already in place is so much more convenient. Besides, it’s fun to look at familiar sites with new eyes. Do you take the time to do this too? I hope so. We often don’t appreciate the good things right in our own backyards.
I’ll hop on my bike and head for town. There’s a farm market happening on the Village Green and on a Summer’s Day what could be more fun?
Because my Inn is less than a mile from the center of town it took only a few delightful minutes to bike down the quiet village streets to get to the Green where all the action was taking place and here I was. Ta Da!
I already bought a cauliflower and put it in my basket, but let me show you what else I found.
There was the plant stand with all the pretty flowers. I had a nice chat with the vendor as I played the part of Inn Gardener asking questions concerning the potted plants at the Inn. The sales lady was very helpful and though I was tempted to buy everything I controlled myself. The Inn is currently under construction – an addition is in progress. Funds are being saved for major landscaping projects, but it was sure nice to look at all the pretty flowers for sale.
There were olive oils to consider – so many different kinds.
And I had a lot of fun talking to these Slovenian ladies who were selling their homemade bakery. I bought a nut roll to pop in the freezer and take out for the Inn’s 4th of July party. These ladies let me sample all sorts of their other goodies and since the vendors right beside them offered me coffee I had quite a nice brunch.
Here’s the coffee man. He runs a shop in the town of Kent. You’ve heard of Kent State University? Well, his shop is near the University on North Water Street in Kent. His coffees are called Black Squirrel Blend. They are Fair Trade and organically grown. I was told the next time I’m in Kent if I drop into his shop I can watch him roast the coffee beans. That sounds like fun for another Country Inn “Outing” Day.
I strolled around the Green, talked to a few people I knew and admired all the produce that was being offered.
Vegetables picked that very day! How could you get your produce any fresher unless you grew it yourself?
But there was so much more to see besides food and garden items. I had a nice chat with these ladies who represented Dining for Women. This is a national organization which creates educational opportunities for at-risk girls and empowers nomadic women in Niger by offering them education and mentoring so they are able to develop new income-generating skills.
Members of this group gather together once a month bringing a dish to share at one of their homes. The money they would have spent for a lunch out is contributed to the cause. Perhaps your town has a Diningfor Women chapter too. Sharing is a good thing indeed.
I also had chats with The Friends of Hudson Parks, The Zonta Club of Hudson – another organization advancing the status of women in our community and worldwide, Velosano – a group of bikers that raises money to cure cancer. (Velosano in Latin means “swift cure” and there I was with my own bike so members urged me to join theircycling event.) I also spoke with a gal representing The Hudson Newcomers Club even though I’m a Hudson old timer. We spoke about me giving the members a talk about my favorite subject, The Art of Letter writing.
The Newcomers Club has a neat slogan – “Remember every good friend was once a stranger”. I told Emily, The Newcomer representative, my favorite slogan – “Sharing doubles the joy and divides the sorrow.” Letter writing is a great way to share and so is blogging.
What a fun and entertaining morning I had on this Country Inn Day. I got a little exercise riding my bike, did a little shopping, had some good coffee and tasty Slovenian treats, met some old and new friends partaking in delightful conversation and all the while enjoying a classic Summer experience, a farm market.
Country Inn Days are full of simple pleasures. We don’t have to go far away to treat ourselves to a vacation from life’s usual routine. We can find it in our own town. We can find it in our own home. If we are the artists of our lives we’ll step off the treadmill of modern life regularly and give ourselves permission to focus on beauty and joy.
My Country Inn Days are composed of activities which refresh mind, body and spirit. Some Inn days focus on the physical – spa days for example. Some Inn days focus on the social – sharing tea and intimate dinner parties. Some Inn days are quite intellectual – days where I treat myself to the theater or a Cleveland Orchestra Concert, and other Inn days are especially spiritual – my spiritual retreat days.
But most Country Inn Days have a little of everything all rolled up into one 24 hour package. I flit from Innkeeper preparing my afternoon tea to Inn guest enjoying it. I read a little, cook a little, garden a little, wash up the dishes a little, pray a little, nap a little and it all amounts to a whole LOT of joy
Joy is important. And it just doesn’t happen. Work and worry are sturdy weeds, but joy requires cultivation. Country Inn Days are my days especially designed to cultivate joy. I hope you’re cultivating joy too. And when you experience joy don’t forget to pass it on.
Perhaps you have your own version of Country Inn Days. I’d love to hear about them. Maybe you’ll share a good idea with me, an idea I can incorporate into my own Inn days. That would be great! So until next time…
I love letters, personal letters, letters written from the heart. Some of these letters are pure lighthearted fun, but others feel more spiritual, and not necessarily because they speak of faith or religion. Certain letters just simply ooze love and compassion, they are filled with understanding and encouragement. Other letters inspire, share joy or spill compliments over their recipient. All sorts of letters have the power to take us to a spiritual place.
The last letters I wrote to my cousin Susan before her untimely death were such spiritual letters. Susan was in hospice suffering from lung cancer. She was only 60 years old when she fell ill. Over the years, Susan and I had many happy times together. We enjoyed shared outings, family events, and even though we lived in the same city, we corresponded regularly because we both enjoyed The Art of Letter Writing.
We sent love back and forth to each other through our frequent letters. So when Susan finally became too ill to receive visitors or even talk on the telephone, I decided the best thing I could do to show her how much I cared was to write her a daily letter and that’s just what I did – for seven weeks till her death! These letters were a labor of my love and I like to think they offered her a bit of comfort and joy in her last days on earth.
Susan’s daughter Stephanie would visit Susan and read my letters to her mom and sometimes if Susan was sleeping she’d just read my letters to herself. I never really knew Stephanie up to that point but through Susan’s illness we connected and I think my letters helped that connection take place.
Hopefully Susan is looking down on us feeling happy that I, her cousin and friend, am keeping tabs on the one and only daughter she loved so very much for now Stephanie and I are corresponding. Some day I’ll give Stephanie all the artful letters Susan wrote me, but not yet. Now when I need a dose of Susan’s gentle spirit I just pick up one of her old letters and she’s with me. I wish she could be with me in person, but in spirit is good too and much better than nothing.
Another correspondence that feels particularly spiritual to me was one shared with an elderly gentleman by the name of Harry. Harry was born and raised in Maine, but was living with his children in Virginia at the time of our correspondence. I had just lost my father to Alzheimer’s disease when up popped Harry. We met through The Letter Exchange, that wonderful letter writer’s organization that connects people from all over the world through The Art of Letter Writing.
Harry and I formed our own mutual admiration society. He needed someone to listen to his reminiscences with interest, for his children seemed too busy to show him much attention, and I needed the support, approval, and encouragement that my loving father could no longer supply.
Over the years Harry and I exchanged countless letters, sharing our lives with each other like father and daughter. Some of our letters were serious and others were lighthearted, but all were very caring. I thought about writing a book describing the beauty and value of our letter relationship, thinking it could inspire others, but for now let me just share a few tidbits from our correspondence.
Harry loved to send me presents and who doesn’t love presents? They say it’s better to give then receive and Harry obviously bought into that idea – but I’ll tell you, receiving presents is lots of fun too! Harry was a Romantic. Each of his letters arrived with flowers pressed onto his letter paper. He grew pansies in his Virginia flower box expressly for his letters to me.
He also enclosed tea bags in each of his letters. The tea bags were gift wrapped and tied with gold chords. He also grew edible flowers that he dried, pressed, sugared, and gift wrapped, sending them to me for use at the regular tea parties I hosted. How sweet is that?
I’d have to be careful what I’d tell him in my letters, for once I casually mentioned never having tasted spoon bread, a food Harry loved. I told him I never even saw it in my Ohio supermarkets. Well, Harry took care of that! He sent me a case of spoon bread mix the very next week. I guess he was pretty confident I’d like spoon bread too.
Food gifts from Harry were regular deliveries – mustards from Maine, fruitcakes at Christmas, chocolates, teas, but one time when Harry revisited the camp in Maine where he lived as a child he was very excited to discover goose tongue greens still growing in the old place. He picked a basket-full and wrapped them up sending them to me. They arrived looking limp and very much like the weeds I pull out from my herb garden. I was very touched by his kindness, but not touched enough to eat them. Sorry Harry.
But there were so many other gifts. I can’t tell you about all of them now, but here are just a few.
Miniature Victorian slippers
A colorful shawl
With lovely inscriptions
But my favorite gift from Harry was this lovely painting created with his own hands. He took the poem of Arthur Christopher Benson and carefully copied it in an artful manner. The poem on friendship read:
“Because of a friend, life is a little stronger, fuller, a more gracious thing for the fruit’s existence. Whether (s)he is near or far, if the friend is close at hand, that is best, but if (s)he is far away (s)he still is there to think of, to wonder about, to hear from, to write to, to share life and experience with, to serve, to honor, to admire, to love.”
He signed his name beneath the author’s name. Perhaps you’re beginning to see just how generous and how wonderful a friend he was to me. You can imagine my delight each day at mail time. I never knew what surprise would be awaiting me.
Then there was the time Harry went to Maine, to a lake that he loved. He made the journey all alone despite protestations from his family. They were too busy as usual to accompany him on this trip that he was desperate to enjoy one last time. I didn’t want Harry to feel lonely so I wrote him every day while he was there. For this gesture I was awarded the title – “Lady of the Lake”. He wanted to share this lake he loved so much with me so he took countless pictures and taped them all together so as to create a panoramic view. This foot-long picture he sent to me. Sharing was important to Harry just as it is important to me. We both believed sharing doubles the joy.
Harry told me if it weren’t for our correspondence he wouldn’t care to live any longer. Now that sounds a bit extreme, but I believe he meant every word of it. Harry needed someone to care about him. My letters told him I cared. Such a simple thing, old fashioned hand written letters from the heart, but they can pack a powerful punch of love and friendship.
I was proud of myself and happy that I could be making such a big difference in someone’s life, and Harry certainly made me feel special and valuable in return. As I said, Harry and I formed our own mutual admiration society and I recommend everyone belong to such a society.
If you are a person of faith you probably feel as I do – that we all have a loving father in heaven who cares and believes in us, but it sure is nice to have loving people down here on earth who make us feel good about ourselves too. Harry called me his pearl of greatprice. There were, and are, plenty of days I don’t feel much like a pearl of great price, but I just dip into Harry’s letters and reread his words and I get a royal pep talk that makes me feel much better. I bet you wish you had a Harry in your life too. Well, go find one. There are people all around and everybody needs to feel loved and appreciated.
Though Harry was truly a religious person and spiritual subjects did come up, we didn’t need to speak about spiritual matters in order for our friendship to feel spiritual. Simple caring created the spiritual feeling.
It is my wish for you to encounter correspondences like the ones I enjoyed with Harry and my cousin Susan. You will then see firsthand how letter writing is the best kept secret of the modern world. Letter writing is a physical craft and a very artful one, a social activity that delights and entertains, an intellectual exercise that stimulates, and it can become a spiritual ministry. This art, The Art of Letter Writing, is a complete treat.
Sharing my love and experience with letters has been a joy for me and I hope for you too. I also hope I’ve inspired you (if you aren’t already a letter writer) to pick up a pen and begin your own adventure with letters. I know this art will enrich your life as it has enriched mine, and I know you will bring joy to others as you reach out to them in love.
As you may know I’m not much of a holiday person. It’s not that I don’t like to celebrate life. It’s that I invent my own ways to celebrate regularly and one of those ways is to enjoy Country Inn Days each and every week. But when a Country Inn Day falls on a day everyone celebrates for some reason, well, I take that into consideration.
People buy and send flowers on Valentines Day, but we don’t need Valentines Day to enjoy flowers. I buy and send flowers all the time, especially on Country Inn Days. Why would we need a holiday in order to enjoy the beauty of flowers?
When Valentines Day rolls around lots of cards are sent to friends and loved ones, an excellent idea, but again, we don’t need a holiday to enjoy this pleasure. I send cards and letters out each and every day and I’m happy to have many wonderful pen friends who do the same.
On Country Inn Valentines Day my sideboard is filled with beautiful correspondence. See?
When we think of people, sending them thoughtful cards any time of the year, they return the favor. That’s because when we give good things come back to us.
The same is true for wonderful long friendly letters. If you write them you will receive them. I can’t understand why all people don’t enjoy writing letters anymore. Sure, there are new forms of communication, but that doesn’t mean old forms must be abandoned. We have modern, efficient ways to heat our homes, but don’t we still enjoy the glow of a fireplace? We have fast food, but isn’t a home cooked meal still fantastic? We have automobiles, but don’t we still walk? So why can’t we use our smart phone and laptop computer some times and other times pen beautiful, personal handwritten letters? We can. I do, and there really are people out there who still write letters too. I hope you are one of them.
And of course we don’t need holidays to enjoy the company of loved ones, at least the loved ones who live near to us. I treated myself to the company of my son Rory for lunch on this Country Inn Day. This would be a lovely treat for any of my Country Inn Days if I could just catch this twenty something fellow who is out and about in the world having his own fun.
I don’t need Valentines Day or any holiday in order to fuss with a nice dinner in my dining room either. I hope the same is true for you too.
Though I may not use linen every night of the week I do make candlelight and flowers a regular thing. Why not? They’re beautiful! But Country Inn Days give me the chance to celebrate and go the extra mile using even more pretty things. Why have these things if not to enjoy them on a regular basis? Of course Country Inn Valentines Day calls for something even more special. How ’bout my husband’s favorite dessert?
I consult Ina Garten’s book, “Family Style” and whip up a raisin rice pudding with rum.
This pudding (served with ice cream) is a little rich for every day of the week, even for every Country Inn Day, but for Country Inn Valentines Day, it’s just fine.
But besides it being Country Inn Valentines Day it also happens to be Country Inn Theater Day. You see, every Country Inn Day has a theme. There are about ten different themes. Theater Day comes up every now and then and it coming up on Valentines Day is no accident because going to the theater is really special.
I purchase tickets for the Broadway musical, “Porgy and Bess”.
It’s playing at the Palace Theater in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. Do you know Cleveland has the biggest theater district second only to New York City? It’s true.
In Cleveland we can choose from a number of theater productions at any given time. The theaters are old and lovely too, recently refurbished to their former glory.
I love everything Gershwin ever wrote so this Country Inn Day it was easy to decide which play to see. And I was thrilled to meet two of the four leading characters of the play. This is Bess on the cover of the program with Porgy. Bess is played by Alicia Hall Moran.
You see, my husband and I went to the Wyndham hotel down the street after the play for a bite to eat. Who sat next to us at the bar, but two of the play’s producers. Yes. How fun is that? My husband had a nice chat with one of the men, then a little later the actors started pouring in.
Though I didn’t see Nathaniel Stampley, the actor who played Porgy, or Kingsley Leggs, the actor who played Sporting Life, I did have a very nice chat with Alvin Crawford. He played the nasty villain Crown, but in real life he was the nicest fellow, a Juilliard graduate, very friendly and very tall.
Of course, I’m pretty short, even shorter than Alicia Hall Moran who I also talked to. She was really wonderful and excited to be playing Bess. How fun for me to meet these actors, and not only meet them, but also to have a picture taken with them. I didn’t even have to go to New York for this to happen. I only had to have a Country Inn Theater Day.
I tell you, Country Inn Days are really great, interesting and fun. They are a wonderful way to celebrate life.
I don’t need Valentines Day or any holiday to celebrate life. You don’t either. Sometimes holidays only make work for us and if you’re like me you may have enough work already. We can make fun for ourselves quite nicely without their help.
You probably don’t even need a Country Inn Day to celebrate life, but they really are delightful fun. They help me step out of my usual routines so I am able to focus on my favorite things.
So, however you do it, be sure you’re making a point of enjoying the life you’ve been given and all the good things around you AND remember also to share that joy with others.