It’s another Country Inn “Stay at the Inn” Day

A view out the Inn’s window
Though the sun is shining and it’s warm today, all of 20 degrees, not the usual below zero temperatures we’ve had here lately, I will not be venturing out of the Inn yet again.  As Innkeeper I have to oversee the workmen who are finishing the floors here.

Equipment ready to go
The men will soon be arriving.  Their machines are already in place and these machines can be pretty noisy once turned on, but the sound is music to my ears for it means progress on the Inn’s addition.

A sitting room turned storage room

By my next Country Inn Day I expect the main new room of the Inn will be ready to receive furniture, the furniture which has yet to be delivered as well as the pieces which arrived earlier and have been crowding existing rooms of the Inn.  I’m so anxious to see everything in its right place as you can imagine for this project as been going on for quite some time.

Luckily some rooms here at the Inn have been undisturbed by all the construction so a Country Inn Day here can carry on very much as usual.

The busy kitchen

The Inn Cook has been working from early morning whipping up a nice breakfast treat, Cable Car Morning Muffins.  This recipe comes from a book called “San Francisco Entertains”.  The book was purchased on a Country Inn “Travel” Day when Cook dropped into  a William Sonoma store in San Francisco’s Union Square.

Cable Car Morning Muffins

These muffins give me, Inn Guest, a good healthy start to the day.  They are made of wheat flour, oats, ground flax, raisins, carrots, apples, pecans and blackberries, plus a half dozen other ingredients.

So once I have  a bit of nourishment I’m ready for a fun activity here at the Inn and my very favorite activity is letter writing.

The pleasure of a letter

On an ordinary day I’ll  write one letter with my first cup of coffee and another letter later in the afternoon, but on an Inn Day I can spurge. Today I write five “search letters” first thing.  As a member of The Letter Exchange (, a wonderful organization for letter writers, I regularly answer ads in the club’s magazine from people all around the world, people who seek correspondents and friendship.

I keep my postman busy sending out cards and letters daily.

 I call my letters of introduction  to these people my “search letters” because like Queen Isabella sending out ships in search of treasure, my “search letters” go forth seeking  out new pen friends who I treasure.  Letters from these pen friends arrive daily.    My post man picks up my letters and  delivers more  to my door. What fun!

William James, the 19th century American philosopher once said, “As long as there are postmen life will have zest”.  He was so right!

Sealing wax is used on every letter stamping a “C” initial at the end.

 The Art of Letter writing is not dead and gone as so many think.  It is alive, well, and quite delightful – art that is personal, expressive, creative and lasting.  It’s become my mission to spread the word concerning the pleasures of a letter.  Too many people are oblivious to this delightful art form.  I hope you’re not one of them.

Country Inn Day agenda

It’s so nice to step out of my regular routine one day a week and escape to a Country Inn Day. Here I’m free to do whatever the spirit moves me to do.  I think a little work sprinkled into a week is a very good thing because it helps us fully appreciate our free time. But too much work or even too much free time can be trouble. It’s the rich mix of work and play, just the right blend, that seems to do the trick, at least for me. How ’bout for you?

If you’re designing Inn Days of your own I suggest you start by creating a list of your favorite pleasures.  Simply creating this list can be great fun even before you partake in the activities.  I created a basic list but it is so long I never expect to fit all these pleasures into one  24 hour period so I choose just a few to enjoy each Country Inn Day. I could enjoy coffee or lunch out or perhaps fuss over a lovely afternoon tea. Some days it’s nice to have cocktails with a “dead friend”.  I just pull out a biography of some interesting person from the past and as I sit comfortably with my drink reading, I feel as if that person is with me, telling me their story.  They really are too.  They’re truly with me if only “in spirit”.

The Red Lion Inn dining room

I would love  to slip away to the dining room of my favorite Red Lion Inn for dinner each and every Country Inn Day, but since it’s about 500 miles away that’s not usually possible.  So the next best thing is to get busy as Innkeeper/ Cook creating a pleasant meal and table setting for two, or maybe more if I feel like entertaining. The creativity involved is fun.  Why have pretty things if we don’t use and share those things regularly? Country Inn Days give me the opportunity to use my nicest china, crystal and linen and the presentation is not only for me and any guests I might have.  I”ll photograph  the setting and then create photo note cards for my correspondence. In doing so I enjoy the fruits of my efforts over and over again and sharing doubles the joy.

One picture on a photo note is worth a thousand words

You don’t need to explain what you’ve been doing when you send a card with a picture like this one on its cover page.  Whether we dine by ourselves or with a host of others it’s fun to fuss a little now and then. We’re worth it, aren’t we?

Other of my basic Inn activities are the letter writing  which I already mentioned, time creating rituals for daily life, lovely spa activities, and all those other favorite things I like to do.  Making a list of our favorite things is fun.  Have you done that lately?  Oscar Hammerstein II wrote, “I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.”  But when I think of my favorite things, list them, and then make them happen,  I feel better then “not so bad”.  I feel GREAT!  On Country Inn Days favorite things are the main events, thinking about them, listing them, and then making them a reality.

Creating rituals is a wonderful Inn activity for as attention is paid to the details of ordinary tasks those tasks become much more enjoyable whether they’re done on Inn Days or on any ordinary day. Some of my favorite rituals relate to menu planning, reading, housework, letter writing and entertaining. Without a carefully thought-out ritual in place it’s sometimes hard for me to get started with even my most favorite activity, but once a ritual is designed that same activity becomes automatic and full of grace.

The boudoir

The bath is a great place to dream up rituals.  While  enjoying spa time the mind is free to be creative.  Why not use that time to think up ways to make every day more and more special?  No one is going to do the thinking for us.  It’s our job and a delightful job it can be.

Work and worry are sturdy weeds, but joy requires cultivation.

 A Country Inn Day is a day to not only stop and smell the roses. It’s also a day to cultivate joy.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.” — Charles W. Eliot (President of Harvard, 1869-1909)
I’ll leave you now for I have a date with Sara Ban Breathnach.  She has some ideas to share with me, ideas from her book “Romancing the Ordinary”. I’m hoping she’ll inspire more Country Inn Day pleasures and if she does, you can be sure I’ll share them with you because sharing doubles the joy. Yes it does.

See you next time at the Inn and till then

Live richly.

It’s a Country Inn Country Club Day

Lake Forest Country Club

I am not a golfer, but I’m glad my husband is because his love of golf inspired our membership to Lake Forest Country Club and this membership entitles me to enjoy the lovely clubhouse anytime I like. Because I love old world ways and old world architectural design I frequently escape to Lake Forest on my Country Inn Days.


Some people need to pack their bags and travel far away in order to escape from life’s usual routines, but not me.  With a little imagination (and Country Inn Days are built on imagination) I can escape without even leaving home or at least not leaving Hudson. My home becomes the  “Inn” of my Country Inn Days and sometimes I hibernate there, but other times I leave the Inn and enjoy little outings  to lovely places.  Lake Forest Country Club is one of those places. At this clubhouse  I have the feeling I’m checking into a fine hotel somewhere off and away, maybe in merry old England.


Because the architectural details in and around the club are so fine my imagination doesn’t have to work very hard in order to take me from ordinary to a romantic state of mind.  Lake Forest may not be Downton Abbey, but it’s the next best thing in Hudson.


I settle into a corner of the living room and order a glass of wine. Soon my luncheon companions will arrive.  You may wonder who these people will be. Well, this is where my excellent imagination does come into play. My companions at lunch today will be William Faulkner, the Nobel Prize winner in Literature, his son Dean Swift Faulkner, and William’s niece, Dean Faulkner Wells… oh, and here they are now.


I won’t need to talk much, if at all, for Dean Faulkner Wells is bursting with stories of the life she lived and the family she loved. She takes me back to the 1930’s and a place called Oxford which was a sleepy little one-horse town in the hills of North Mississippi. Dean’s stories are full of intimacies and cherished connections with her family members.


As I sip my wine and read “Every Day by the Sun”, Dean Faulkner Well’s  book, I exit Hudson to another place and time. Books, imagination and Country Inn Days are a winning combination to create a fun and most interesting getaway day…


and don’t forget delicious food either.  Food is yet another pleasurable ingredient adding to the delight of Country Inn Days, especially when that food is prepared and served to me with a smile.


When lunch is finished and my time with the Faulkners is over I stroll into the pub.  All is quiet in preparation for the evening activities.


The fire in the fireplace is warm and inviting and I’m in no particular hurry to leave it because a Country Inn Day is a gift of time I give myself, a gift allowing me to do as I please.  This luxury of free, unscheduled time is very therapeutic every now and then. We are so often bound to clocks and schedules.   A  free, unplanned and spontaneous day is a real treat. When we stop and smell the roses, get off our treadmill, not only does life seem sweeter,  we seem sweeter to all we meet.


I strike up a very interesting conversation with Mel, a long-time server here at the club.  She’s usually too busy to engage in conversation, but now is a perfect time to get to know her a little bit better.  She’s so nice.  I wish she wasn’t always working here or at home being a busy mother of three for I’d love to invite her to the Inn for tea.  I would assume the role of Innkeeper and turn the tables on her.  She would become the guest for a change and I would become her server.


After my nice chat with Mel it’s time to leave Lake Forest and return to the Inn.  My husband and I will be back here later this evening for dinner.  Only on a Country Inn Country Club Day would I indulge in two meals here in the same  day.  But today?  Why not?  I poke into the formal dining room on the way out. Such a pretty room.


The staff is busy preparing  for what’s to come.


Back at the Inn what’s to come is afternoon tea.  Ah, the pleasure of tea.  I enjoy this lovely ritual with Earl Grey and a home made butter cookie baked  in house by the Inn chef (me).


Inn guests have arrived and they’re waiting to talk to me.  They arrive in the form of personal letters – a whole stack of them. There’s Joy who comes from South Carolina, Michelle hails from Washington D.C., Amy from Pennsylvania, Candi from Minnesota and Maggie-Linn from Maine.


With my cup of tea,  a little imagination, and all these wonderful letter friends the party continues on this Inn Day.  Letter writers are never alone or lonely on Country Inn Days or on any other day – That’s because letter writers  just pick up a pen and write a friend making a connection any time day or night, or they go out to their mailbox and bring back plenty of letter friends for pleasant, old fashioned in depth conversations.  I hope you’re a letter writer.  If you are you know first hand the pleasure personal correspondence can add to life.


After I’m filled to the brim with socializing I pick up my knitting and spend a little time in solitude.  Knit one, purl one as the minutes pass slowly and peacefully. I must rest for the evening ahead. Country Inn Days are a rich mix of solitude and society.  They combine the work of Innkeeper, (me) Inn Maid, (me) and Inn chef, (also me), with imagination, relaxation, creativity and play.   We adults need play. “It is a happy talent to know how to play” so said Ralph Waldo Emerson.  We need play to keep our spirits youthful and happy.  I hope you schedule play into your life regularly.

 So till we meet again on another Country Inn Day.  Live well, prosper and play.


Love + Letters = Love Letters


A while back I attended a lecture at my Church given by a cardiologist and  professor from Notre Dame University in Indiana. This man had impressive credentials for sure, but the crowd hadn’t gathered to hear him speak because of his accomplishments in medicine and education.  We were all there because at one time this man had worked side by side with Mother Teresa, that tiny woman who possessed no fancy degrees or titles, only a great big loving heart and the desire to serve others.  He shared with us all sorts of stories about Mother Teresa.

After attending this lecture I found myself running into Mother Teresa everywhere I went – not in person of course, but in books and articles telling even more stories about her life and work.  Being a spiritual person myself, I figured  this had to mean something.  I decided Mother Teresa must be trying to get through to me because she knew I reach out to lots of people through my writing and she must have had a few ideas she wanted to share with me, ideas that I then would share with you.

Here’s one of those ideas.

images (3)stick figure of a person

“I do not agree with the big way of doing things.  What matters is the individual.  To get to love a person, we must come into close contact with them.  If we wait until we get the numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers and we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person.”

images (3) facebook
Photo Credit: Courtesy of HTSABO

“What do these words mean to you?  To me, an avid letter writer,  these words reinforce the value of writing letters one at a time to one person at a time.  There are ways to address many people at once – Facebook for one thing – and I like Facebook, but Facebook lacks intimacy, the sort of intimacy a personal letter offers. Without intimacy we can never get beyond superficial relationships and  to feel loved we need these deeper relationships.

Glaspalast_München_1883_146 depression

The news is filled with stories of human suffering.  People find themselves homeless because of war, natural disasters, or personal misfortune.  Others are in need of food and clothing.  They could be living across the world or in our own town.  We want to help all these people but without big bags of money it seems we can do so little.

But Mother Teresa reminds us that,

“Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth.  Nakedness is for human dignity, for respect.  Homelessness is not only for a home made of bricks.  Homelessness is being rejected, unloved, uncared for, having forgotten what is human touch.”


When we write a personal letter to show we care about a home-bound, elderly, or  sick person in the hospital, or to anyone lonely or grieving, we are helping to make the world a brighter place.  We are relieving suffering just a little bit.  We may not be able to do everything for everybody, but any little bit of kindness helps.  I’m sure Mother Teresa would agree.

Another idea Mother Teresa shared with me, an idea that I want to share with you, is that thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity.  Webster defines sanctity as holiness and saintliness so it follows that when we write a thoughtful letter to someone, but especially when we write to those who are suffering in some way, we are on our way to becoming saints, and don’t you want to become a saint?  I do.

images (3) heart

Just remember, all our words will be useless unless they come from within.  That’s not my advice.  It comes straight from Mother Teresa.  It’s important to be real when we speak to someone in person and when we write a letter as well.  We must look into ourselves and share our true spirit, our true feelings, our dreams, faith, hope and ideas.  All good letter writers reach deeply into themselves and share from this interior place.

My dear pen friend Vicki who hails from Iowa, puts it this way and I agree with her completely.

“My friendships through letters are often closer than those in person, for the process of writing seems to draw more private thoughts from a person.”

So, how do you love?  Are you trying to make a big splash by doing monumental things?  Well, good luck with that, but remember what worked for Mother Teresa.  Her one-to-one approach might not have allowed her to treat millions herself, but she certainly had an impact on the world.  By her actions she inspired others to carry on her work.

Mother teresa

Mother Teresa was only one very small person, and so am I, and so are you, but we just might be able to accomplish more than we think.  Her way was not in big things – but in small things done with great love.  That should be our way too.


That letter you are about to write could make a huge difference in someone’s life – and in your own as well.  Service to others can become quite addictive because it leaves us with such good feelings. That person we perk up can go on to perk up others, and a beautiful chain of events can be activated.  We may never know the full extent of what our kind letters have accomplished until we get to heaven, but once there we’ll know and we’ll have to look up Mother Teresa there and tell her how she inspired us – not to fuss writing big things, but rather humble little letters filled with great love.

Every day can be Valentines Day if we write love letters.

images (3) valentine

The Sacred Art of Letter Writing


Writing a letter is a physical, social, and intellectual activity, but did you realize it can also be a spiritual activity?  I didn’t until a friend sent me a book entitled “Secular Sanctity” .  This book, written by Howard Hayes, made me realize The Art of Letter Writing does not only have spiritual possibilities, it can actually become a ministry.

In his book, Hayes talks about all sorts of ordinary things that we do every day and he suggests if we can put a spiritual spin on these things they can be made holy. This idea was interesting to me, but because I’m an avid letter writer an even more interesting idea was presented in his chapter entitled ‘The Sacred Art of Letter Writing’. I always knew letter writing was an art, but a sacred art?  Hmmm…


In this chapter Hayes suggests writing a letter is far more than a relaxing physical activity in which we dabble in art play, choosing or creating our stationery and carefully penning our script.


Writing a letter is also far more than a social activity where we visit with existing friends and family while also meeting new people from around the world through pen pal organizations.


Writing a letter is even more than rich intellectual activity as we share facts and personal thoughts, writing them down for our pen friend to read, and for generations to read in the future (for as you know letters are quite lasting).

Letter writing can become quite the spiritual exercise as we reach out to others showing concern and interest in them.

Letter writing is such a rich activity – physical, social, intellectual fun all rolled up into one. I’m totally amazed most modern people don’t realize how rich an activity letter writing is.  Don’t they see it can be a complete treat? How many activities accomplish so much all at once?  And adding the spiritual implication too?  Now we really have something that’s truly worthwhile and even of everlasting significance!


Hayes suggests the writing and reading of letters can be a form of prayer.  Not only that, he ventures to say letters can be sacramental. After all, aren’t letters an essential part of Christian worship. the reading of epistles written by Paul, Peter and others?

Hayes reminds us that the New Testament of the Bible contains 21 letters, letters not essays, which were originally sent and read to early Christians, but now, all these years later, they are still being read to Christians in services all over the world.


Well, I’m one of those Christians, a person of faith who goes to Church regularly and hears those letters read week after week, but until I read “Secular Sanctity” I never related the letters I write to those letters written by saints of the Church.  I never realized what a great opportunity we all have to spread good news in every letter we write, good news in the form of faith, hope, and charity.

We sure hear a lot of bad news these days.  The media doesn’t seem interested in spreading good news of any kind.  All it reports is doom and gloom.  Television and movies aren’t much better.  Too many plots thrive on crime and other dark topics.  Gone are the days when sweet innocence is praised and moral wholesome entertainment is predominant.  Thank God for PBS!  It’s no wonder people aren’t beaming from ear to ear as they walk down the street. Too many dreary thoughts are floating around in their heads. Maybe if we all make an effort to write and send more positive letters filled with joy and love, letters that focus on beauty and goodness, we can help the citizens of our weary world feel more optimistic.

images (3)saint jogn the beloved

Writing positive, loving  letters is not only a good deed, but Hayes suggests these letters filled with goodness are also prayers, for as Saint John the Beloved wrote, “God is love”.  Therefore, Hayes deducts to send greetings of love, affection, and affirmation is to send God to one another.  To receive love through the mail is to receive a beautiful form of holy communion.  Wouldn’t you like to find your mailbox filled with love instead of junk mail?  It can happen if you write loving letters yourself for when you give good things come back to you.


So now, with the help of “Secular Sanctity”, I realize letter writing, as well as many other secular activities, can become holy activities if we inject these activities with a loving, hopeful spirit.  And infusing our letters with that beautiful spirit will transform the already beautiful Art of Letter Writing into an even more beautiful Sacred Art of Letter Writing.   As we and others make this effort we might just be able to help renew the face of the earth – one letter at a time.

Words, Words and more Words. What would we do without Words?


“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more or less.”

Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson), Through the Looking-Glass,  chapter 6, p. 205 (1934).  First published in 1872.

Words, beautiful words!  I love words, don’t you?  Big words, small words, familiar words, and those mysterious ones that  have to be looked up in the dictionary.  I think most people take words for granted, but not letter writers.  Letter writers love and honor words taking  great care with them.  Words, born in  thought, constructed with care placed onto paper so that they are not only legible, but also lovely to behold, preserved so they can be shared over and over again – these words are precious and highly valued by those of us who write letters.

Most people are talkers using words freely, but I wonder why all those talkers don’t also enjoy writing their words down as much as letter writers do.  What is it about writing that puts some people off?  Too much trouble?  Too permanent?  Too slow?  I wonder.


I suspect there are a lot of people out there who would love writing if they only gave it a try without a teacher standing over them criticizing every line.  Writing compositions for school must have their rules, and rules aren’t usually a lot of fun, but there are no rules in letter writing.  In letter writing it’s self expression and creativity that rules.  There is no right or wrong way to express our thoughts in a letter, only “our way”, and the more personal and creative we are the better.

I did my share of writing in high school and college, but my passion for writing did not come until much later, not until I discovered letters. Letter writing offered something special to me, the  chance to express myself freely.   I could write just as I pleased.  Nobody was grading me.  The more I wrote, the more I loved to write.   After a while, writing became a daily thing, and now it’s safe to say I’ve become an avid writer, an avid letter writer, writing letters every day.


Yet it’s funny; even when I was writing  ten or more letters a week  I didn’t  think of myself as a real writer, not until one day.  Here’s what happened.


I was writing letters in a coffee shop when a distinguished -looking gentleman walked in.  He carried a briefcase, smoked a pipe, and looked quite scholarly.  He settled in a corner and began to work at his writing.   I too continued writing in my own corner. After some time this man got up to get more coffee, but as he passed my table he paused, looked down at my papers, and asked, “Are you a writer too”?  I thought for a second, then quite delightedly responded, “Why yes, I am”!  And that’s the first time it hit me:  I was a writer! After all, one doesn’t have to be published in order to be a writer. To be a writer one simply must write, and that I do every day.  I know I’m not a Dickens or a Shakespeare, but I don’t try to be.  I can be a writer just like Me.

Of course if we’re to be understood a certain appreciation and understanding of grammar is important.  Ask my pen friend Markell.  Markell is not only one of my pen friends, but she holds a Masters degree in linguistics, teaches English as a second language, is a professional editor, and has an admitted obsession for writing down sentences demonstrating the structure and quirks of American language all for a manuscript she’s working on  called “Phrase Anatomy”.


It takes a certain amount of courage and gumption to write a person like Markell, but she is very sweet, uncritical, and she actually enjoys my sometimes peculiar sentence structure for she delights in quoting me for her grammar book using my phrases as examples of what not to do.  Does this bother me?  Not a bit.  Even if my high school and college English teachers read of my boo boo’s I care not, for I have better things to worry about than quirky grammar. If incorrect productive verb prefixes or any other grammar issue is preventing you from writing letters I say – “Don’t let those things stop you. Rules are made to be broken.”

Each pen friend you acquire will use words in different ways  and the more writers you meet the more you will see  there are all sorts of ways to write.  You will love words more and more and appreciate how beautifully they communicate.  Markell not only inspires me to improve my English language skills, but she also encourages me to study other languages.


Another pen friend, Bruce, encourages me and all his other correspondents to discover and embrace fine literature and he does this in a very interesting way.  Let me explain:  Back when my father died I was getting many letters of comfort and sympathy from all sorts of people, but one letter stood out.

The card

 The words of this letter arrived in a lovely card, but these words  were no ordinary words.  They were penned in a most elegant handwritten script and they read as follows:


“There should be no despair while nightly stars are burning.  While evening sheds its silent dew or sunshine gilds the morning.  There should be no despair though tears may flow like a river.  Are not the best beloved years around your heart forever?  You weep.  They weep.  It must be so.  Winds sigh as you are sighing and Winter pours its grief in snow, where Autumn leaves are lying.  They survive and from their fate your fate cannot be parted.  Then journey onward not elate, but never broken-hearted.”

I bet you wonder who writes like this in today’s world.  Well, not many people I’m sure, but this message was not composed by a modern day writer at all.  It was composed by Emily Bronte, the famous English novelist of the nineteenth century.

Emily Bronte

 Bruce signed Emily’s name to the card because though I’m sure she would’ve liked to sign the card herself that wasn’t possible since she’s dead and  gone –  gone, but not forgotten, especially with people like Bruce keeping her words alive and out there enriching people like me.

It was very kind of Bruce to think of me by sending a card for I certainly appreciated his concern for my feelings, but in addition to that, I was most impressed with the creative way in which he did it. I’m sure authors and poets hope their words will be remembered touching millions even long after they’re gone, and they will be remembered  if we who know and love literature share it in this most personal way.

Naturally after receiving the card from Emily I wanted to get to know her better.  I read her biography and went out of my way to read more of her words.  I got to know her sisters too.  Now, the Brontes are some of my favorite “dead friends” and getting to know them helped me through a rough time in my life.  They had their share of pain and suffering too.  We’re all in this thing called life together and sharing not only doubles the joy, it also divides the sorrow.

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Perhaps you love words, language, literature, and sharing.  Perhaps you are already a writer.  Perhaps you are already a writer of letters, but if you’re not, perhaps it’s time you become one.  Share the good things in your life – your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your ideas, your favorite things.  By sharing, especially in writing, your words will be lasting, words that can help make  the world a brighter, more intelligent, thought-filled, articulate place.

The world of ideas expressed in words


“Great minds discuss ideas, Average minds discuss events, Small  minds discuss people.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

A Note to Fellow Letter Writers


By now you know one of my favorite lines is “sharing doubles the joy and divides the sorrow” and writing letters is a great way to share.  If you’re like me, and I think you are, experiencing something beautiful, amusing, surprising, amazing, or enjoyable, almost anything at all, makes you want to share it with someone else.


Sharing definitely doubles the pleasure.  Think back to the last interesting thing that happened in your life.  What did you do with it?  Did you sit back quietly and think about it all by yourself or did you reach out to share that news, that surprise, that blessing with another?

Whether you just got a great new job, a snazzy new apartment or a fabulous idea it’s my guess sharing with someone made that joy even better.  Even if you just had a great day, isn’t it fun to tell someone what you did and why it hit the spot?


Of course life isn’t all rainbows and roses.  Sometimes we get bad news.  Sometimes we have trials and tribulations, but at these times too, sharing serves a purpose.  We let off steam or relieve anguish as we express our feelings to understanding and supportive ears. Once our news is shared with caring people support and encouragement starts coming our way.  But even without support and encouragement we feel better just getting the feelings out.

Having a great group of  letter friends guarantees companionship 24/7.  We may not be able to reach people by telephone or run over to their house for a chat, but we can always pick up a pen and pour our thoughts out onto paper for our letter friend to read. We don’t always need an instant reply.


Writing and receiving letters has brought me so much delight over the years.  I could just keep writing and enjoying The Art of Letter Writing keeping the fun all to myself, not caring who might be missing out on the pleasure.  And I know a lot of people are missing out because I’m always hearing folks say “Nobody writes letters anymore.” They’re wrong of course.  If only they knew, but how could they know?  People who are writing letters seldom make a big deal about it, talking up their fun.  Do you?

There aren’t commercials on television or in magazines promoting letter writing.  We see only ads for the latest technological invention.  You may have noticed when things are out of sight they are often out of mind too, even wonderful things like handwritten letters, but a person just has to receive such a letter and they begin to see how special personal correspondence is.


If you are a letter writer as I think you are or you wouldn’t be reading this, I urge you to share your joy wherever and whenever you’re talking to people.  I enjoy this sharing all the time and not only does it awaken folks to the almost lost Art of Letter Writing, but I often pick up  new letter friends in the process.

So as you proceed happily forward enjoying your correspondences be kind and think about the many people who as yet have not discovered The Art of Letter Writing or who have forgotten all about it.  If you ever wondered how you could make the world a better, happier place here’s your chance.  Spread the word about the pleasure of a letter .


Some people cure cancer, others feed the hungry, but you can do a lot of good simply by sharing your joy, igniting joy in others.  If your efforts only make one other person happy through letter writing that would be one more happy person in the world.  But then they will share their joy and on and on the joy will go.

Join me letter writers everywhere in becoming letter writing advocates.  All good causes need advocates and The Art of Letter Writing needs you!  And your reward for sharing is an increase in joy for yourself because…

Sharing doubles the Joy!


It’s a Country Inn Day – Nature Day!


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Come this way!


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

Sharing Doubles the Joy

Letter writing increases our interest in life


I love browsing in bookstores.  Do you?  To stroll their aisles picking up books on favorite subjects, scanning their pages, well, that’s my kind of fun. And I’ve noticed with the passage of time more and more types of books are appealing to me.  I think this is partly due to the great variety of people I come to know through The Art of Letter Writing. Let me explain with one example.

images (1)

On my last bookstore visit I stumbled upon a book about Hawaii.  Though I had never been interested in Hawaii before, on this day I paused, picked the book up, and took great delight looking through its pages.  Why this interest in Hawaii now?   For years when friends would announce their travel plans to the Hawaiian islands I could not get excited for them and I certainly had no desire to ever visit Hawaii myself. Was it the long flight that didn’t appeal to me?  No, that wasn’t it.   Long flights never stopped me from traveling to Italy, France or Spain.


Perhaps I was just not an island person, but yet I was crazy about Bermuda. Ah Bermuda,  its formality and English influence, its tea houses serving crumpets and scones with Devonshire cream, its men dressed  in sports coats, ties and those cute Bermuda shorts.  Oo la la!

I couldn’t put my finger on it, but Hawaii just never appealed to me, that is up until I met a Hawaiian native who became a pen friend.  She changed everything.  Because of her I learned a lot about the Hawaiin islands and I began to appreciate them so that now when I see a book about Hawaii I stop and take notice. After all, maybe the book will contain pictures of something my friend had mentioned in one of her letters.

I met my Hawaiian pen friend through The Letter Exchange,  the letter writier’s organization that continually connects me to interesting people from all around the world.


My Hawaiian pen friend is called Primasita, Sita for short.  She was born, raised, and still lives in Honolulu.  As I get to know her and learn more and more  about her homeland  I find myself becoming more and more interested in Hawaii.  After all, you can’t love what you don’t know and I admit to have known little if anything about Hawaii before Sita came into my life, but as I’m getting to know Hawaii more and more I’m really starting to like her.


With pen friends living here, there, and everywhere, that big world of ours becomes a friendly neighborhood.  Our correspondents become not only good friends, but also fine teachers and ambassadors for their homeland  We become ambassadors for our homeland too..

Let me tell you a little about Primasita.  She’s a senior logistics manager in the Pacific for The United States Army.  It is her responsibility to see that soldiers are supplied with food, clothing, and am-munitions as well as keeping their supplies in good repair.  Her area of responsibility spans from Korea and Japan to Alaska.  Now that’s a big job!

imagesarmy logistic

I don’t meet many, actually any Hawaiian senior army managers, so you can see why knowing someone like Primasita is very interesting to me.  Her world is so different from mine, and since we have only one life to lead, knowing lots of people sharing very different lives helps us experience much more of life.

In the months we’ve been corresponding I’ve learned many things about Primasita, her army work, and Hawaii.  Did you know Hawaii is a missionary state and therefore no gambling is allowed there, not even bingo?  Primasita says Hawaiians interested in gambling flock to Las Vegas.

I learned that Hawaiians adopted the Oriental custom of removing their shoes before entering someone’s home; that Boys and Girls Day is celebrated in Hawaii just as it is celebrated in Japan.  I learned so many things from Primasita.  Did you know that Chinese New Year in Hawaii looks like Chinese New Year in Shanghai or Peking, how on that day you see people wearing red everywhere on the island. Fireworks used to light up the Hawaiian sky on Chinese New Year, though recently those fireworks have been banned.  I wonder why.  I’ll have to ask Primasita.

imageshawaii festival

Letters taught me there are lots of Hawaiian holidays.  Did you know that? There’s the two – week – long September celebration of the ancient “Makahiki” festival.  It’s called “aloha Week”, and a King and Queen of Hawaiian ancestry are selected.  There is a parade with eight Ra’u riders, each wearing yellow, the island color, with leis around their necks, leis composed of the colors and flowers of all the major islands.  Of course Sita sent me pictures of this parade because all letter writers know one picture is worth a thousand words.

pele1 goddess

Through my correspondence with Sita I learned all about the Volcano Goddess, a native spirit.  Tourists laugh and call natives superstitious, but Sita swears that she encountered this Goddess on the Big island of Hawaii.

Puu_Oo_cropped volcano

Sita said the Goddess appeared in a photograph above her head as she was looking over the Halema’uma Crater at Volcano National Park.  Legend has it that the Goddess appears before an eruption, so Sita was getting “chicken skin” (that’s the Hawaiian version of goose bumps) just thinking about this.

images (2) beach picture
Waikiki Beach

Most of us imagine Hawaii to be a blissful, heavenly place, but I was told it has its problems too.  I was surprised to learn that Waikiki Beach has a huge influx of homeless people with mental issues.  Sita says these people are not Hawaiians.  Locals think that other cities such as San Francisco send these people to Hawaii with a one-way ticket.

As you can see, Primasita’s letters are filled with information, information I find very interesting.  She is teaching me so much about Hawaii.  I might have been able to learn some of these things from books, but without knowing someone in Hawaii firsthand such books never reached out to me. Now, knowing Sita, they do.

Are letters intellectual?  You bet they are!  Pen friends make learning fun as they share their worlds with one another.  Pen friends help us cultivate curiosity for subjects we might never encounter any other way.  To know a great many people with diverse backgrounds, living in faraway places, can only help us become more tolerant and appreciative of other cultures.

The “Intellectual Development ” statue by Hermon Atkins MacNeil

I enjoy having lots of letter friends like Primasita.  I hope you do too.  We are told to love our neighbor, but we can’t love who we don’t know.  We also can’t love a world we haven’t encountered.  Join The Letter Exchange ( and discover the world through the eyes of your pen friends.  The process is fun, friendly, and can be quite an intellectual experience.

“We are all connected in the great circle of life.”                                                                                                        Mufasa, The Lion King

“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.”                                                                 Woodrow Wilson

Letters will tickle you intellectually


Does this place look familiar to you?  Can you guess where it might be? Well, let me tell you.  It’s Delft, a city and municipality in the province of South Holland, in the Netherlands.  I have not had the pleasure of visiting Delft myself, not yet anyway, but my dear letter friend, James, spent some time there a while back and because he’s a kind and generous soul he shared his trip with me via letter and he bought me a little present from this charming, old city too.


James bought me this beautiful tea cup.  He stopped at a porcelain factory and chose this lovely hand-cast, hand-painted creation just for me.  Can you imagine my delight when this beautiful object appeared in my mailbox along with the following letter?


James wrote:

Dear Carol Ann,

Since you are so fond of the tea ceremony, and you are so kind as to include me on occasion, I thought that this would be the perfect gift for you.  It is a hand-cast, hand-painted tea cup from a porcelain factory in Delft that has been making them since the 1600’s.  I bought it for you at the factory when I was in Holland.

I would be quite honored if you might use it to make yourself a cup of your favorite tea when you read my letters once in a while.  Or perhaps you can put out an extra place setting with it when you invite your friends over for tea.  Nobody has to know why it’s there, and that way I can be there with you in spirit.

I am so honored to be included in the special brilliant world of your imagination.  God bless you, Carol Ann.

Love,  James

How would you feel if you received such a letter and gift?  Well, I felt wonderful!  Finding any personal letter in our mailbox is a delight and finding excellent letters from special friends is even better, but discovering exquisite presents sent in friendship along with very kinds words… well, this is pure bliss.

I hope you have wonderful pen friends like James.  Such pen friends inspire us to live richly.  They validate our worth by their caring.  They inspire us with the sharing of their interesting activities and appreciations.  They entertain us with their stories and they teach us things too, all sorts of things.

Oh yes, James is always teaching me things.  He taught me to appreciate a simple pencil like I never appreciated it before. Do you think of the pencil as your friend?  I bet you never gave pencils much thought.  I sure didn’t, that is until I got this letter from James in which he extolled its merits.   Let me share what he had to say.


“Carol Ann, do you think it is a breach of etiquette to write a letter in pencil?  I really LIKE to write in pencil.  Let me tell you what I have learned about the pencil!  For one,  pencil writing lasts much, much longer than pen writing.  It’s true!  I learned that when I started working in the archives department in the museum. (That’s the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.)  Archivists mark everything in pencil because it is more permanent.  Also,  it is more likely that I will draw you something because I don’t have to put down a pen and pick up a pencil.  So how’s that for a deal?  If you will tolerate my pencil writing, I will draw you more pictures in my letters.  How’s that?”

Letter writers often teach us things because they are interesting people interested in lots and lots of things. Most letter writers are avid readers. When moved by the ideas encountered in a book most letter writers are eager to share those ideas.  Why?  You know.  Sharing doubles their joy.  I often write letters in my home library.  There I can easily jump up, find the book I’m currently reading, and share a passage with my letter friend.  I can enjoy this sharing any time of day or night too, and this is a real perk, for after all, you can’t always get a friend on the phone when you want to share or pop over to their house whenever the sharing mood strikes, but with letter writing sharing is possible 24/7.

And if you happen to write to artists like my friend James you’ll delight in receiving illustrated letters.


Just imagine finding drawings like this one scattered through the letters you receive.  How would such drawings make you feel?  They make me feel treasured.  Now don’t get the wrong idea.  My letters to and from James contain no hanky-panky.  James knows I’m a married woman not interested in anything beyond pure and honorable friendship.  I often read his letters to my husband who approves of this and all my letter relationships.  The above illustration simply captures the joy a letter writer experiences when an interesting person and skilled writer becomes a new pen friend.

Naturally the best correspondents are kind and good people who have something to share and are skilled in expressing themselves in words and/or pictures, but remember, practice makes improvement.  If however you feel you really have nothing to share, it could be time to explore some new interests.

Letter friends will provide us with lots of ideas that spark imagination and increase our zest for life as they share their adventures and favorite things with us.


Here’s another fun example of sharing from James.  When he was planning a trip to Belgium, all excited to be leading  a tour of the Flemish and Dutch masters, he inspired me to visit my local museum so I too could view art from this period and place.  That’s how the power of suggestion works in letters.


And what’s this?  It’s a Belgium waffle.  James said it was the only item he could think of to appropriately decorate the stationery for his letter about his upcoming trip, and yes, seeing his drawing prompted me to dig out my waffle maker and experiment with some recipes.

Letters will be as intellectual as you and your letter friends are.  They will help you think about new and different things.  Letters will help you grow. They will provide a vehicle for reflection and sharing.  Many of my elderly correspondents are thrilled to relive their life stories in letters, sharing those stories with new and  interested ears, but no matter how old or young we are, sharing in letters doubles our joy, and, if we can’t get out often, or even if we can, letters offer great opportunities for stimulating interaction.

Though the physical and social aspects of letter writing are delightful, the intellectual aspect of letter writing is equally delightful and equally responsible for making this art form a Complete Treat!  You may already know this, but if not, you’ll see as you write more letters and collect more interesting pen friends, friends like James.

So what are you waiting for?  Write a letter!

One picture in Letter Writing is worth a thousand words

10468671223_2692439251_ogirl taking picture

If you like to write letters and you also like to take pictures you have probably already discovered the fun of putting these two activities together, but just in case you haven’t, I’d like to share a few thoughts and pictures on this subject with you.

I have found that a delightful synergy exists when two or more favorite activities are put together into one, creating what I like to call a ‘Super Activity’.  I discovered this ‘Super Activity’ principle quite by accident years ago when I was enjoying one of my Country Inn Days.

What is a Country Inn Day?  It is a play day, a day when I give myself permission to escape from every day life.  On these days I enjoy adventures, dream dreams, host teas and dinner parties, and use my imagination to play.  I also like to share these Inn Days with pen friends by describing my fun in letters a few days later. Why bother sharing Country Inn Days?  It’s because sharing doubles the joy.  It really does!

So on that Country Inn Day long ago, as I was playing the part of Innkeeper/Host, preparing an afternoon tea for guests at my 1853 home, my Inn of Imagination,  I was thinking of one particular far-away friend who could not attend.  How I wanted to share the event with her, but how?  Well, at times like this it always helps to find my creative thinking cap, put it on, and with its help solutions do appear. In this case, I realized my friend could enjoy tea with me in spirit if not in body if I simply took pictures all along the way and relived the tea experience with her later via letter.


So that’s exactly what I did.  I took pictures of the food preparation, the food presentation, the room setting, the guests – all the details of afternoon tea that day, and in sharing the pictures and descriptions later, I not only enjoyed the actual tea, but I was able to relive the experience all over again with my letter friend.

And because I have digital pictures of my tea,  I not only can relive the experience with one friend, I can share the event over and over and over with lots of friends – old and new. I don’t know about you, but if I’ve done a lot of work creating something, I like to hold on to that creation. With photography my creations stay with me in a very real way forever and  ever, and I, like any artist, perhaps like you, appreciate this fact.

So ever since that Country Inn Day long ago I send postcards and letters out regularly and I make this correspondence especially personal and descriptive by including photographs.  This sharing has become one of my daily rituals and though you may think sending a post card out each day isn’t much, I assure you it is. First of all, it lets my friends know I’m thinking of them and secondly, the picture on the post card will communicate much, for you know what they say – a picture is worth a thousand words.

Be it a Country Inn Day with a tea party, an outing, a holiday, or any ordinary day spent around the house and garden, taking pictures will preserve the moment and allow us to share that moment with others.

Here’s  sharing a few pictorial moments with you.

Decorating the house for Autumn

Enjoying a Country Inn Day in a charming town
A picnic with some friends
Relaxing around the house
An invitation to tea
A favorite Bed and Breakfast getaway spot
Hanging out with “The Three Kings” around Christmas
Time spent with animal friends in nature

Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “The world is so full of a number of things I think we should all be as happy as kings.”  Well, I agree, don’t you? Sharing these wonderful things by capturing them in photographs and wisking them off to friends in the form of post cards or letters can become a most wonderful thing in itself—

For as we focus our attention, and then our camera, on the good things that are all around us, we better appreciate the great gift of life we are all given. Then, by sharing this joy and appreciation with friends through pictures in post cards and letters, we not only double our own joy, but we awaken our friends to the wonders and beauty around them too. We all get so busy.  We forget to stop, smell the roses, and focus on the good around us.

So get a camera, take some pictures and share.

It’s fun!

It’s A Super Activity!

Try it

You’ll see