Ugly Christmas Jacket Give Away

At 6:00 today, we will draw the winner for the Red Plaid Jacket by Pendleton. Rest assured the wool will help keep you warm.  It is shocking to me but plaid jackets are fashionable? One just sold on Etsy; they called it a hipster jacket. I found a red plaid dress; red plaid skirt and Tommy Hilfiger in a Red Plaid Dinner Jacket.

MET_Punk_Tommy-Hilfiger rita-ora-dkny-show__oPt

Maybe the red plaid isn’t so ugly?


Enter for the give away today – a red plaid jacket!

There has not been an overwhelming response.. .

There is still time; give away ends at 5:00 today.  . .

; .

Dickens, Coal Miners and The Spirit of Christmas

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Illus. Arthur Rackman
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Illus. Arthur Rackman

Lately, I have wondered about the life of a miner. This comes as no surprise since Putnam and Speedwell occupies a house that was once a home for a miner and his family at Eclipse Company Town. The houses are cute; but they are small, it seems to me, for a family. I wonder about life without privacy and shared beds, even though I understand that family life was different for most of history. Thinking about the holidays has fueled my curiosity. My first stop on this journey was A Christmas Carol.

The classic work by Charles Dickens still stirs emotion if not a few tears.  The meaning of life is revealed to Scrooge in a series of glimpses into the lives of other people who do not possess his great wealth but enjoy happiness surrounded by family and friends.  The miner’s camp is one of the scenes, they are gathered together enjoying the Christmas festivities. The importance of the gathering is the sense of community shared by these men who “labour in the bowels of the earth.” As Dickens wrote, “So surely as they raised their voices, the old man got quite blithe and loud; and so surely as they stopped, his vigour sank again.” The old man was sustained by the camaraderie in the coal town – as were other miners across the globe.

Garbutt Mine
Miners in Garbutt Mine, Glouster, Ohio

Many early academics and government officials missed the sense of community. Their studies stressed the squalor and poor health among the miners, while recent research and personal accounts emphasize that life in a coal camp “was not always drab” but rather “it could be fun.” (1) Elizabeth Ferguson Brown writes that, “The brightness of these homes comes from within.”(2)

Picnic Time
Picnic Time

I must admit that I had accepted the dismal portraits of coal mine towns and missed the light that comes form within. Along with Scrooge,  I recognized the generosity of spirit in the faces of miners and their families. The miner’s house that we occupy as tenants is not the same place; but, we will do our best to let the light shine – especially for the Holidays. Let the merriment begin!

 `What place is this,’ asked Scrooge. `A place where Miners live, who labour in the bowels of the earth,’ returned the Spirit. `But they know me. See.’ A light shone from the window of a hut, and swiftly they advanced towards it. Passing through the wall of mud and stone, they found a cheerful company assembled round a glowing fire. An old, old man and woman, with their children and their children’s children, and another generation beyond that, all decked out gaily in their holiday attire. The old man, in a voice that seldom rose above the howling of the wind upon the barren waste, was singing them a  Christmas song — it had been a very old song when he was a boy — and from time to time they all joined in the chorus. So surely as they raised their voices, the old man got quite blithe and loud; and so surely as they stopped, his vigour sank again.

A Christmas Carol, Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits

Rare People and Rare Books


The film, Fading Gigilo opens with Woody Allen carefully tissue wrapping beautiful leather bound books. The camera pans to empty shelves. He is closing the bookstore first established by his grandfather. He laments,

This is the end of an era my friend, only rare people buy rare books.

Soon after that scene, I lost interest in the film; but, the statement about rare books made sense to me . . .

A while back, I stumbled upon web sites that sold books by color as objects to decorate mantels or accent bookshelves. Some of these websites will rent books for staging a room. Edith Wharton in her book, The Decoration of Houses wrote,

Those who really care for books are seldom content to restrict them to the library, for nothing adds more to the charm of a drawing-room than a well-designed bookcase: an expanse of beautiful bindings is as decorative as a fine tapestry.

The most beautiful rooms are often in libraries.

Main Reading Room, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Main Reading Room, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC

There are websites devoted to collecting photographs of those temples of the book. Some of the oldest and finest are in Paris. Some the best are in the United States. Books and manuscripts are treasures guarded by librarians who are truly the keepers of the keys! It is books that live long past currency, economies, politics, empires and even nations.

BNF, Site Richelieu, Paris


Rare people like rare books.

In a fairly recent article in The New York Times on travel to Paris, Richard Woodward wrote, “IN a city where braininess is sexy, the bibliothèques of Paris don’t suffer from the dowdy image problem that afflicts libraries in the United States.”
Cleveland Public Library

Hmmm . . . not too sure about his conclusion. Rather than dowdy, I might say that going to the library is a habit. We learn habits. One of the most beautiful libraries that I know of is the old Carnegie Library in Chicago Heights. chihgtspl1I developed the habit of going to the library because of its location – directly next to the bus station. It was comfortable, there were chairs and there was always something to read . . . the children’s library smelled just like a library should. Not too long ago, I wanted to take my grandson to the Columbus Public Library. His refusal was adamant. He would, however, go to the bookstore that day. Thank goodness! On the other hand, there are some books that we cannot buy. And those books are rare – and increasingly available online. Google deserves all the credit – it was Google who first began digitizing the vast holdings of important libraries – many libraries fought their efforts. Would it not signal the end?

Not really. The Chicago Heights Public Library (ca. 1901) was demolished in 1974. The center of the city was no longer the center of town. As in so many other cities, community life had changed. But, that library was a place of memory. Ask anyone from Chicago Heights, older than say fifty years or so, about the library . . .  Here in Athens, there was recently a fire. The destruction of the buildings on Union Street brought many of us back to past memories

Photo of Union Street, Athens Ohio posted by Cliff
Photo of Union Street, Athens Ohio posted by Clif Kittle

. . . those buildings are places of memory.

Books as well. . . favorite books, books that change lives, books that were impossible, books we could not finish . . . Moby Dick, Hercules, Batman first came to us in books. But they live in our memory. Quite often, the first editions of those books are coveted because of their importance in our lives. My conclusion is that memories are collections that our minds keep. Books stir those memories, but they do not contain them. At the same time, it is rare that people collect rare books. That is a very  different question.

Books allow us to peek into the past. Like Edith Wharton’s book on Decoration. It is a good read. But digitized books rarely include the illustrations!  One of my favorite old books is The Landscape Gardening Book (ca. 1911) by Grace Taborwherein are set down the simple laws of beauty and utility which should guide the development of all grounds. Tabor’s classic work is available online – since this book provides insight on the importance of biodiversity, it comes as no surprise that a site dedicated to biodiversity has digitized her work.  And yet another But, what is a book on gardening without illustrations?

If you are around Athens, stop in and take a look at her book . . . any Friday, Saturday or Sunday afternoon. On the other days, I am usually reading or writing in my favorite library in a place called home.

Books wrapped with Memories (Dedicated to Mériam)




Selling Pieces of the Past, II

Hard to believe that it has been one year since Putnam and Speedwell 
planted roots in Athens . . . a few thoughts about growing pains!


Our First Winter at Eclipse Company Town
Our First Winter at Eclipse Company Town

We rented the space at Eclipse Company Town, an old mining town, last November about ten days before Thanksgiving. I was thinking that we could whip it into shape by Thanksgiving. We missed the mark. No kidding! The stress was too much; it is not unusual to lose business partners. And I did soon after renting the new space. A start-up takes grit, determination and even sleepless nights that winnow out the weak.  I went on alone in the endeavor. I had confidence, energy, experience and a lot of spirit . . . enough to overcome this loss. Certainly, I was stunned but I looked at strengths . . .and perhaps foolishly, overlooked any weaknesses.

1. Finding vintage furnishings was not new to me. It had become a habit, you might say, to look for great old things for our great old homes that needed lots of work. Perhaps more importantly, we understood the value of reducing waste. McDonald’s began promoting Happy Meals to sell burgers to children . . .outraged Daddy would drive out to the landfill with our very young children in tow! I often wonder if the effect was akin to “the starving children in _____”  talk given by my father when liver was served. So vintage and antique bargains were one of my specialties – a natural fit for those of us that gravitated toward great old houses.

2. In a previous life, I owned a retail storefront borne from my love for pure soap that was hard to find in the old days . . . pure cotton accoutrements of all kinds and linens. My sisters and brothers worked hard and built a great enterprise that became too big for us to handle . . . I had an intimate understanding of  the danger of burn out. That storefront was huge 2500 square foot; and the new storefront was small and dry so it seemed just right. . .

3. Another plus, or so I believed was my experience with the Internet in my previous life. I relied on the internet for research, as in historical research. I believed that I lived in a golden age. The Internet was a BIG step for the democratization of knowledge connecting libraries and even archives. But at a desk in a research library or on a computer, the work is quiet and solitary most of the time.


If I understood my strengths, I also misunderstood a few deficits. The learning curve for Social Media and Social Marketing. Hmmmm . . .  this was a new  world with a steep learning curve!

In that other life, we built the business one person at a time and one day at a time – and time was slower. The internet was a boon to every entrepreneur on the block, right? Yes, but the process of learning took months not weeks nor days . . . At the beginning of this first year, I was not on Facebook, I did not Tweet nor did I blog – I am a very private person, I read history, I wrote, gardened and cooked like a madwoman and took long walks. Stepping onto this public platform was a venture like no other . . . but yet, since I overcame my fear of public speaking in large lecture halls with low light and Powerpoint, I believed that I was up to the challenge.

Thank heavens my daughter although incredibly busy with her venture and growing family came to my aid on many occasions. But still, there were many nights that I greeted the morning sun . . . WordPress is easy up to a point. . . Facebook was very difficult. Share? Follow? Friend? I looked at these words with an archaic mentality. . . still I do not know exactly how to tweet or exactly what to tweet. I rely on software that is on the Cloud . . .the big bunny cloud up there next to the giant hippo . . . Shopseen. A big help until I clicked buttons without understanding the danger of over-posting which of course led to unlikes which made me cry.  Alyssa, another daughter, helped ease the pain . .. “this is not the real world, Mom” . . . since she too has built a business online with her husband. Thank heavens too for Novak, who stood by with confort et aide as an expert in logistics.

The energy and determination soon dwindled. Sleepless nights are not good at my age.  Normally, I am quite healthy. Not this year . . . influenza and a fever that spiked at 104 degrees, an infection that ended with cellulitis on my face (very ugly) , DVT (get off your feet, they said) and last but not least, the wet winter and spring rain led to high levels of  mold/mildew at the storefront.  Oh and last but not least – the snow! Driving to town was nearly impossible at times. On one occasion, I had a hard time  finding the car buried under the snow for days! There were times, I could not make it to the store and worse yet, I had not hired anyone to  be there if and when I was not. Big mistakes . . . bought a 4WD truck and de-humidifier! I prioritized –  letting go of furniture restoration, home renovation and big landscaping projects. I sleep more, eat more and laugh more.  I wonder if my home will ever really be clean and tidy again! (Whew – talk about going public!)

It has been an amazing year of growth. The storefront at Eclipse is finally coming together . . . and selling online is coming along nicely  . . . but still need to find a few good people to help grow the business. There are many ways we can grow – and serve the community better.

I have met some really terrific people online and at the storefront at Eclipse. I am thrilled that I am once again doing history – now with two books outlined, research progressing and ready to start writing . . . God Willing and the Creek don’t Rise!  I am learning to take the time to do the little things that bring joy, health and happiness – and let go of the bumps along the way. You might say that this has been the worst of times and the best of times.

And last but not least,  thank you to every one who has helped along the way with patience, kindness and the incredible gift of friendship. It is hard to stumble  in the public arena; but, it would be impossible to recover without the kindness of others. 

Now, it might just be a good time to celebrate times past and the good times to come!




The Rumble of Bikes

Tonight, our good neighbor here at Eclipse Company Town, Kiser’s Barbecue will not only have a band, Time Machine, but is holding its first Bike Night! Sounds like fun – even if you prefer a bike without a motor – if not too cold, you can eat, drink and listen under the stars! If it is not too cold, we will be sitting on our front porch next door! Kisers