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.

Legendary Lights at Clifton Mill

Photo courtesy of the Dayton Daily News.

Photo courtesy of the Dayton Daily News.

If you enjoy Christmas lights, are anywhere near Ohio and haven’t experienced the Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill, you need to drop what you’re doing and go right now.

Seriously kids, it is a beautiful experience.

On a regular day, the historic mill in the village of Clifton is home to a nice restaurant. The mill was built in 1802 and there’s a very pretty covered bridge on site as well

But during the holidays it becomes a popular destination for kids of all ages. In addition to being adorned with four million lights, the property is home to a miniature village, vintage toy display and Santa Museum.

The lights are turned on with a single switch, making for a dramatic opening at 6 p.m. each night. But never fear if you can’t be there at 6. They turn off the lights twice an hour each evening, submerging the crowd into darkness, before flipping the switch and turning it on again. This allows everyone the opportunity to experience that special moment when everyone goes “oooh.”

They even have a laser light display that’s timed to the dramatic music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

As much as I loved the lights, I may have loved the miniature village and Santa Museum of 3,600 unique Santas best.

This event is nationally recognized and they actually received a ton of publicity last year after winning a $50,000 prize on a tv show.

The introverts in the crowd will understand when I say that I didn’t love the crowd. I stopped here last year on my way home from an after Christmas road trip the last Saturday in December.

This was extremely poor timing.

My goodness, there where people everywhere and parking was a real challenge. While event parking is free, some enterprising neighbors sell yard and driveway parking so I happily tossed ten bucks at the problem in favor of parking just a block or two away.

I will absolutely go back but I would want my next visit to be on a weeknight when it’s not so busy.

If you go, they take plastic and cash. The cost is $10 per person but kids three and under are free.

I would aim for a weeknight as opposed to a weekend because it was almost too crowded to truly enjoy when I was there. I was fine on my own but would have worried about little kids getting stepped on or lost in the crowd.

While they do sell light concessions like hot dogs, popcorn and hot chocolate, the restaurant is closed and there’s nothing with any nutritional value. In other words, eat dinner before you go. Personally, I would go to Young’s Dairy about ten minutes up the road. They have a really good menu and a delicious veggie burger.

Visit the Clifton Mill website for a full history and all the details you need before you go. It’s under an hour from Columbus, thirty minutes from Dayton and ninety minutes from my community in Vinton County. And it’s well worth the drive.

If you want to make it an overnight adventure, there’s plenty to do in Dayton plus outlet mall shopping at nearby Jeffersonville and acres of planes at the Air Force Museum. Not to mention a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright Home in Springfield and an overwhelming amount of antiquing to be had in Springfield.

Geeze Louise, guys! I haven’t told you about any of those things. I’ll make a note to take you along on a Springfield antiquing trip and to the Wright house that happens to have a fun story of its own.

Please note that the above be picture is not my own. I thought I had taken pictures but am finding none so I borrowed a photo from the Dayton Daily News.

Now go and play your trip to see the big light display at 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.

Enjoy the Small Things

Remember when something so simple as a little change for the gumbball machine made your day?

It can still be that way if you allow it to happen.

This machine sits in a Chillicothe dinner called Carl’s Townhouse. Going there and seeing their counter is a simple pleasure for me.

Simple pleasures can be all sorts of things – finding a favorite candy from your youth in the checkout lane at the grocery, a few stolen moments to watch the sunrise, singing along to a favorite song- there is no right or wrong answer if it makes you happy.

Find a simple pleasure and go enjoy it today!

My Guide To Surviving Winter

It’s still fall but we are flirting with winter weather here in southern Ohio. Please don’t stop reading when I say this but winter makes my heart happy.

Here’s why.

Winter feels like Nature’s way of telling me to slow down, to rest and to appreciate the small joys of my home. I’ve been unwittingly practicing the Norwegian art of Hygge for years!

For the other three seasons, if the weather is tolerable I feel compelled to be active from dawn to dusk. Whether it be on a hike or an adventure or just an errand, it feels like time spent at home could be better used.

Since the time change, I’ve begun to nest here in my house on the ridge. It started as decluttering, finally taking cardboard and plastic to recycling and then taking quick glances around each room for unneeded things.

The next thing I knew, each kitchen cabinet was being emptied and boxes and bags filled up to give away. Coats for a drive at work, tops my mother might like, dvds and a big meat cleaver for my dad (it seemed a bit much for the vegetable eater here)

Now attention has turned to making things cozy. First I dropped new wax melts into all my scent burners. Winter means a mix of cinnamon, citrus and pine. Then I began putting out heavier throws for winter couch cuddling and the flannel sheets were washed and put on the bed.

Winter means more movies on the couch and books in bed so I’ve begun a new stack of books I really want to read this winter. I also pulled out some new jigsaw puzzles. There’s nothing better than sitting by the window on a snowy day to work on a puzzle. Although Scout likely won’t allow this to happen this year. Kittens have other uses for small items like puzzle pieces.

There will still be adventures on weekends when weather permits. There’s nothing better than a fast hike in the cold unless it’s a slow hike in the snow where you can look for animal tracks and enjoy the shimmering beauty of a world blanketed in snow.

There will be more time spent in local antique malls. Winter is when I allow myself to shop for records so I’ll rush home to clean and listen to my treasures. Maybe this is the year I’ll find that mid century console record player I’ve been looking for. It has to work and has to have great mid century lines. I’ll find the one someday.

This winter I’m planning a jaunt to Cincinnati to the Freedom Center and maybe another to Dayton for the Packard Museum. There are some terrific antique malls in both cities as well as other museums to make me wonder if I shouldn’t make these overnights rather than a quick out and back. I will appreciate these adventures more because they will be less common and will prevent cabin fever from setting in.

While there will still be adventures this winter, the focus will be at home. I want to find a vegan hot chocolate recipe and work on some soups. I want to curl up with my cat to watch a movie or catch up on my magazine reading. I want to take hot baths and listen to food music.

For me, winter is about being cozy and making things beautiful. Since I live in the country, it’s also about making do and being happy with what you have, an exercise in gratitude if I’ve ever heard of one.

I am grateful for this period of rest and quiet. It’s what I need to recharge from months of busyness and to prepare me for months more of adventure and exploration.

So while everyone is miserable because of the cold, snow and dark, I will be as happy as if it were 75 degrees and sunny. And I think that’s petty cool.

Fall Foliage

Fall in southern Ohio is usually quite colorful and is a time that leaf peepers look forward to every year.

This year, not so much. It seemed like the leaves turned late but mostly they just turned brown and fell when the rain moved in.

But we did have a brief period of blue skies and pockets of color like the day I took this covered bridge photo near Lancaster.

The good news is that those pockets of color did seem especially nice next to all that green and brown and we came to appreciate the color more than we normally might if everything was vibrant.

Confessions of a People Watcher

Hi, my name is Brandi and I’m a people watcher.

I’m not always good at engaging with people I know but I love to sit back and watch strangers. Festivals and other public events are especially ripe for observing other humans in action and the hot air balloon festival I attended this summer didn’t disappoint.

Here are a few random observations from this day.

Few people bother to carry around cameras these days but those who do always have nice cameras and are pretty intense about what they’re doing. I rely on my phone for walking around pictures and sometimes for photos when there’s weird light because my technique isn’t so great. Taking out my dslr is a real treat. Check out this fellow working with his camera!

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Modern fashion often leaves ladies with interesting tan lines. Strappy tops, keyholes and cold shoulder tops probably shouldn’t be worn in harsh sun unless you’re hoping for interesting patterns on your skin. I saw this girl later and she was starting to burn so she probably ending up with a criss crossy tan!

But if she’s happy, I’m happy! And it wasn’t just her. I saw several women with a similar top. Maybe I’m just behind in the times and it’s a thing! I may need one of my younger, cooler friends to weigh in on this matter.

Marysville Hot Air Ballon Festival 2019 (1)

Men are taking a much more hands on approach to parenting than ever before. I’ve been noticing more and more men taking responsibility for feeding and taking care of their kids, even when mom is close by.

At this event, there were a ton of men who appeared to be alone with their kids – whether they’re single dads or just taking their kids out for the day, I couldn’t tell you but it was refreshing to see. It’s especially nice to see guys wiping a wee child’s dirty hands without looking to his wife for help. Nice job fellas!!

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On a related note, that last photo illustrates part of the reason why I love being in and near cities. Coming from a rural area, almost everyone looks like me. Pale. We’re pale. And it feels like the bulk of the people here all think alike, worship the same and well, you get the idea.

Get closer to one of Ohio’s cities (or even just go to a college town like nearby Athens) and you’ll find people of all nationalities. You hear lots of accents and languages and see different styles of dress. This makes my heart happy and it was thrilling to find so much diversity at this event. 

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People are way too wrapped up in their technology and other distractions. We already know this but I was surprised how many people were talking, texting and taking selfies – too distracted to notice the hot air balloons. The balloons were available for viewing for about a minute after we had all waited for hours to see them so I hate to think about how many folks missed the excitement.

It’s like we’re so hypnotized by the little machines in our pockets that we’ve completely lost interest in what’s actually happening in real life and all around us.

Note: in the picture above – I don’t think there was a balloon in their background. Just a picture of a cute couple.

Marysville Hot Air Ballon Festival 2019 (159)Finally, these little girls appeared to be strangers but that didn’t stop them from dancing and having a good time together. Kids know. They know that it’s a good idea to be nice to others – even if they’re not exactly like us!

People watching is the best. Are you a people watcher? What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen lately? I love a good story!