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.

Lebanon’s Horse Drawn Carriage Parade And Festival

Lebanon, Ohio has the neatest Christmas celebration.

On the first Saturday of each December, they host an outdoor festival complete with live Christmas music, vendors and specials at some downtown businesses.

The highlight of the event is a pair of very special parades- a daytime parade and a candlelit night parade that both feature horses. There are no bands, floats or fire trucks – just horses pulling an assortment of wagons, sleighs, carts, Conestoga wagons and stage coaches. They have cute little ponies, majestic Clydesdales and everything in between.

It’s a sight to behold and I have wanted to go for sixteen years. Unfortunately a work commitment at a holiday event in my own hometown always prevented my participation – until this year, that is!

I spent Saturday roaming around town, browsing the shops and just soaking it all in. I spoke with a few locals including one woman who told me about the year Martha Stewart came to town and featured the parade on her show. She said it was always a great event but it really took off after receiving Martha’s unofficial seal of approval.

A lot of the participants go all out with decorating their wagons and dressing up the horses (and themselves) while playing recorded music. The sound of jingle bells could be heard all around too.

It’s just a fun, festive way to embrace the lighter side of the holiday season. Plus it’s free!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Christmas at nearby Clifton Mill. If you wanted to, you could squeeze both events into a day or maybe make it a weekend! Meanwhile, here are some parade photos!

If you go, the town has a ton of free parking but a high volume of festival goers can make parking a challenge. Some local organizations were selling parking for $10 so remember to take cash in case you need parking money. When I got there at 11 (the event started at 10:30 and the first parade wasn’t till 1), parking was already becoming an issue.

Also, lots of people put out their chairs early for the parade. You may want to do this to reserve yourself a front row seat. I opted to stand and managed to find a good spot but the parade was almost an hour long so a chair would have been nice.

This is a fun, festive environment where you see lots of people in their ugly Christmas sweaters, elf shoes and Santa hats so feel free to embrace your inner child and wear something Christmasy. Over the top will fit right in here!

Finally, remember that this is a busy, crowded event during peak hours. It’s also Christmas so chill, be kind to others and remember to just enjoy the hustle and bustle of the day. Seeing all those horses clop down the street will make it all worthwhile!

Check back tomorrow and we’ll go to Clifton Mill!

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.

Self Care Sunday

I protect my free time on Sundays the same way a mama bear protects her cubs. If I agree to do something on a Sunday, it must be really important or I must really like the person who invited me.

The phrase “self care” sounds self indulgent but I’m not lazing around in a bubble bath all day. Instead, this day is reserved for certain household chores, laundry and preparing for the week as well as for more traditional self care efforts.

I respond well to structure and planning. I also respond well to rest and relaxation and to the sense of accomplishment that comes with a well spent Sunday.

This is what I seek on an average Sunday:

Wake up naturally. The is the only day out of seven that I am not ripped from my sleep by an alarm and then forced to leave the house. This simple act feels decadent.

Eat well. Breakfast is normally a really good smoothie with peanut butter on toast. This is my normal daily breakfast but on Sunday there’s time to actually enjoy it. I aim for healthful foods on this day because there are no excuses when there’s time to cook.

Be enlightened. I typically watch CBS Sunday Morning, a magazine show that covers lifestyle, history, current affairs, entertainers and almost anything else the folks at CBS can dream up. Sometimes I kick up my feet and watch but some weeks just listen while doing chores. Much of what they cover doesn’t sound at all interesting in advance but I nearly always enjoy the stories and learn something.

Do laundry. Starting the week with an empty hamper ensures that whatever I want to wear is clean and there are plenty of clean towels. I typically put together some outfits to choose from including scarves and other accessories to save time on work mornings. Also, the bed sheets are always changed on Sunday because there is nothing more decadent than clean sheets.

Meal prep. Grocery shopping usually happens on Saturday or maybe Friday after work. On Sunday, I cook a few things to make weekday meals easier. This is the ideal day to experiment with new recipes or to make things that require more time. Soups that need time to simmer or beans that take hours to cook are good candidates. Homemade granola always happens on Sunday too.

Sweat. At some point, I like to break a sweat. This typically happens on the treadmill or maybe with an exercise dvd. This is followed by a hot shower and clean pjs. That’s right, I wear pajamas all day. Judge me all you like but it makes me happy.

Work the brain. This means that I kick up my feet and curl up with Scout to read, journal, do crosswords or catch up on other things that give my brain opportunity to stretch.

Embrace the quiet. Soft music, smart stuff on tv and plain old silence are important to this introvert. It allows me opportunity to calm my mind and mentally prepare for the week ahead.

Whatever I please. Real work always comes first so that the last half of the day can be devoted to whatever I feel like doing. Sometimes this means decluttering a drawer because this makes me happy. Sometimes I process pictures, write a blog post or watch a movie. If I’ve been too busy to keep up with housekeeping it often makes me happy to do some chores. It really just depends on what I’m in the mood to do.

Rest. Going to bed early on Sunday sets a good tone for the rest of the week. I love to take a book to bed early and then wake up feeling good on Monday.

In short, everything I do on Sunday is aimed toward improving quality of life during the work week and making myself healthy and well.

It’s not a bad way to live.

Do I feel like I’m missing out on something by basically hibernating one day a week? Not on your life. I feel stronger and happier for it.

The weeks when I skip my routine are harder weeks. The simple acts of staying fed and clothed take longer and eat up valuable time that could be used for fun, rest, exercise or basically anything else.

It’s not that I can’t function without my Sunday routine, it simply makes life more pleasant and easier.

Clearly, this wouldn’t work so well for someone with kids or a significant other. This is one benefit of being on my own and I am milking it for all it’s worth.

Breakfast at Bakn

The Pittsburgh neighborhood of Carnegie boasts the cutest local restaurant called Bakn.

Their logo is a little carton pig. It’s used in the wall art, menu and all through the restaurant. Nichola laughed as we discussed what an unorthodox choice this place was for a plant based eater. While they don’t have much on the menu for a vegan eater, there were a few vegetarian choices. This worked great because I’m not super strict, especially when I travel.

I was perfectly happy with my hot cakes, a real treat that I like to indulge in while traveling.

They are Food Network endorsed with good reason. My breakfast was tasty and there was plenty of it. even the menu is fun to read here.

In the neighborhood? Hungry? Just enjoy dreaming over a good restaurant menu? Here you go!

Tomorrow we leave Pittsburgh and move on to other topics. Hope to see you back then!

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!