Country Inn “Service” Day

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This Country Inn “Service” Day takes me to Hower House, a Victorian Mansion built in 1871 in the Second Empire Italianate style.  Hower House is a  twenty-eight room Mansion owned by Akron University and open to the public. Touring this historic house with its lavish furnishings from around the world is one way people of today can experience a bit of yesterday.

Because I am fond of old houses and Historic preservation I have recently become a Victorian, that is to say, a person who supports Hower House and its many programs. As a Victorian I volunteer my service to this house in various ways – helping out in the gift shop, serving at teas, or assisting  at special events.

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You see, years ago when I was searching for my purpose in life I stumbled upon a spiritual book entitled “A Daily Guide to Spiritual Living” by Jim Rosemergy and through this book I came to realize service should be a part of all our lives.  After patiently reading the book’s 365 daily messages and journaling on each  of those messages my purpose (and possibly yours too) was revealed.  I was told the purpose of life is to try to know God, to do all our work with joy (whatever that work is), and to be of service to others.

So, besides doing for others on a daily basis in whatever way I can now and then I like to devote an entire Country Inn Day to service and on this particular Country Inn Day my service is devoted to Hower House.

 

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Hower House is hosting its Artisan Fair and many vendors are filling each room of the mansion with their wares.  Our hostess is ready and waiting for visitors to arrive and I will be posted at various locations  through the day in order to be of service to vendors and shoppers alike.

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What fun for our visitors to enjoy this beautiful house while at the same time admiring the creative efforts of various talented artisans.  There’s the lady who works with chocolate

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 and my friend, Evelyna, who creates the most beautiful and delicious cookies and cakes.

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There are artists who make the loveliest  jewelry

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and another who presses botanicals in all sorts of ways, preserving them forever.  This particular artist  frames flowers and plants, encasing them in trays and boxes, designing note cards … and her choice of color and design is lovely to behold.

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When I wasn’t on duty I did a little shopping myself and these two pictures tied together featuring pressed culinary herbs were one of my purchases.  I think they’re very nice hanging in a kitchen where these herbs are used on a daily basis.

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I also couldn’t resist buying this exquisite cut work bed sheet from one of the antique dealers. They don’t make bed sheets like this anymore,  but I think it will also serve nicely as a cloth on the dining room table of my 1853 historic house at tea time.  Don’t you agree?

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There were all sorts of artisans at this Fair, but I was particularly happy to see the aprons that were created by the Future Story Shop.  This shop creates new aprons patterned after aprons from our grandmother’s closet.  The aprons are made by the women who live at a place called Haven of Rest.  Haven of Rest is a women’s homeless shelter and the apron project is part of ‘Lydia’s Purse International’, a project which teaches these homeless women to sew.

After speaking to the volunteer from Haven of Rest I think I have my next Country Inn “Service” Day in mind – a good thing indeed.

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We don’t generally have the fun of shopping for our bath products in an antique bathroom

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or have the pleasure of  taking in the beauty of  handcrafted art while at the same time viewing the historic art of period rooms, but this can be done at Hower House’s Artisian Fair each Spring.

I was able to enjoy service and shopping simultaneously on this Country Inn “Service” Day making it very easy for me to be of service with a smile and to do do this work with joy as directed by my spiritual book.

It truly is a good feeling to do for others helping out in any way we can.  I might play the piano in a nursing home or pay a visit to shut ins on some other Country Inn “Service” Day or I could work in a food bank, volunteer in a hospital or help out in a school.  I learned a long time ago when we give good things come back to us so giving of ourselves in any way at all is a very good thing to do. I’m sure you’ve experienced how much better you feel about yourself when you’re not only thinking about yourself all the time.

How are you being of service to others these days?  I’d love to know.  Maybe you’ll give me a good idea for one of my next Country Inn “Service” Days.

Sharing Doubles the Joy

and sharing ourselves as we serve others quadruples the joy.

But remember, only Service with a Smile counts!

It’s a Country Inn Shopping Day

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Let’s go shopping!

It’s really a good thing that I began scheduling fun shopping excursions as part of my regular Country Inn Days because I now shop less, but enjoy the shopping a lot more.  I’m not talking about grocery shopping or shopping for washing machines or lawn mowers.  I’m talking about ‘fru fru’ shopping.

I don’t know about you, but though I don’t like to think of myself as a material girl I guess I am one.  It’s pretty hard to live in this material world, at least for me,  and not encounter lots of wonderful material things that make my heart flutter.

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You’ve heard the song “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad”?  Well, that sure is true for me and though lots of my favorite things don’t require shopping there are those that do.

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So on this and every Country Inn Shopping Day I choose three shops where I give myself permission to indulge in a purchase of something that delights me.  This ritual really saves me money in the long run because it limits my fun shopping days to only one every sixteen weeks.  After all, there are so many different kinds of Country Inn Days to enjoy – there’s Spa Day, Dinner Party Day, Culture Day, Nature Day, Elegant Lunch Out with Friends Day, and about eleven other kinds of Country Inn Days.  I wonder how many kinds of Inn Days you could dream up.

It’s quite a challenge choosing which shops to enjoy on a Country Inn Shopping Day.  There are so many to choose from – book shops, fashion boutiques, home decorating stores, stationary shops,  and the list goes on and on.  So what will it be?

Today I decide to do a little business with a jeweler, a cooking establishment and garden shop. So come with me and let’s see what mischief I can get myself  into on this fine Country Inn Day.

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Here we are strolling down Main Street in Hudson’s historic district.  There’s the old clock tower in the background and just ahead is my first shopping destination.

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Jewelry Art is a very fine store that carries all sorts of artful items for ones home or for ones self. I happen to know its owner for I taught piano to her children in years past.

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And here she is now.  This is Barbara Johnson, owner of Jewelry Art, and one of her able assistants.

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It’s fun to look through the shop admiring all the very lovely things for sale.  Beauty in all its many forms is delightful, even though we can’t take it all home with us.

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I love to study the gleaming silver

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and the crystal is so beautiful too.

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Alishan

but today I’m in the market for a ring, and not just any ring.  I’m interested in buying a certain ring I’ve had my eye on for years.  It was designed by this man, Alishan Halebian.  Alishan has a shop and studio in Irvine, California, but luckily for me, Barbara discovered Alishan and his art, so she carries his creations in her shop right here in my little town of Hudson.  

Alishan is a self-taught goldsmith who has become a master in his treatment of precious metals.  Years ago my husband gave me one of his rings and ever since then I have been a fan of his work.  I had discovered a companion piece for the ring I own and have patiently waited for just the right day and time to purchase it for myself.

Today is that day!

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Would you like to see my pretty new bauble?

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Notice the detail in this ring.  Alishan uses sophisticated techniques to create his works of art.  Barbara says its his Armenian heritage that brings the philosophies and cultures of east and west together, bursting into creative expression of style in his distinctive collection.   Like other Alishan admirers I appreciate his designs for their individual characteristics and emotions confronting line and form.

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It’ s not every Country Inn Shopping Day that I treat myself to such a very special gift, but if we’re to be our own best friend, then now and again treating ourselves to a very special indulgence seems like a good idea to me, especially if that item is lasting and can be passed on to others in future generations – after all, a thing of beauty is a joy forever and sharing doubles the joy.

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I met Alishan years ago when he was in Hudson for a trunk show at Jewelry Art.  He’s such a nice man.  Being a letter writer I plan to write him a nice letter thanking him for creating such beautiful art work. Every time I look at my new bauble I appreciate its graceful beauty and elegance and I feel happier.  Beauty does that to me.  If you want to contact Alishan you’ll find him at info@alishanonline.com

Well ,that was fun!  Where shall I go shopping next?

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I love to cook and bake so how about a little shopping at The Western Reserve Cooking School.  It’s right down the street from Jewelry Art.

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I step inside and look around.  There are all sorts of tempting kitchen items.  Here are just a few.

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All sorts of shiny pots, pans and cooking utensils

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Chef jackets in assorted colors

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perky dish towels

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and lots of French White serving pieces.

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Decisions, decisions.  But after talking to Lisa Ganley, the shop’s very nice saleslady, I decide to buy a ravioli form .  Lisa said she took a class here at the cooking school where she used this form to create wonderful homemade raviolis. Would you like to see this gizmo?  Ok.

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This is Granpa Dante’s invention.  He is a member of the Fante family of Philadelphia’s historic Italian Market. This family has poured years of experience into their signature line of Italian Cookware.  You might have heard of Great Aunt Gina’s Pasta Machine or Cousin Umberto’s Garlic Press.  Well,  I can’t wait to try out Granpa’ Dante’s ravioli maker.  I have a few very Italian friends and I’d love to impress them with  delicious homemade ravioli at one of my next Country Inn Dinner Party Days.

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I’m lucky to live so close to The Western Reserve Cooking School and one of these Country Inn Culture Days I’ll have to take a class or two.  They have Friday Night Date Night Table Dinners that might be a lot of fun.  You cook with your significant other and then dine right there along with a lot of other happy cookers.

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The Cooking School kitchen is very handsome and all sorts of celebrated cooks offer classes here.  How ’bout taking a class with Jared Bergen on Gnocchi, Risotto and Polenta or Baking French Bread with Kathy Lehr.  It might be interesting to sign up for the “Dining on the Great Wall Class”.  That class is all about Chinese Fusion.

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Lisa set me up with a Cooking School schedule and a sheet full of ravioli filling recipes that were taught at one of the last Italian cooking classes.  Now I’m all excited about donning my chef ‘s coat and cap and going to town with my new ravioli form.  Yum!

But first I have one more shop to visit.  Country Inn Shopping Day always features three shops.

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It’s time for some natural beauty so I head out to Suncrest Gardens.

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 Here I stroll around the greenhouse and take in the smells and sights of so many plants and flowers – all of them beautiful.  Some women love shoes.  I love plants and can never get enough of them.  Just look at some of the lovely growing things.

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There are lemon trees

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This gorgeous fruit has me singing the old Peter, Paul and Mary song, “Lemon Tree”.  Do you remember it?

Lemon Tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

But that’s not true. I eat lemons, don’t you?

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Have you ever heard of the Medinilla or “Rose Grape”?  I hadn’t, but it sure is a big and beautiful flower.  Take a look at its luscious pink blooms.

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Exotic, isn’t it?

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I loved the huge Oleander Tree.  All I can say about this specimen is  “That’s a big one”!

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And here are the luscious Oleander flowers.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

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The Monrovia oranges were pretty neat too.  Wouldn’t you love to grow oranges in your house?  They smell divine.

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I had a great time at Suncrest and part of the reason why I had such a nice time was that I met Trey, a really nice fellow who loves plants as much as I do.  He’s actually an oil painter, but anyone who loves art has to love the beauty of plants so he works here on the side. Suncrest hires the nicest people! I look forward to my visits here not only because I am refreshed by all the natural beauty I see, but also because  chatting with kindred spirits  like Trey, spirits who love nature as I do, is always great fun.  Trey’s  red shirt matched the begonia I decided to take home with me.  The two of them together are pretty enough to be the subject of one of Trey’s oil paintings.

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And once all my shopping fun is finished I return to my Country Inn, set my new red begonia on the table of my porch (in front of the  painting I whipped up.  I wonder if Trey would approve of it.) and I prepare to enjoy cocktail hour with one of the Inn’s guests and one of my “dead friends”, Oscar Wilde.

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Cocktails are served

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Oscar is now seated beside me on the porch sofa.

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And after a day of shopping and enjoying the material world I am now very happy to settle down with a man of literature, sipping my drink while listening to him expound on various subjects, including his personal adventures in life.

Country Inn Shopping Day will not return for a very long time, but I will return for another fun Country Inn Day in one week.  I hope you will join me then.  I do believe it will be a Country Inn Spa Day. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?  See you then.

I wonder if you enjoy Art Play

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I wonder …
Whether writing a post or a letter, I always start with a blank piece of paper and  a period of wonderment – What shall I write about today?  This sweet little Victorian boy seems to be wondering  too.

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Because I’m fortunate to have lots of various interests, it doesn’t take me long  to find things to write about in letters.  Do you have lots of interests too?  Years ago one of my  college professors gave me a little advice.  She said, “Develop many interests and cultivate them into passions. These passions will serve you well.  They will act as legs for you to stand on.  If one fails you, there will be others to support you.”  I never forgot that advice and I worked hard to cultivate my interests into passions.  I’m happy to say I succeeded, and you probably guessed by now that the Art of letter writing is a passion at the top of my list.

There are so many different aspects to letters.  Today let’s talk more about one of the artful aspects – Stationary.  I wonder if you have a favorite type of stationary.  Some people prefer to have a trademark paper which they use for all their letters.  I think that can be very nice indeed, but I like so many different papers, and in addition to what I can purchase, I really love to create a lot of my own stationary too.   It’s Art Play!

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 I hope the stationary I create amuses my letter friends half as much as it amuse me.  It’s important to  keep my eyes open everywhere I go in search of  materials to use for my stationary designs. The page of Victorian  children seen above was one of my  great finds.  It is one sheet of about 30 which I purchased at an antique shop. These old-time pictures are part of a series reproduced and called The Gretna Collection.  Historic images such as these are great fun to scan and use in creating letter papers and cards. Drawing  just a little background, or perhaps putting words in the mouths of the characters, creates a lot of fun for me and my letter friends… at least fun for me!

When I began writing letters years back I never thought of art play as part of letter writing fun, but one thing often leads to another and some of my creative pen friends put one, then two, then 200 ideas in my head, and now I’m off and running.

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I keep finding books that inspire art play. This book, “The Great Thumbprint Drawing Book” by Ed Emberley, gave me all sorts of ideas.  Sometimes  creativity  just needs a jump.

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Ed not only suggested all sorts of facial expressions for his thumbprints, but he also created a variety of thumbprint creatures.  What a riot!  I dreamed-up all sorts of ways to elaborate on his basic ideas, and if you get a copy of his book, you would too.

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In my last letter I was telling Amy in Pennsylvania about Ed’s thumbprint book

And this morning I wrote my friend Barbara in Rhode Island.  I  created  for her a type of letter gift.  I often speak of ‘the gift of a letter‘, so why not wrap the letter up with ribbon.  Then it really looks like the gift of a letter.

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I’ll decorate the outer packaging of the letter in various ways – with polka dots, abstract designs, or in this case, by cutting out little butterflies, chalking them, and letting them tumble out of the envelope when opened.  (Here’s a tip though:  If you’re making a seashore picture I wouldn’t use sand, for I tried that once when I lived in Boston and frequented the beaches there.  The sand  didn’t go over very well. My sister had just washed her kitchen floor, opened my envelope, and she had to wash part of her floor again.  Oops!)

But back to my letter gift… can you see how the letter is placed within the outer packaging  and then tied with a ribbon? I saw something similar in a card shop, but it cost a lot more money than my design, and besides the cost, buying that card would have deprived me of art play.

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I find materials for art play in all sorts of places.  The other day I was strolling around the  charming town of Chagrin Falls and I popped into a very fun shop.  Not only did I buy a wonderful music cd (Carla Bruni singing sexy Little French Songs), but I found the most delightful decorative papers.  There were at least 30 different designs and though temped to buy one of each I mustered up some self control and purchased only four.  Take a look!

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Pretty snazzy, huh?

Nothing like a day shopping where you’re not looking for anything in particular but things  just pop out at you.

When you have lots of interests and passions something is always popping up saying “Buy me!”  And that’s why I limit my outings and shopping trips, but because we’re living in the material world we’re bound to discover things which delight us, and a little delight now and then – or a lot – makes life all the sweeter.

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So, although the very best part of writing letters is the sharing of ideas, art play is  great  fun too.  If you’ve never tried it, if  you’re still typing black letters onto white paper with no color, design, or creative touches, it’s my opinion that you’re missing out on a lot of fun.

Maybe you’re having lots of fun, just different fun from me.  If that’s the case, do share! You know what I always say.

Sharing doubles the Joy