About brandib1977

I'm a single gal living in rural Appalachia. I have a job that keeps me busy and a to-do list so long I'll never see the end. Adventures- both big and small- are an important part of my life. Since I don’t even have a houseplant depending on me right now, I’m free to do basically whatever I please. This blog tells some of those stories. Life is pretty darn good!

Holiday Lights At National Trail Raceway

After years of meaning to visit the drive-thru Christmas light show at National Trail Raceway, I finally did it this week. I loaded up my parents and an aunt to go check out this much hyped holiday event about 30 minutes north of Lancaster on Tuesday.

The bad news is that I learned after buying the ticket that it’s a new operator and the lights aren’t nearly as good this year. The good news is that we had nothing to compare it to and had a great time anyway.

I’m not a fan of crowds so we chose to visit on a non-peak day and to book an early time slot in the 5:30-6:30 hour when it wouldn’t be too busy. Consequently, there were just a handful of other cars and I didn’t even have anyone behind me until the very end.

If you go, it’s $20 for a carload Monday through Thursday and $30 Friday through Sunday. They have some snacks for sale like cookies and hot chocolate and their event radio station plays an excellent variety of new and old Christmas music.

I was driving so the pictures are poor but you can get the gist. If you go, you must buy your ticket online here.

Do you have a favorite place to see Christmas lights? I would love to hear about it! Here’s something I wrote about Gallipolis in Lights last year. I’m looking forward to heading that way again soon!

Boop-Boop-A-Doop

Once in a while you learn something random that completely changes your view of someone. Today’s case involves someone I’ve never met but who is quite familiar to me in three different ways that I never knew were related.

Stick with me for a few minutes.

If you’re like me, you have seen the holiday favorite National Lanpoon’s Christmas Vacation at least once a year since it was made. Do you recall Aunt Bethany? She was the elderly aunt with the failing memory who wrapped up her cat as a gift. Click here to view a quick clip to refresh your memory.

The actress who portrayed this beloved character was named Mae Questel, a former Vaudeville performer whose career spanned 67 years beginning in 1930.

Her most notable work was actually providing voices for some of America’s most popular characters of the 1930s including Betty Boop and Olive Oyl in the Popeye cartoons.

In fact, she voiced Betty from 1931 to 1939 in 150 animated shorts. This was the longest run for any actress voicing this role. She reprised that role decades later for the 1988 box office hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Her role as Olive Oyl lasted for a total of twenty years. Sadly, when Hannah-Barbera began making the New Popeye cartoons in 1978 she auditioned for the role but they gave it to someone else.

Many people may also remember her for making the rounds on television soap operas and panel shows, for some commercials and for a number of other voice and on-film roles.

Pretty cool, right?

Mae Questel gave us three iconic characters, making a memorable mark on pop culture. She died in 1998 at the age of 89 from complications related to Alzheimer’s Disease.

The photo above is a Betty Boop statue outside a pawn shop in Denver.

Wheatberry Books

There’s a shortage of bookstores in southern Ohio but I’m fortunate to have an excellent independent bookseller in a neighboring town. Wheatberry Books is a cute shop in downtown Chillicothe. For what it lacks in size, it makes up for in character and charm.

It’s also packed with excellent books.

I don’t allow myself to visit very often because I’m supposed to be reading the books I already own.

(Insert eye roll here)

However, I pop in periodically because I think it’s important to support the businesses you want to see thrive.

Their selection resembles my own book collection in many ways with a mixture of bestsellers and sleepers alike. There are always fun surprises to be found and their staff picks are typically spot on.

Right now, they are offering mystery books- wrapped books underneath the tree with a brief explanation as to why you might like the book! Plus they have story time for the kiddos and knowledgeable, friendly staff to help with your needs.

I stopped by a couple of weeks ago and was thrilled to have a few minutes of quiet with their books and the soft light of a November morning pouring through the large window that faces Second Street. For me, book shopping is about the atmosphere as well as the books. This place has it all.

I realized when I sat down to write this that I have not one decent picture of the store. This is likely because I’m too distracted by all the books to think about pictures so you’ll have to take my word for it. The atmosphere is fantastic.

Stop by Wheatberry Books and give them a chance. In fact, make a day of it and hit some other shops, dine in one of the restaurants and pick up homemade candy and baked goods. You’ll need a midnight snack for when you’re up late reading!

Visit them here and follow them on Instagram or Facebook to keep up with their news.

An Orangery Metaphor

The Denver Botanic Garden uses an orangery to weather tender plants through the winter. Here you’ll find small orange trees, succulents and all manner of plants in a type of greenhouse. Some things look strong and healthy while others look half dead.

The common thread is that they will all pull through the winter and be moved back outside to thrive on more friendly days next year.

I have a bad cold that I’m desperately trying to prevent from becoming a sinus infection. It started on Thanksgiving and I just feel cruddy. I also got my Covid booster on Saturday and had some minor side effects from that on Sunday morning. In other words, I’m cruddy and tired and feel half dead like some of those plants.

Luckily, it is just a cold and I’ve been able to rest and drink lots of fluids and eat fresh citrus for the last few days. Things will be better soon if I continue to focus on self care.

This is something we humans aren’t very good at doing sometimes. Yet there’s no replacement for rest and genuine self care when we are under the weather. Society teaches us to buck up, to power through and to fake it till you make it. If you are unwell, that is garbage advice.

Rest. Hydrate. Nourish your body.

This is how you bounce back better than ever. You owe yourself that. Your body and mind deserve that much. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to ignore your body’s pleas for help.

Stay With History: The Stanley Hotel

No trip to Estes Park, Colorado is complete without a stop at the town’s most famous hotel. The Stanley Hotel has a fascinating history and is reputedly haunted but it’s most famous for inspiring the Stephen King bestseller The Shining.

They offer a guided tour for a few dollars but we opted to just nose around a bit on our own. The tour offers stories as well as a look at areas of the hotel that are not public. However, you are permitted to independently explore the lobby and a nice museum area downstairs so you can get the gist if you don’t have time for a tour.

The hotel was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley – they called him F.O. – in the early twentieth century.

F.O. had invented a steam powered horseless carriage called the Stanley Steam Engine.

He and his wife Flora traveled west to Colorado in 1903 when his doctor prescribed fresh air to treat his tuberculosis. The doctor arranged for the couple to stay in a friend’s cabin in Estes Park and advised F.O. not to make any plans past six months.

That fresh mountain air must have been good for him because his health began to improve, prompting the couple to build their own home. That house still stands about 1.5 miles from the Stanley and remains a private residence.

As much as the couple loved the beauty and benefits of the area, they were accustomed to the culture and refinements of the east coast and craved something more. So they set out to build a luxury destination that would rival any of the fancy hotels back East and entice the wealthy into the mountains.

Construction on the Stanley began in 1906 and was finished in 1909 with no expense spared. Built in the Georgian architectural style, it was equipped with all modern conveniences including running water, electricity, telephones and en suite bathrooms. It wasn’t heated at the time because it was designed to be a summer resort destination.

Guests had at their disposal a fleet of vehicles, uniformed staff and any number of activities to keep them entertained. It is said that the town grew and flourished because of this hotel.

It has hosted many famous people over the years including Teddy Roosevelt, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, Bob Dylan and John Phillip Sousa. Remember Radar O’Reilly from the tv show MASH? The actor who immortalized this role was Gary Burghoff. He stayed there and they have a picture of him playing the concert piano in the ballroom.

Sadly, the hotel was in decline by the seventies and it seemed destined for the wrecking ball when a young author came knocking. Stephen King spent a single night in Suite 217 in 1974.

He and wife Tabitha actually arrived as the hotel was closing down for the season so they mostly had the hotel to themselves. He was inspired by the grandness of it all, the remote location and by the eerie emptiness. They ate alone in the dining room, accompanied by canned orchestral music that drifted down long, empty corridors.

By the time they left, he had created the bones of The Shining which was published three years later and was set at the fictional Overlook Hotel. Twenty years later, the Stanley would serve as backdrop for the tv mini series version of The Shining.

It was also used in the movie Dumb and Dumber.

Today, it has been painstakingly restored to its former glory and has been expanded to offer different kinds of accommodations, spa services, events and dining experiences. At an average of $450 a night, it was beyond our accommodations budget but we did enjoy nosing around and taking it all in.

The view from here is spectacular and I imagine that a stay would be a splendid retreat. It would be a fun place to celebrate a special occasion too. Learn more about the Stanley at their website!

Claire’s Restaurant and Bar

Lunch in Estes Park was at a cute place called Claire’s Restaurant and Bar. We randomly selected it because their online menu included a few vegetarian options but, random or not, it was a superb choice.

They offer soups, salads and wraps along with pasta, steaks and all matter of other dishes meaning there’s literally something for everyone. I had an Impossible Burger with fries and a great salad. Everything seemed fresh and thoughtfully presented. Plus, the menu changes seasonally so there’s always opportunity to discover something new.

This family business is cozy inside with outdoor seating for fair days. Stained glass over our table provided unexpected joy.

I would absolutely go back if ever given the choice. Want to know more? Click here!