They don’t call it the ART of Letter writing for nothing

 

When people talk about the art of letter writing I realize they are usually referring to the thoughts contained in a letter and the verbal construction of that letter.  Just as one would write a novel or a poem writing a letter is a literary act. There is an art to how we spin our phrases and reflect upon ideas, but there is also visual art involved in letter writing too.

Hand writing is an art in itself.  Unfortunately with technology many people are forgetting how to hand write and even worse, many children are not even being taught cursive writing.  How will these children be able to read the great writing which has come before them?  They will be illiterate.  They will not be given the chance to develop their own unique script which is a reflection of  personality and style.

But in addition to the art of hand writing there is also the very real art of stationery, distinctive papers sold in fine stores or those we create ourselves. One very frugal soul I have written to in the past worked cleaning offices after hours. She would raid the wastebaskets in those offices collecting  any papers with a blank side and she’d use those papers for her correspondence.  I must say some of the business matters discussed on those papers was as interesting as the thoughts and activities shared in those letters. The papers we use for our correspondence say a lot about us.

Pens, with their various fine or broad strokes, ink colors, types of paper, our unique hand writing all work together creating a uniquely personal and one of a kind missive.  So the Art of Letter Writing is a combination of verbal and visual expression.

 I do love all sorts of  beautiful cards and letter papers which I find in stores all around town, but it’s  great fun  designing my own stationary too,  using color and design in any number of ways.  Some people tell me they have no ability in art but I don’t believe them.  One doesn’t have to draw or paint in order to have fun with art. We can create bits and pieces of artful objects, arranging these things to create stationery that can be quite delightful. It’s called art play.

Years ago while strolling through an antique shop I found pages from some old magazine with the cutest historic images.  I purchased these old illustrations and now scan them to decorate some of my letters.  Adding a few sprigs of grass or background material makes for a fun looking letter.  At least I think so.

How about writing the name of the month at the top of a letter adding some color.  Perhaps edging the paper with that same color and adding a few polka dots…

… or using laces and/or ribbons, co-ordinating their color with that of the paper.  Such touches may be simple, but they are still artful.  My letter friends tell me they have great fun visiting craft shops collecting all sorts of materials for their stationary construction and letter writing fun.  I do too.

I’ll see some cute illustration in a book and I’ll make it my own by changing a few details here and there.

Did you ever try making flowers by placing finger prints onto ink pads and drawing stems and leaves? . . .

I once saw  boxes of greeting cards for sale. Each card pictured the drawing of a little handbag containing an initial. Now anyone can draw a handbag putting their own initial onto that bag and  presto!  You have monogrammed stationary for pennies a card.

My town of Hudson, Ohio has a clock tower on its village green.  I love to sketch that clock tower on my stationary.   I add a few trees of the season – a Christmas tree in Winter or a deciduous tree with green leaves  plus a few flowers in Summer.  Maybe your town has some famous land mark too.  Did you ever try to draw it?  Go ahead.  Try.

 When I write my sons I like to send happiness and hearts.

And there’s nothing like a little bubble therapy when I’m in need of a pick- me- up. Spreading the idea around to my letter friends is easy in words and in pictures too. Actually I got a card very much like this picture once upon a time. You probably get lots of cards too, cards that would be very easy to make your own.  Why just color in a book? Use those cute cards as models, recreate those images, and then color your very own picture.

I’ve always loved flowers even way back when I was a wee little girl.  I remember creating a little booklet back in the 3rd grade.  Each page had the picture of a flower and a brief description. I enjoyed creating my little book and I was very proud of it.  I remember showing it to my teacher expecting her to shower me with praise, but I was quite disappointed when she made nothing of it only suggesting I use that energy and time on my school work. HA!  I continued to enjoy art class at school but it’s no wonder I stopped drawing flowers for a long time.  Then in high school when given the option of extra art or music classes I chose the music probably  because back in the third grade I was not given encouragement for my art.  Music has been my life and I have no regrets, but when I became a letter writing enthusiast the love of art surfaced once again and now I regularly create stationary with drawings of flowers on my papers.  The artist in me is back and I’m very happy she is.  I missed her.

Maybe you liked art as a small child and somehow you forgot all about that love. But even if you never thought about art before, think about it now.  It can be a wonderful therapy.  It can be a most relaxing delight in your day and if you share your art in your letters. . . well you know what I’m always saying – sharing doubles the joy.

“True art is in the doing of it.”

Jean Renoir

The “Spirit” of Hospitality

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It’s October and Autumn is in the air.  Spirits are in the air too.  There’s one particular little spirit that flutters back and forth past the porch of my 1853 Jeremiah Brown House. It’s a little white ghost. Whenever I see this ghost my thoughts wander off to a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  The poem is called Haunted Houses.

“All houses wherein men have lived and died are haunted houses…there are more guests at table than the host invited…my friend at fireside cannot see the things I see nor hear the sounds I hear.  He but sees what is, whereas unto me all that has been is visible and clear.”

Another type of spirit that is visible and clear to me is the Spirit of Hospitality.  Hospitality.   I think it’s  a wonderful thing, defined as the act or practice of receiving and entertaining strangers or guests in a friendly or generous way.

Strangers or guests

Do you entertain guests and even strangers too?  I do.  At many of my afternoon teas I ask guests to bring a friend. In this way I have the fun of meeting new people, and this makes me think of those words from the bible talking about the possibility of strangers being angels in disguise.

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We’re always told to love our neighbor, but one can’t love a person they don’t know, and in order to really get to know someone it’s necessary to spend time together… time spent chatting and sharing.  We can do this chatting and sharing in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of places.  I get to know many people from all around the world through the art of letter writing,  but I also enjoy getting to know people through in person visits and my favorite place for these visits is in my very own home.  That’s because . . .

 

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Home is where the heart is

Many of us work hard to make our house a home.  We fill our house with things we love.  We clean and polish, decorate according to our own unique taste, and in this way we express ourselves.  Our home captures our spirit.  Even if we’re not present a visitor can walk into our house and get a real sense of who we are.

So

if we’re trying to get to know people better and we want them to get to know us,  I think inviting them into our home is the best way and place in which to cultivate and grow friendship.  I’m surprised so few people share my thinking.  Don’t you enjoy being invited to someone’s home – for dinner, tea, cocktails or anything?   I sure do, and I equally enjoy doing the inviting.

I love to host intimate events where good conversation abounds.  Cooking and baking are two of my favorite things so it’s great fun for me to plan a dinner, luncheon or tea,  but even if cooking and baking are not your favorite things it’s still easy to entertain.   So why don’t more people share my thinking?  I wish I knew.  It’s not so much about food as it is about the sharing of spirit.

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Joy and Carol Ann

Recently I had a delightful day of sharing with one of my pen friends.  Meet Joy.

I first met Joy through The Letter Exchange, an organization for letter writers.  She was living in Switzerland at the time, but later she moved to South Carolina.  Through letters we’ve been sharing for years and getting to know each other very well.  We’ve become kindred spirits entirely through our letters.  But what a thrill when Joy told me she’d be passing through my town and wanted to stop by for an in person visit. How delightful!

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The day of Joy’s visit arrived.  I made  a batch of my cream scones with raspberries and whipped cream, pulled out my Laura Ashley Tea for Two china and strolled around my house and garden deciding where we should settle in to do our sharing.

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The weather has been beautiful this Autumn so I decided we should have our tea and conversation outdoors on the porch and since it would just be the two of us why not choose the small, open porch with a view of nature.

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I set a small cloth on the table and proceeded to arrange the china, going out to the garden to snip a rose and some mint and lavender. Nothing like flowers and herbs.  I wanted everything to be pretty for my friend.

Here, in this peaceful setting, we could talk and listen to each other, deepening our friendship.

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It’s not necessary to fuss with settings – food, china, flowers,  but I think these things are a very nice touch.  They can help in creating a very pleasant situation for a friend’s visit and can only help to make that friend feel special and highly valued.

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I’m a Romantic and beauty in any of its forms delights me.  Though I try to create beauty for my guests I must say I get a lot of joy and satisfaction from this beauty too.  Beauty seems to become us.

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Joy seemed to enjoy the scones – just that simple little food treat, but the real treat (at least for me) was the sharing of our spirits.  Friendship is a wonderful thing.  I don’t believe we’re meant to live solitary lives.  Friendship doubles the joy in life just as sharing doubles the joy.

We can share in a variety of ways.  I love the old fashioned ways – the art of letter writing and the art of hospitality. I encourage you to practice both arts.  They may be forgotten, but both arts are as delightful today as they ever were.

When you give good things come back to you.

Letters, Invitations to tea, friendship,  and more . . .

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I wish for you the wonderful kind of friendship Joy and I share.

Truly.

Carol Ann

The Joy of Letter Writing

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When was the last time you wrote a personal letter for no reason other than to let a friend or relative know you were thinking of them?  I wrote two letters a few hours ago.  This is a daily ritual with me.  It feels great to take my mind off my own life and focus on the life of someone else.  I have my regular pen friends, but I also enjoy sending letters off to relatives and local friends, people I like who I don’t have the opportunity to see often or ever!

I enjoy pausing in my busy day to reflect on life for if I  go, go, go and never stop life becomes one long “to do” list offering me no chance to ponder and appreciate those very things that I’m doing. I double my fun by “doing” things and then “reflecting” on those things.  Lord Byron (one of my “dead friends”) had it right when he said, “A life without reflection is a sad affair.”   I think reflection is important.  It gives us a chance to stop and relax in between activities.

I could reflect and keep the reflections to myself, but I truly believe sharing doubles the joy, so I share my reflections in the letters I write to my pen friends.  My pen friends then share their reflections with me.  It’s a wonderful cycle.

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I know I could use the telephone as my way to reach out to others, but I might call at an inconvenient time for my friend.  Just because I’m in the mood to share doesn’t mean my friend has the time just then.  A letter is polite.  It arrives, but can wait to be read at whatever time is convenient.  It can also be kept and read again and again and again.  A letter is lasting.  Why would someone want to reread a letter you ask?   Well, if we write letters full of kind thoughts, compliments and beautiful ideas our friends might like to reread our letters when they need a lift.

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Besides all this, there’s art involved in letter writing, not only the personal art of our handwriting, but also the opportunity for us to enjoy a little art play as we create our stationery. Creativity is very therapeutic and good for the soul.  There are plenty of machine-made items in the world today but how many handmade articles do you encounter daily?   A hand written letter will always stand out because not only is it personal, and handmade, but it is also quite rare in these modern days.

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I love writing letters but I get equal pleasure from receiving letters like this one from my pen friend Sarah in Viroqua, Wisconsin.  With lots of pen friends the whole world becomes your friendly neighborhood.  As you write to all sorts of people with all sorts of interests and experiences your life is enriched.

My pen friend Sarah is a real health food person.  She shares all sorts of healthful recipes with me and whether or not I make these things I enjoy reading about them – things like her snacks of yogurt with carob powder and sorghum. Sarah eats sorghum morning and night.  She says it digests slowly and is a good fuel source.  Did you ever eat sorghum?

Sarah buys grass fed beef hot dogs, chops up 2 eggs right out of the shell, adds celery seed with a liberal pad of butter, some spinach, parsley or cilantro, and cooks it all up to create a lunch she loves.  Well, it’s not exactly a lunch I would love, but I enjoy the subject of  food and discussing it in letters is interesting to me.  Would you find this subject interesting too?

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Sarah said she doesn’t eat much bread but if she does indulge it has to be Sprouted Organic Ancient Grains – The Queen’s Khorasan.  Ever hear of it?  I hadn’t.  It’s made with sprouted khorasan wheat, an ancient grain that entertained Egyptian royalty more than 5,000 years ago. Who would know?  Pen friends teach me all sorts of things about food and about many other subjects as well.

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I may not be able to hop on a plane and travel to far off places, but because I have pen friends in those far off places it’s easy for me to enjoy virtual outings whenever these friends write to me sharing their world.  One such special friend is Joanna who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. Besides her beautiful handwriting and her Scottish news I love to see the stamps on her envelopes.

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Joanna also shares picture postcards from her travels.  These post cards always contain lovely descriptions and lots of background information.  I could just read The New York Times travel section (which I do read) or National Geographic, but there’s something special in getting a friend’s personal reaction to a place.   Do you recognize the picture above?  It’s a  picture of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.  Joanna visited it recently and found it interesting that in any other Renaissance building most people would spend hours admiring the painted ceilings, the immense collection of classical sculptures and the portraits of European monarchs of the 16th and 17th centuries, but she noticed no one was paying any attention to any of those features at the Uffizi Gallery because they were too busy looking at the other paintings. I too love art and my pen friends help me see things I would otherwise not have a chance to see.

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Did I just say I love art?  Yes I did, all kinds of art,  so you can see why I enjoy finding creative letter envelopes in my mailbox.  This one is from my pen friend Kathy who lives in York, Pennsylvania. Kathy loves cats.  She often draws a cat on her letter envelope among other things). I love seeing her art work.  She especially loves her cat Alice, but Kathy loves lots of good things that I also appreciate, especially her love of  classical music and singing in a choir.

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No, this isn’t Kathy’s Alice, but I wonder if Kathy would  dress Alice up in this way.  Kathy tells me there was a “dress up your pet contest” and this cat pictured was a winner.   I wonder if Alice would put up with a hat and earrings.  My dog would never have heard of such a thing. But to each his own.  I  have some catnip in my garden and I’m planning to send it to Alice via Kathy.  I never had a cat, but I do love animals, and any friend of Kathy’s is a friend of mine, a friend deserving of a little present now and then.

Letters are wonderful.  I can’t imagine living without them. Some letters are serious and others are whimsical.  Some letters educate and others just share simple pleasures.  Letters add so much to my life and I know they would add as  much to your life too.

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I hope you are a letter writer.  I hope you have lots of lovely pen friends as I do.  I hope you enjoy art play creating your very own stationery. It’s all so good!  The Art of Letter Writing is not a lost art.  It still exists.  All it needs is You!  Write your friends and relatives.  Join The Letter Exchange if you need a few new interesting pen friends.  Leave a comment on this post.  I’d love to hear from you myself.

Just Write!

I’ve got Mail

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Yes, I’ve got mail.  I’ve got letters.  I’ve got lots and lots of letters –  letters that come in the mail every day, letters to answer, letters reaching out to new people encouraging friendship,  letters all set to go just waiting for the postman to pick them up and carry them off to places far and near.

It’s funny, but whenever I tell people I’m a letter writer the first thing most of them say is, “Oh, letter writing.  Nobody writes letters anymore.”  Of course they’re wrong.  Lots of people are still writing letters.  They’re just not talking about them.  I’m talking about them because letters and letter writing brings me joy and sharing doubles that joy.

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There’s nothing like making a cup of something delicious (for me it’s a cup of dark roast coffee or Earl Grey tea) and getting all cozy with paper and pen.  I’ve been told I must be an introvert for introverts receive energy from solitude, and letter writing is a solitude-type thing, but I must also be an extrovert for I enjoy people very much.. . so  it’s no wonder that I love letter writing.  In letter writing we have solitude and society simultaneously.  We sit quietly relaxing in our house or in a pleasant coffee shop while at the same time we’re sharing with others.

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But it’s not just the writing and sharing I love.  I also love the art play involved in creating my own stationery. Some papers turn out pretty, while others are just playful.   But all art play is fun.  I’m not the only one enjoying art play either.  Have you been to a bookstore lately to see all the many adult coloring books?  Adults must really be enjoying coloring by the looks of all those books for sale and why not?  Kids mustn’t have all the fun, but letter writers have a purpose for their art play.  They can share their art as well as their words – a double sharing proposition.

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Creating  letter papers and writing letters are  wonderful activities, but only half the fun.  The other half of the fun comes when we go out to our mail box and find more than junk mail. Finding personal letters addressed just to us is wonderful fun!  Heartfelt messages just for us.

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The best of these letters share the personal life and the unique spirit of another.  How often do you have chats through the day with people who reach deep into themselves to share the good, the bad, and that which is the essential essence of themselves?  Well, most every day I have these sharing sessions because I’m blessed to have a great number of wonderful pen friends.  You can have wonderful pen friends too.  All you have to do is write letters for good things come back to those who share –  good things in the form of more letters.

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Today I got a letter from my penfriend A.J. who lives in Arizona.  This dear man is hurting because he lost his wife two years ago but he still misses her terribly.  He told me he thinks of her every day because  she was a wonderful woman and a wonderful wife.  A.J. truly was a lucky man to not only have a good companion, but also a wife who cooked delicious meals every day and  took great care of their house. My heart goes out to him.  A lot of people are hurting in this world, but sharing in letters , (and sharing in other ways too) not only doubles the joy, but also divides any sorrow.  I care how A.J. feels. Wouldn’t you care too?  I plan to write him soon and encourage him to tell me more about his wife.  I’m sure he’d like that.   It’s not just A.J.’s spirit that came through in his letter.  I also got a sense of his wife’s spirit as he shared a list she kept on their fridge, and now I’m sharing that list with you.  Here it is.

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Ingredients for a Happy Life

Develop a spiritual outlook on life – Matt. 5: 3

Be content and avoid “the love of money”  1 Tim, 6: 6-10

Keep pleasures in their place 2 Tim,3: 1,4

Be generous and work for the happiness of others Acts 20:  35

Be thankful and count your blessings Col. 3:  15

Have a forgiving spirit Matt. 6:  14

Choose your associates wisely Prov. 13:20

Take care of your body and avoid bad habits 2 Cor.7:  1

Rejoice in the hope set out for you in the Bible Rom. 12:  12

This list is good advice for all of us and it gives me something good to think about today as I’m thinking about A.J. and his wife.

Thinking and caring about people is not a frivolous, unimportant thing and therefore letter writing is more than just a fun hobby. It’s an excellent way to reach out to others in love.  Our letters can make a big difference in someone’s life if we’re thoughtful and careful to address their feelings.  It’s not always easy, but well worth the effort.  Besides, when we take the focus off our own life and focus our attention on other people we often feel all the better for it.

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The next letter that comes to me may be full of joy, or it may come from some far off place and introduce me to  new and  unusual things.  Every letter is different just as every letter writer is different. My life is richer for having lots of pen friends. I hope you have lots of pen friends too.

“Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls.  For, thus friends absent speak. —John Donne

Carol Ann’s Recipe for a Sharing Tea

 

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Hi there!  I’m Carol Ann and have I got a fun recipe for you.

Here it is.

Invite someone old, (an old friend) someone new, (a person you recently met and liked a lot) someone borrowed, (ask one of your guests to bring along a friend of their own) or maybe two, (ask both of your guests to bring along a friend).  Add a little tea and lots of conversation and there you have it –  A sharing Tea.

If you have a home which you love and enjoy why not share it?  If you collect pretty things why not invite others to enjoy those things too?  If you like to cook and bake why not share your recipes with friends?  As you reach out to others in friendship you’ll be reaching into yourself and coming up with creative and fun entertaining ideas.

Any Afternoon Tea or Sharing Tea can be as simple or as fancy as you like.  I enjoy hosting one tea every month choosing a different room or setting each time. The room dictates the number of guests I invite,  the type of food I serve and the level of formality.  If I’m serving at a table a high tea could be in order consisting of hot food (savories) as well as desserts. All sorts of dishes and glassware would be used to serve and dress up the table.  Flatware would be needed too, but if I’m hosting in a room without a dining table the food would  be simple and finger-friendly.

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This month my Sharing Tea will take place in the living room of my 1853 home and since this room is small tea will be an intimate affair with only two guests – one old friend and one new friend.  The refreshments will be limited to cookies, and of course the tea, though sherry and liquers might easily be offered as well.

Though I do enjoy cooking, baking, and presenting nice refreshments to my guests, I have learned that food is not the most important thing at a Sharing Tea.  It’s not even the tea that’s most important.  It’s the sharing.  Guests seem to enjoy learning about each other, sharing their stories, passions and ideas.  Guests are delighted by each other, inspired by each other,  and they really seem to enjoy the opportunity to step out of their busy lives and share in a peaceful and  personal setting.  Restaurants have their place, but being invited into someone’s home is very special and doesn’t happen often enough in my opinion.  Refreshments are nice but simply an accompaniment to all the fun we have in sharing.

As hostess it’s my job to see that everyone is comfortable and feeling welcome and relaxed.  It’s a fun job!  I believe hosting a Sharing Tea is a gift of hospitality given with a personal touch… and when you give good things come back to you – friendships.

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So I pull out one of my favorite tea books, “English Tea and Cakes” and look up a recipe for gingerbread cookies which I’ll make for my guests…

Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients: 2 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour,1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1 stick of butter, scant 1 cup of soft light brown sugar, 1 egg, 4 tsp corn syrup, 4 tbsp royal icing, silver decorations, parchment paper decorating bag.

Process:  Sift the flour, baking soda and ginger into a large bowl.  Add the butter and rub it in with your finger tips until you have a mixture resembling fine bread crumbs. Add the sugar and mix.

In another bowl, beat the egg and corn syrup together.  Tip it over the flour mix and stir well.  Keep sprinkling over flour and working until you have a lovely smooth dough.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave in fridge to chill 30 minutes, but an hour would be better.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets.

Roll the dough out on a slightly floured board to a thickness of a 1/4 inch.  Cut out required shapes and bake 12 to 15 minutes.  Leave to cool slightly on baking sheet before transferring o wire wrack to cool completely.

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 I bake the gingerbread into the shape of the Hudson Clocktower, a famous landmark in my town.

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Gingerbread is also shaped into stars which I decorate.

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Together they make a simple, but pretty presentation.

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I add some frosted molasses cookies…

Molasses Cookies

Ingredients: 4 cups flour, 1 tsp salt,1 cup butter, 1 cup dark molasses, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, 1/2 cup hot water, 1 and 1/4 tsps baking soda

Process: In a large mixing bowl combine flour and salt.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender.  In a separate bowl combine molasses and sugar, then beat in the egg.  Dissolve the soda in the 1/4 cup of hot water and add to molasses mixture.  Gradually stir the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and beat until well blended.  Cover bowl and chill several hours. Turn dough onto floured pastry board and roll to 1/4 inch thickness for a sift cookie.  Cut rounds with a cookie cutter and place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  For frosting mix powdered sugar with a bit of water.

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add some shortbread which was baked earlier and stored in an air-tight container

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and select the tea cups and linen.

Sharing Tea is the perfect time to share all those pretty things I love and collect.

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And the table is set and ready for my guests.

And there’s the doorbell now!

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It’s Joni, one of my dear old friends

and she’s brought me a pretty plant.  How sweet of her.

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Minutes later Kelly appears.  She’s one of my new friends.

She too has a pretty plant for me.

Didn’t I tell you? – when you give good things come back to you.

Hostess gifts!

So we all get settled in the living room, the candles are twinkling, I pour the tea

And  the sharing begins!

Now that you have the recipe for a Sharing Tea  isn’t it time you have one of your own?

Enjoy!

Favorite Recipes from the Inn Cook at the 1853 Jeremiah Brown House

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Hello there.

It’s Carol Ann, Inn Cook of County Inn Days.  Today I’m working away in my Butler’s Pantry preparing all sorts of culinary delights and because sharing doubles my joy I will share a few of the recipes I’m preparing in case you get inspired to do a little cooking  and baking yourself.

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I love cookbooks and my cookbook closet is proof of that fact.  Over the years I’ve collected quite a few wonderful cookbooks. With the help of these books menus are never ho hum affairs at The Jeremiah Brown House. There’s always something new being “cooked up” and there’s always cooking inspiration from the authors of these books. Some cookbook authors run restaurants or inns while others compile the recipes of famous personalities like Claude Monet, Beatrix Potter, Tasha Tudor or Princess Diana.  I find menu planning with the help of these books as much fun or sometimes more fun then  the actual cooking and baking.   But of course cooking and baking is great fun too  – the scents floating from the kitchen are Yummy and we all do have to eat, don’t we?

So let’s get started.

Sweet Potato Casserole

This recipe comes from cookbook author, Susan Branch.  It appears in her Autumn Cookbook.  It’s fun to have cookbooks which feature special recipes for the Season.  This recipe is great with Thanksgiving Turkey or Christmas Ham.  In fact it’s on the menu for Christmas dinner here at the Jeremiah Brown House, dinner for 20.  If you’re on a diet you might want to skip it, but then again live a little .  It’s the holidays!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients:  4 c. sweet potatoes cooked and mashed,  8 oz. cream cheese softened, 1/2 c. butter softened, 2 eggs beaten, 1/4 c, brown sugar, 2 and 1/2 Tbsp. dry sherry, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3/4 c. chopped walnuts, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg.

Process:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  With electric mixer (not food processer) whip all ingredients except walnuts and nutmeg until light.  Stir in walnuts and put into a buttered casserole. Spread evenly and put nutmeg over top. Bake 45 minutes till golden brown.

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Once I try a new recipe and like it the recipe is copied and placed in a special notebook so that these tried and true favorites are easy to find when planning the next dinner party.  There are notebooks for Tea treats, for Main Course foods, for Desserts and all sorts of other categories. My father, Joe, always used to say, “You’ve got to have a system.”  So I enjoy creating a system for everything I do.  You might call these systems rituals, but  whatever you call them they help me get things done in an orderly fun manner.

But let’s make something else.

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Snake Rolls

You probably wonder why these yeast rolls are called snake rolls.  Well, though I didn’t bother with the details this time one can very easily turn these simple yeast rolls into little snakes by snipping a mouth and inserting a peppercorn for an eye.

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See?

The recipe comes from a book I have had for years.  The book is so used the cover fell off ages ago. What fun things Ann Wiseman came up with in her book – breads shaped like pocket fish that puff out when baked at 500 degrees, pink angel breads made from tomato dough, cinnamon lambs with bodies made of cinnamon buns.  So many fun things to dress up a dinner table.

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But the snake rolls are my favorite because I can whip up the dough and it keeps in a bag in the fridge for days till ready for baking –  2, 3, 4 or however many rolls I need.

Ingredients: 1 pack yeast, 2 cups warm milk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup oil, 2 eggs, 7 cups of flour or more.

Process: Mix and stir ingredients.  Knead until smooth.  Oil dough ball and store in fridge, covered, punch down from time to time.  An hour before any meal cut off a lump of dough.  Divide into balls.  Roll balls into snakes.  Tie snakes into knots.  Snip mouth open an add an eye.  Let snakes rise 15 minutes on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

I love baking bread.

But I also love baking pies.

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And it’s time for Pumpkin Pie.

Here’s my favorite recipe

Ingredients:  2 cups cooked pumpkin, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, 3 eggs slightly beaten, 1 cup light cream, 1/2 tsp. salt and a 9 inch pie shell.

Process:  Combine pumpkin, sugar, spices and salt.  Blend in eggs and cream.  Pour into pie shell. Bake 40 to 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven until knife is inserted off center and comes out clean.

Now for the Pie Shell Recipe.  The recipe comes from my friend Nancy who now lives in Washaugal, Washington.

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Mix 1 and 1/2 cup flour wih 1 and 1/2 tsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. of salt in a pie pan.  Then mix 1/2 cup oil with 2 Tbsp. of milk and pour it into flour mixture.

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Using a fork mix everything together and press into place.

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And there you have a pie shell for pumpkin or pudding or any one-crust pie of your choice.  The crust is great for quiche too.

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But my other favorite pie is Apple.  Ah, Long live Apple Pie and good friends who share it, friends like you and I.  ( I set those lyrics to music once upon a time so I’m singing as I’m baking.)

Between my Mom and Paul Burrell, former butler to Princes Diana,   I  can come up with a lovely apple pie any time my spirit and tummy demand it.

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My Mom, Lottie, and her double crust pie pastry recipe

Ingredients:  2 cups flour, 1 tsp. salt,3/4 cup crisco shortening, 5 Tbsp. ice water

Process: Mix all ingredients except water in a food processor, then add the water a little at a time till the dough holds together like a ball.  Roll out onto a floured board.  Place crust into pie pan.

The apple pie filling recipe comes from Paul Burrell in his book, “Royal Manner”.  Paul says that this Deep Filled Apple Pie recipe is a particular favorite of the Royal Family.  Well then that’s one thing  my family have in common with the Royal Family.  They all love this pie recipe too.

Ingredients:  Pie crust recipe for double crust pie, 2 pounds of apples, finely grated rind and juice of one large lemon, 4 oz. of light brown sugar, 2 Tbsp. plain flour, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg, 2 oz. of sultanas, 1 oz. butter, 1 small egg white beaten, 1 Tbsp. caster sugar.

Process:  Roll out the pastry and place in 9 inch pie tin.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile peel, core and slice apples thinly.  Place them in a bowl and toss with lemon juice.  Mix the flour, brown sugar cinnamon and nutmeg.  Sprinkle a little of the sugar at the bottom of the pastry and mix the rest in with the apples and sultanas.  Place the apples in the pie pan and dot with butter.  Roll out the remaining crust and place on top as you wish. Brush with egg white.  Trim the pie edges and if the top is a solid piece of pastry cut a small hole in the middle.  Sprinkle the caster sugar on top.   Bake 40 to 50 minutes at 375 degrees.

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 So there you have it!  These recipes should keep you busy for a while… till the next time I share more Inn favorites.  When you make these goodies think of me or better yet, write to tell me how they turned out and how you liked them.  Sharing doubles the joy you know so share the food and share your thoughts.  I will be back with more recipes  from my Country Inn Days.  Till then Bon Appetite and enjoy!

Country Inn “Travel” Day

 

 

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German Village, Columbus Ohio
Even though I can have wonderful Country Inn Day experiences staying in or close to my Inn of imagination,  my 1853 home, it is sometimes great fun to go beyond my little town of Hudson, Ohio and do a little (or a lot) of exploration.  And so I took a trip to German Village which is two hours south of Hudson.

German Village is a historic neighborhood (and I love historic neighborhoods) just south of downtown Columbus, Ohio’s state capital.  It was settled in the early – to – mid 19th century by a large number of German immigrants who at one time comprised as much as one third of the city’s entire population.

German Village is listed on The National Register of Historic Places and was made a “Preserve America Community” by the White House.  It is one of the premier historic restorations in the world.

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The Book Loft

My travel day in German Village began at a wonderful book shop called The Book Loft. This shop boasts of having 32 rooms of books for sale and each room has a different style of music playing to entertain shoppers as well as to tempt them to buy the musical cds. It would be easy for a book lover like me to spend the entire day in such a place

 

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but after a considerable amount of time browsing I tore myself away, strolling out along the shops beautifully flower-filled alley way, but not empty handed.

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I came away with two books, this one by Martha Stewart because living a good  and long life is important to me as it is to Martha.  Her book has a little bit of everything in it – healthy eating, healthy fitness, healthy brain, healthy home… you get the idea.  I was tempted by books in all these categories, but Martha had a little of everything rolled up into one.

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My other purchase was this lovely and artful book entitled “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life”.  It contains information about the plants and places that inspired Beatrix to write her wonderful storybooks.  Beatrix is one of my “dead friends” so I’m always looking for books like this one.   Beatrix can’t share her life with me in person these days since she moved far off to heaven, but the right books allow her to share with me in a different, but still very delightful way.

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But time flew in the book shop and I was getting hungry so my next stop was a wonderful restaurant called Lindy’s.

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Lindy’s is a convivial American bistro featuring a copper-topped bar and a surf ‘n’ turf menu.

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 I love the elegance of white tablecloths so Lindy’s dining room was the place for me.  I was seated at this table near a window.  Yes!

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Here with Beatrix at my side (via her book) I ordered a delicious lunch, glass of wine and then relaxed with coffee from this nifty french press stainless steel pot.

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Looking out the window at the gas lamps and the historic buildings as I enjoyed my lunch made it easy to imagine I was back in time with Beatrix.  I was very happy with this restaurant but I had no idea what lay just outside. something that could’ve made my lunch experience even better on this glorious weather day.  Can you guess what it is?

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Lindy’s has an outdoor patio nestled in trees and decorated with lots and lots of beautiful flowers.  Who knew?

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Well, now I know and so do you so next time either of us venture to Lindy’s on a beautiful day we’ll know to take a table out of doors amidst  the fresh air and flowers where the birdies can serenade us.

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But it was now time to hit the brick-lined streets and sidewalks, time to take a stroll around the village.  There were houses and their gardens to investigate.  Let me share a little of what I saw along the way.

So many charming houses with postage stamp size gardens that were small but absolutely lovely.  There were  patios and porches, all  carefully designed and well appointed.  It was delightful and inspiring to stroll along and view such beauty, but after a while it was also time to sit down and rest.  Luckily there was a park just ahead.

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What a welcome sight for my tired feet.

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I found a park bench, invited Beatrix to join me once again by pulling out my new book,  and there in solitude, but with society all around me, I enjoyed the beauty of nature on this Country Inn “Travel” Day.

See?

Ah nature!

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous 

Aristotle

I enjoyed everything about this Country Inn Day, but as usual it went by far too quickly. The bookstore, the charming restaurant, strolling past pretty gardens, houses and then this peaceful  park.  What a pleasant day!

My Country Inn Days are always wonderful escapes.  Be they days where I play the part of Innkeeper and Inn Chef hosting afternoon teas and dinner parties or days where I delight as Inn Guest jaunting around in search of culture, adventurous expeditions or spiritual retreats… whatever the itinerary I know a Country Inn Day will be a break from routine and the break will do me a world of good.  Some Country Inn Days are spent entirely at the Inn with no unusual activities at all, just lots and lots of simple pleasures –  leisurely walks , bubble baths, letter writing, piano playing, reading, art play and always time spent in imagination.

After all, we must be the artists of our lives creating days which make our hearts sing. Lord Chesterfield (another of my “dead friends”) an 18th century British statesman and man of letters once said, “Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it.”  Sometimes that’s hard to do on a daily basis, but it’s easy to do on a Country Inn Day so I’m sure to schedule one each and every week.  Country Inn Days step in and I step out of all regular routines.

I’m so happy you could join me for at least a little of my Country Inn “Travel” Day  Why?  You know.

Sharing Doubles the Joy.

Hope to see you next time wherever Country Inn Days will take us.