Sunday, November 22, 2009


Yesterday I had a very nice time "greeting" for Charter Homes in its Winslett neighborhood on Linglestown Road, just minutes from my house. Up til now, I have been greeting in a neighborhood near Hummelstown and Hershey.

The model is a beautifully decorated four bedroom home with a great solarium. (See photo below, left.) What I like about Charter Homes is that all the spaces make sense and the finishes are never over the top and, dare I say it, sort of vulgar because they are just too much! You've seen houses like that.

The greeter welcomes visitors and provides a bit of information on the neighborhood. The primary job is to make the visitors feel at home and then give the neighborhood manager what he or she needs to contact them. I even made coffee and baked cookies to give the place a delicious aroma.

Traffic has been slow, so I was happy to welcome two visitors, both of whom were very enthusiastic about the house. Oh, and Susanne stopped by. I think she wants to move there! And there is not even a screened porch!

The house has speakers in every room, so you can enjoy your favorite radio station (NPR?) no matter where you go. There's also a gas fireplace in the family room, something I could enjoy when Susanne turns the thermostat down to 35 or 40 degrees at night.

The Box seemed to be watching me all day, as I could see a reflection of it every time I looked up from the desk where I was sitting. (See picture, right.)

The manager, Neddie, was very kind to give me a chance at this new place, and I hope she calls again. It is a very pleasant place to be.

Here are some additional photos from Winslett:

 The dining room.

The family room.

The kitchen.

  The master bedroom (er, "owner's retreat")
has a cool coffered ceiling.

It was dark already when I left at 6:00 p.m.

Friday, November 20, 2009


It was a sad day at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission today. For eighty-five employees, it was the last day of work. They had been furloughed. This represents 34% of the work force. Those left behind will miss their colleagues and have to take up the slack. This was a very unfair move on the part of the Governor's Office. No other state agency took as great a hit, in addition to a $15 million budget reduction. I feel bad for my friends there.

Typically, one of those furloughed e-mailed her colleagues her hope that they would rally 'round one another in order to make it through these difficult times and that they would emerge 'on the other side' as an even greater asset to the Commonwealth. She went on to say she'd be volunteering her time to finish an important project. This is the kind of state employee we need!

The falling of the ax was not enough, however, to stop the annual Holiday Marketplace in the atrium of the Keystone Building on North Street. Museum stores from several PHMC historic sites and museums and some sales operations from other state agencies offered all sorts of goods representing their locations. Ephrata Cloister had pottery, wooden utensils, and handmade scarves among other things; the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania had tons of merchandise with -- you guessed it -- train themes; the Landis Valley Museum and the shop in the State Museum were also represented.

Susanne bought some things for the grandchildren's Christmas stockings while I commiserated with the staff members I saw. We were tempted by some Shaker boxes and trays that we saw -- to go with our new bedroom furniture. The event was a bittersweet experience.

On the way home we stopped by the Farmers Market at the State Farm Show parking lot. Yum yum. We got leafy stuff (you should have seen the HUGE carrots!) and some baked goods, too.

Susanne bought some zucchini bread, and I searched for and found a small pumpkin pie, the last one in the market. I have been wanting one since I read that canned pumpkin was in short supply this year due to a poor growing season.

Oh, and I threw in a couple of whoopie pies, too. You never know if you'll need one.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Yesterday our little silver friend hauled us over to Trindle Road for our quarterly meeting with our financial advisors at Waddell and Reed, and we found out we're rich! Not! They're such a nice group of people that we always enjoy seeing them, even when they tell us we've been wiped out by the stock market crash.

Later in the evening we were to attend a retirement program for our friend David, who will soon complete his 40 years as a teacher and school superintendent. So we decided to go through the city and find a nice place to eat. I recalled a relatively new place called Nonna's at 263 Reily Street, opposite the Riley, also known as the Midtown Cinema.

Susanne had a delicious sandwich and I tried the eggplant parmesan, the dish I always have to judge Italian food. Both items were really tasty and generous. Susanne and I shared the salad that came with my entrée, and I took home some of the pasta that came with the eggplant. We resisted the desserts (in particular the chocolate-covered cannolis).

The place is modest but attractive with a varied menu. There's an overhead door that opens up the place in warm weather. It's very near to the Harrisburg Area Community College's new midtown campus, and I bet it is a popular place for all the flavored coffees that students enjoy. They even gave us a "Midtown Passport" to earn some dollars usable in the shops and other businesses sprouting up in this part of town.

After dinner we drove past the newly-restored and newly-constructed buildings at Third and Reily, headed home to change shirts (I should never order anything with tomato sauce!), and then went to David's program, which was a very touching tribute to his service to Susquehanna Township. Naturally, the Box performed as expected.

Friday, November 13, 2009


A trip to Lititz, Lancaster County, to look for bedroom furniture turned into very nice day away from home -- with the Box, of course.

We have looked for months at various places for a bed and dressers to replace the 37 year old stuff we now have. We were pretty sure about what we would buy until remembering the Shaker Shoppe, just outside of Lititz. They make beautiful replications of Shaker furniture, finely constructed, with beautiful finishes. Earlier this week I made a second visit (after the first earlier in the year), and today took Susanne to see some pieces I thought she'd like. Well, she liked them all!

And, as luck would have it (gosh, even though it was Friday the thirteenth), the items we wanted had all gone on sale in the interim, and we got a very good deal for something we will have for the rest of our lives -- and perhaps pass on to our children. (Unless, of course, they sell it all the day we're "planted.")

We were assisted in our choices by Joy, a very knowledgeable and able sales person. We also met the shop founder and owner Tom and cabinetmaker Josh, who had created the very dressers we bought. Josh was kind enough to pose for pictures to go with his signature on the back of each piece.

Who were the Shakers? According the the Shaker Shoppe web site, "The Shakers were the largest and most successful Utopian venture in existence in their time, with an estimated four thousand to six thousand members in eighteen principal communities from Maine to Kentucky by 1840. The Shakers peacefully pursued the vision of their English founder, Mother Ann Lee (1736-1784), who came to America with eight followers in 1774.

"They turned away from the rest of society, which they simply called the World. They lived in large families that were both celibate and communal, devoted their lives to work, and celebrated their love of God in the rousing dance worship that gave them their name. Simplicity was their hallmark; they cared little for worldly goods.

"As they created a new, more perfect society, the Shakers also produced a visual environment of such quiet power that it continues to impress the observer centuries later. Shaker work, devoid of any unnecessary ornamentation or frivolous detail, endures."

After making our puchases, we said farewell to the staff of the Shaker Shoppe, including Maddie, the owners' vicious guard dog, who nearly licked us to death! A golden retriever is the ideal pet, don't you think?

We decided to stop in downtown Lititz, a town founded by Moravians in the 18th century. The Moravians are in their own way as interesting as the Shakers, but not being celibate, are still around! Lititz has a main street of wonderful 18th and 19th century buildings.

We saw several shops that were new since our last visit, so we decided to park and take a look. [Of course, being a cheapskate, I enjoyed discovering that a parking meter gives you an hour for 25 cents, while in Harrisburg a meter gives you 10 minutes for 25 cents!]

We discovered that it was "Second Friday," a day when stores stay open later than usual. We browsed in antiques and crafts shops, then noticed that a large building across the street was for sale as condo units. Fortunately, the model unit was open for "Second Friday," so we were able to see a very nice sample apartment.

On the way home, we stopped for a bite at Bob Evans in Hummelstown and enjoyed recapping our day of shopping and browsing.

Here are some other photos from our day in Lititz:

Josh stands proudly by the low chest he made.

This is the bed we bought. We'll be high off the floor!

We couldn't resist this beautiful painted Shaker cabinet.

Stone and log houses stand side-by-side on Main Street in Lititz.

A simple but elegant wooden house stands nearby.

The Café Chocolate offers a place of refreshment.

Store windows entice buyers.

This 19th century building, on the site of the first house
in Lititz, is being made into condominiums.

The condos offer an attractive kitchen.

Susanne checks out the balcony from the living room.
Susanne attempting to jump out of the window
when finding out the price of the condo!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Yesterday, the Box and I made a bittersweet journey to a tiny place called Cowan, in Union County, just seven miles from Lewisburg. The purpose was to attend the funeral of the mother of our friend Gary. The service was held in a lovely old country church. There was scripture, singing, and lots of remembrances shared. It was perhaps the most personal of any funeral I have attended. I think it was very healthy for everyone and included a lot of laughter, actually.

I had a meeting later on the afternoon, but I did have enough time to make two short stops on the way home. One was at Buffalo Church. Organized by Presbyterian pioneers in 1773, it was broken up by Indian raids. It resumed its activities with its first regular pastor in 1787. A log church of about 1775 was replaced by a stone church in 1816 and by the current brick church in 1846. It's a charming Greek Revival building with a simple white interior.

Further down the highway, we made a quick crossing of the river to Northumberland to stop at the Joseph Priestley House. Built in 1798, the Georgian house was home to the discoverer of oxygen, the famous English scientist, inventor, and theologian who was also a friend of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

The house belongs to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, but due to budget cuts, the staff was terminated, and the house is now opened by volunteers only on weekends. It's a shame our politicians do not recognize the merit of this National Historic Landmark and provide enough funding to keep it open to the public. So it does not sell enough admissions to be self-supporting. Some places just need to be preserved and ready to welcome visitors. Four other historic sites were closed, too.

Thank heaven for private citizens who are willing to pitch in a keep these places running, even if it's on a shoestring.


I must be really susceptible to advertising. I got a post card announcing a big sale at a Lancaster County furniture maker's showroom and warehouse. So, earlier this week I hopped into the Box and headed to New Holland. It was a decent day, weather-wise, so it was a pleasant drive down Rt. 322. There was still some autumn color, but it's obvious that winter is on its way.

I first encountered one of my favorite historic houses, the Hopewell Forge Mansion, home of Peter Grubb, who built nearby Cornwall Iron Furnace in 1742. Beautiful, isn't it? I always thought the furnace manager (that was me in the 1980s) should have that house to live it! But no-o-o-o.

Moving further east, I stopped for a moment at the famous Ephrata Cloister to visit the museum store. The cloister is a beautiful enclave of medieval-style wooden buildings surviving from the 18th century and housing a religious sect. It served as a hospital during the American Revolution.

The store was full of all the things Susanne and I like, including pottery, which I was able to resist -- for now! I was most taken by a redware reproduction of an bowl most likely made for use at the cloister and now in the museum's collection. It looks to me like a perfect Christmas present.

Next stop was the Martin Chair Company at New Holland. On my way from Ephrata to New Holland, I drove through "Amish country," encountering buggies and children walking home from school, the girls with bonnets and the boys with straw hats. It all looked so peaceful and innocent.

The showroom contains many beautiful items, and on the way to the warehouse, I was able to catch some of the carpenters at work. Like many businesses, the place seemed to be going through hard times, but they had introduced new lines of furniture, like French Country and Arts and Crafts. I looked at the 18th and 19th century reproductions.

The furniture is beautifully made, with well crafted proportions and exquisite finishes. I chose a couple of pieces I could easily take home with me. Then I looked at the price tags. Well worth it, but some rich person will have to buy it!

I decided to add to my itinerary, and, using the GPS system, the Box and I headed to Lititz to re-visit the Shaker Shoppe. That proved to be a good decision, because I saw many beautiful old farm houses, fields, and animals. I even came across mules pulling a load of hay. Lancaster County has so many lovely back roads, small towns, and scenic views. That's the real Lancaster County, not the outlets on Rt. 30. I do feel a bit of regret about the seeming exploitation of the plain people by the tourism industry.

I was greeted at the Shaker Shoppe by a vicious dog. I was afraid to get out of the car, actually. S/he was sitting outside my door as I pulled up. I finally screwed up enough courage to get out and was nearly licked to death! Man, it was frightening!

In the store I looked at a few pieces I had seen before and decided that Susanne must see them soon. They are beautiful -- and on sale! Yippee!

On the way home, I went through Lebanon, or Lepnan, as they say down there, and decided to stop at the famous Heisey's Diner along Rt. 72. I had meat loaf and filling. Let's just say that it must be famous for something else.

Still, the place was full, so there must be some attraction. I did enjoy a small serving of ambrosia, an odd side dish, I thought, but it was a nice little dessert, helping me to avoid ordering something really bad for me! In olden times, Susanne used to make a mean ambrosia.

The Box looked particularly handsome in the glow of the big Heisey's sign, don't you think?

Here's that hay wagon that I followed until it was safe to pass.
Notice the roar of the Box's mighty engine!

Monday, November 9, 2009


We're still working on plans to improve our master bath, so today the Box and I went to Gipe's Flooring to check on details of the tiling that will go around the shower. I'll need to strip off the wallpaper and do some painting before the tile goes up. I'll also need to call the plumber to get the fixtures removed before the tile and the new flooring goes in.

I want to conserve water, so I looked for a hand-held fixture for the shower at the Hajoca showroom in south Harrisburg . It can be placed high enough on the wall that I can actually get under it instead of staring it in the eye.

Also, the newer "water closets" have more powerful disposal force while using less water. A very pleasant sales woman ably explained the features of several products.

For the moment, I plan to keep the present vanity, painting it black, adding new hardware and china sink top. To raise the height, I'll ask a local carpenter to make a frame (also painted black) on which it can sit. It will be nice to not have to practically fall into the sink to get my face close enough to rinse.

We also need new lighting, so I stopped at the lighting supply store and looked for sconces for either side of the sink mirror. I really did not see anything I liked. What I did like was a spectacular -- and admittedly a bit tacky -- crystal fixture obviously made to hand from a high ceiling, as in a two-story foyer or casino ballroom. It would fit in the bathroom, but no one could get in past it!

Hopefully all of the work can be done sometime after the first of the new year.

Oh, by the way, I wish lighting places would take pity on the poor tall customers who have to thread their way through the low-hanging chandeliers and all the price tags hanging even lower. They should build their stores with higher ceilings!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Matt and Marylee and Ian came from Baltimore to visit yesterday. Then M&M continued on to State College to spend some time with friends and go to the Ohio State game today. Susanne and I had the pleasure of spending the evening and all day today with Ian.

I was asked to come to Hummelstown/Hershey for a couple of hours today to greet in Charter Homes' Deer Run neighborhood while the manager went to see her daughter perform with a dance team. There were two visitors today, and I enjoyed showing them the house. The Box kept watch from the other side of the street, where another builder is working on some townhouses.

When I got home around 2:30 p.m., I enjoyed reading to Ian and watching him keep busy. He talks an unknown language almost non-stop, and has fun with all his toys and books and a lot of stuff dragged up from the basement that were fun for Sarah's kids Cole and Chloe when they were little. There's a stove and sink combination that was Sarah's as a child, and all the kids have loved playing "Iron Chef" with it.

My sister Rachel came over to see Ian and gave him a joy ride in a cloth bag, which he enjoyed immensely. She read a new book she brought for him and gave him a pink stuffed pig.

Susanne made a delicious mushroom frittata for dinner. Ian enjoyed some cereal and dried fruit, then played a little, read some more books, and went straight to bed without so much as a whimper.

Here are some other pictures of Ian's visit:

The cat's in the bag!

Welcome home, Papi.

Ian and Meemaw in the bullrushes.

A quick read before bedtime.

Back in yet another bag for sleeping.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


The Box and I got around a bit today, a clear and crisp fall day here in south central Pennsylvania. The day began with a trip to the polls to vote. We vote at the Lutheran church on the hill in Linglestown. I was mostly interested in voting against someone I know, who is not worthy of holding public office.

Next we zipped south on I-81 to the Cameron Street exit to find the offices of Graphtech Printing, a company that is producing a calendar with photos from Beyond Second, the Website to which I contribute pictures taken within the City of Harrisburg. Someone from Graphtech had written, asking for a high resolution copy of a photo I had taken of stained glass at Christ Church on Harrisburg's Allison Hill (pictured above left).

Unfortunately, the photo was not of the correct resolution, but I offered to re-shoot the photo and come back with the results. As luck would have it, someone was at the church and let me in. I retook the photos and headed home to "process" them.

On the way home, we stopped at historic Paxton Presbyterian Church in Paxtang to take some photos of fall foliage there. It's a beautiful eighteenth century meeting house with a cemetery populated by famous early families, including John Harris. The large campus has some great old trees.

After cropping the photos, I went back to Graphtech and left them with the receptionist. We'll see if they're good enough for the calendar. At least it was nice to be asked.

Next, it was off to Middletown to pick up a friend and zip down to Root's Market in Lancaster County. Sarah wanted a chocolate shoofly pie, which is now residing in our freezer until we see her. The Amish girl who sold it to me smiled and agreed with me that it's not a traditional pie but certainly tasty.

I bought some card stock to make a cover for the choir directory I am working on for Market Square Church. And I almost resisted (but not quite) a Moravian sugar cake baked by a Mennonite family. We had this cake for the first time at an organ concert at the Moravian Church in Lititz and never forgot the wonderful taste! I did resist the giant whoppie pie (or "gob" as yinz in Pittsburgh call them).

It was getting cooler as my friend and I decided it was time to leave Root's. We stopped into a building filled with chickens, pigeons, and rabbits and admired the future Easter bunnies. We endured the moaning and groaning of one of the vendors about how no one was buying his license plates and metal signs, all the time blowing cigarette smoke in our direction. Finally, we strolled past the endless boxes of gadgets, what-nots, and thingamajigs that you find somehow attractive but know will only end up in a drawer.

Here's a view of the outdoor "midway" at Root's. There's another "street," too, and of course the main building filled with vendors. Click on the arrow to watch the action.