Happiness Is…

Happiness is when your parents read your blog and give you something that brings back good memories. They saw the post about bulk candy at Fout’s Store and, while that store is long gone, they knew someplace else to go.

They went to Newman’s Grocery in Wellston, a family owned store that’s been in business since 1929. My folks were excited to present me with two small brown paper sacks of candy – chocolate covered peanuts and little chocolate stars!

They’re certainly not on the vegan diet but I do not care. I’ll ration and savor them and appreciate the fact I’m revisiting my childhood each time I open one of those little bags.

Good things really do come in small packages!

Santa, a Biplane, and Something To Be Excited About

Little kids like planes so I was pretty excited to hear that my barnstorming friend Dewey was helping with something special for kids in his community this Christmas. You see, he picked up Santa and gave him a lift to the airport in Springfield, Ohio on Sunday.

Santa and his elf spent that afternoon visiting with youngsters and learning their fondest Christmas wishes.

While Santa was tucked away with a line of kids in a warm airport terminal, Dewey was outside visiting with the kiddos and their parents. He fitted them all with aviator caps and goggles before lifting them up into the plane for photos.

Despite the cold, biting wind you only experience in western Ohio’s flat farmland (I’m from the hills where the wind can’t get up that much speed), groups of kids and adults came trooping outside for their turn with his 90 year old open air cockpit biplane.

I swear that many of them were just as excited to see the biplane as they were to meet Santa. The pilot seemed equally thrilled to give people the opportunity and to talk about the lost art of barnstorming.

He’s good with people and you can tell that there’s little he loves more than sharing his passion with others. It was fun to watch and I was happy to play a very small part that day.

A piece of me wishes I had something to be so excited about. I’m enthusiastic about lots of things and interested in almost any topic but there’s never been one thing that captured my enthusiasm so dramatically. Although, if I did something so cool as barnstorming in a fabulous old biplane, I might be singing a different tune.

Here’s a thought for today. If you have kiddos and you see a spark in them, you see that they’re excited about something, try nurturing that spark. Encourage them to learn and grow with that thing they love so much. It could turn into a career or maybe just a lifelong hobby. Either way, I’m guessing they’ll be happier than the rest of us who just bounce around from interest to interest.

And if Santa is coming to an airport near you, friends, go see him. There’s nothing cooler than seeing Santa climb out of an airplane.

Mickey and Minnie

I spent part of Saturday wandering around the Christmas festivities in Lebanon, Ohio. I’ll tell you about their horse parade soon but thought you’d enjoy this picture today!

It was taken outside a local barbershop that was once a filling station called A Man’s Place.

Scout and the Christmas Tree

Having a rambunctious little cat has changed my life in ways I cannot begin to describe. But one thing I can describe is how it has changed Christmas. Years past saw a tree in nearly every room but that won’t be happening with an eight month old kitten.

He’s a good little cat and doesn’t get into a lot. Yet he’s still a kitten and all those fun things hanging off it would be tempting.

I plotted for weeks to design a tree situation he couldn’t knock down while climbing and swinging. Just when I thought I was ready for anything, he threw a curveball.

Turns out, he’s not interested in climbing so much as chewing on the pine.

He loves to chew on artificial pine. While it seems that he’s just chewing and not eating it, I don’t trust that he won’t try. And this is a chance I’m not prepared to take.

So there’s just one tree in my house this year (behind a closed door) and it’s devoted to my adventures. It’s my travel tree. I wrote all about it last year but, in a nut shell, I collect ornaments from my adventures. Each ornament is hung with a postcard that relates a trip memory.

Most of my ornaments aren’t real Christmas ornaments and I like it that way. There’s a stuffed jackalope bank from Douglas, Wyoming and a small metal airplane to mark my first biplane ride this year.

There’s a vintage snowman found at an Indiana antique store during last year’s antiquing adventures across the National Road. I even have a pennant from the Ernest Tubb Record Store in Nashville and a small handmade quilted piece from Ocracoke Island.

The list goes on and on and each ornament evokes countless memories – both happy and bittersweet. One new ornament represents the daily adventure of having Scout in my life.

The tree is now up and Scout gets supervised playtime in that room. So far he has only tried to chew and has batted at a couple of low hanging ornaments. I’m hoping he will outgrow that chewing thing and that next Christmas will be back to normal.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, Click here to read last year’s description of the travel tree. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to start a new tradition of your own!

Wishing For Candy From Fout’s Store

Fout's Store

Rural areas across the country are dotted with tiny towns that exist only in name if not in reality. In fact, most of them don’t even make the map anymore including a little place called Stella which isn’t far from my home. All that’s left today is a church and an old general store that was shuttered when I was young.

It opened in 1887 and changed hands some over the years. When I was small, it was owned by Shag and Helen Fout, an elderly couple who had run the place since the late sixties.

I don’t remember much about the interior anymore and would absolutely love to see inside again. There were creaky wood floors and a big pot bellied stove. That, I remember. I also remember the smell, a scent that I can’t begin to describe here but that represents the passage of time in my mind.

I also remember going there at Christmas to buy bulk Christmas candy. They had big bins and you left with candy scooped into paper bags. It was tradition to go there for candy every year and I looked forward to it.

It’s funny because this place rarely bubbles to the top of my mind but I always revisit those memories as the holidays near. A part of me wishes to go back for a little bag of chocolate covered peanuts or little milk chocolate stars.

Katherine Hepburn at the Frick

Katherine Hepburn is known for her acting talent, distinctive voice and daring fashion sense. She’s also one of my favorite film stars.

There’s a traveling exhibit dedicated to her fashion and career and it is currently living at the Frick in Pittsburgh.

The exhibit does a nice job using movie posters, photographs and scripts to tell the story of the costumes. Some costumes are from popular films while others are from her early career and films a bit more obscure.

They also have a selection of her famed trousers which she wore long before it was socially acceptable for women to wear pants.

Check out the quote on the wall. I like her spunk.

As an aside, these pieces are on loan from a large collection at Kent State here in Ohio.

It’s available at the Frick in Pittsburgh for a limited times it will wrap up on January 12 and admission is $15. There’s a lot to see at the Frick and I wrote about that a few days ago. Read more here. It’s a wonderful way to pass a day and I would highly recommend a visit to the Frick of you enjoy art and. history.

Plan your visit here.

At Home with the Frick Family

Imagine being so wealthy that your child’s playhouse is a full size home with a bowling alley addition.

When you buy a Rolls Royce, you have your monogram added to the door. You buy one, not just for yourself, but for your wife and daughter at the same time.

Your art collection is museum worthy and your homes are decadently furnished with the most expensive decor of the day.

As a contemporary of industrialists like Andrew Carnegie, you dabble in manufacturing and financing and build an empire the envy of businessmen everywhere.

This is the story of Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick. His family’s story is fascinating and it’s told every day thanks to the forethought, planning and generosity of his daughter Helen who saw to it that the family’s Pittsburgh home and art collection would be accessible to all.

Today, it’s simply known as The Frick. You can walk the grounds, enjoy the hot house flowers, marvel over their car collection and be inspired by their art collection for free. For just a few dollars you can tour the family home as well as whatever special exhibition they have at the time.

When I was there, it was decorated for the holidays and the docent related stories of how the family celebrated Christmas as well as stories of their everyday life.

They also had the traveling Katherine Hepburn exhibition for which there is an additional fee.

I benefited from the generosity of my friend Nichola who purchased a membership for her family, gaining me free access to everything.

If I lived in a city like Pittsburgh, I would have memberships to the Frick and many of the museums I love. Alas, I live in the sticks where museums are rare.

If you go, allow plenty of time to enjoy everything. House tours sell out pretty quickly so it’s best to arrive early to schedule your tour. There’s plenty to do including a cafe and gift shop. However, we had lunch in nearby Shadyside which I wrote about earlier this week. Check it out!

I’ll soon tell you more about the Katherine Hepburn exhibit as well as my friend’s happy place – the Phipps. Come back tomorrow for more!