Saturday, March 27, 2010


Our daughter-in-law, Marylee, invited us to accompany her and our grandson Ian to the National Aquarium in Baltimore yesterday. They had bought a family membership and got two free tickets to use for guests. And she thought of us! Matt, meanwhile, was driving to North Carolina to meet with a client there.

We met Marylee and Ian at a Loyola University parking lot near I-83 and rode with them through the cold rain to Inner Harbor. Marylee was kind enough to drop me off near the door since my dogs were barking, as they say, from a lot of standing and walking the day before as I volunteered at the church. The rest of the group continued down the street to a parking garage as I waited inside, marveling at the "Maryland waterfall" re-created in the lobby, complete with stone walls, trees, plants, and fish.
When they arrived, we checked the stroller and began our visit. Ian was fascinated first by the floor-to-ceiling "bubble tubes" that periodically emitted a burst of air through the water, creating tall plumes of bubbles. Then we moved up through the core of the building on a series of escalators and ramps, until we reached the top, where a re-created rain forest housed beautiful (and noisy) birds. On the way we saw plenty of interesting sea creatures.

A major feature of the aquarium is a huge pool with stingrays and other fish in constant motion. In the pool also were divers, inspecting the fish and feeding them. In another area, ramps carry you past a 360 degree channel live with all sorts of fish (divers, too) whizzing by as if they were on their way to a fire.

We stopped at the museum store, and Ian went home with a big blue shark. With the rain having stopped, we hot-footed it to the Panera café across the street and had some soul-warming hot soup and sandwiches. Interestingly, we were seated next to four French dudes who were speaking their native tongue. I was able to detect a word here and there, but I learned no state secrets by listening in.

Susanne and I waited on the corner while Marylee and Ian went to get the car. We whizzed back to pick up the Box and headed to Matt and Marylee's house in Perry Hall, where most of us fell asleep! Only Marylee stayed awake, conducting business on the phone and doing some laundry.

Around five, Matt showed up, having driven fourteen hours or so in the last 24 hours. He regaled us with stories of his trip, including a list of fast foods and energy drinks that he had consumed while traveling at warp speed. He impressed his clients in North Carolina by correctly identifying the Lester Breininger pieces in the client's redware collection. Lesterware is everywhere!

Once Ian turned in for the night, we ordered from a local tavern and enjoyed a late dinner, staying up late to talk about home improvement, real estate, and investing. When learning that we are secretly rich, Matt tried to get power of attorney, but we're way too smart to fall for that.

This morning, the Box took me down the road to Dunkin' Donuts for bagels and muffins for everyone. When I got back, Matt made coffee, and we enjoyed breakfast. Soon enough, we headed to a nearby church to watch Ian participate in a tots' play group, where he ran, jumped, climbed, bounced, slid, threw, caught, rolled, and broke -- bubbles, that is. It's fun to see him in action.He was still going strong when we took our leave and headed home with a stop at Ikea. We picked up some plants, place mats, a lamp shade, and other highly-necessary items. We skipped the lingonberries.

Our last stop was at Hunt Valley, Maryland, where we sought a bite to eat. Every car in Maryland must have been there! We searched and searched for a parking space and finally found one about a half-mile away from yet another Panera. Susanne has a panini sandwich and black bean soup. I (always looking for something new) had the same tomato soup and chicken salad sandwich I had the day before.

Our appetites satisfied, we climbed back into our little silver friend, Susanne at the wheel, and made the rest of the journey home to Harrisburg.
The "Maryland waterfall" greets visitors at the door.
Ian and a new friend check out the bubbles.
Ian watches the stingrays swimming.
Beautiful scenes of underwater life abound in the aquarium.
Divers observe and feed the fish.
Selecting the perfect souvenir.
On the way to the car, we pass the vessels
docked at the harbor.
We were able to resist these goodies
at the Panera café.
Ikea offered this cool shelving unit -- it might look
good in our basement family room some day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Last evening we had dinner and did some window shopping. Not the kind where you dressed up and then strolled up and down Market Street looking at the beautifully decorated showcase windows. Do they even have windows like that anymore?

Ours was a more mundane experience. It started off with a meal at Hoss', where the salad bar is pretty good, especially if you dispense soft ice cream over everything.

Talk about a small world. I have not seen fellow middle school teacher Tom Stohler for over a decade. When I went to the Susquehanna Twp. municipal building the other day to place an ad for LEC, the French student homestay program I work for, there was Tom in the recreation office, where he has worked for 10 years since his retirement. He organizes bus trips and activities for township residents. We had a nice chat and showed pictures of our grandchildren.

Fast forward to last night. When we were seated at Hoss', who was at the next table? Tom and his wife! This is getting ridiculous. I can't go anywhere without Tom Stohler! Just kidding.
After dinner, we headed down Rt. 322 to Conestoga Tile Company, to look at samples of their products, which might be used as a backsplash in our kitchen. It's located in a sort of no-man's land, off 322, near the interstate interchange with some other businesses and a residence hotel. It's hard to find, and we rarely have a reason to go there.

Anyway, there were hundreds of beautiful tiles to choose from, and a few duds, too. We looked at many of them and tried to imagine them in place. Susanne finally picked one she was most fond of, and we got the stock number so an installer could order it. It must be a huge expense for the company to maintain that facility, but here it was, a Tuesday night around 7:00 p.m., and there were a dozen homeowners in there looking at the tiles.

On the way to the store, we noticed that a new furniture store had opened down the way -- in the building where another furniture store had gone bust just last year. Go figure. There were two browsers when we arrived, swelling the ranks to four, and one visible salesperson. The furniture was nice, not cheap and not over the top like some stores. We looked at some things with an eye to a future family room in our some-day-to-be-finished basement. If we wait long enough, we can come back to the going out of business sale.

Susanne liked this small subway tile.

Quite a colorful selection of glass tiles.

I thought this glazed tile was nice.

This would be cool in the floor.

At the furniture store, I liked these bowls--
just the right size for tapioca!

I had no idea there was special furniture
just for ladies of the evening!

This photo is in no way related to
the previous one!

I thought this small table -- in another color --
might make a nice bedside table.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


We've been looking at some new kitchen appliances and then thought of some other ways to improve our 20-year old kitchen. It's still in pretty good shape, but the counters and backsplash are pretty worn, and there's a "desk" in one of the counters that we have never used. It just gathers junk!

We also want to replace a microwave on the counter with a microwave/exhaust fan over the stove. Oh yeah, the stove will be one of those thingies with the two ovens, a small upper one and a bigger lower one for the turkey we will never prepare.

So today we crossed the mighty Susquehanna  to meet with Meredith at Ed Lank Kitchens in Lemoyne to see what ideas she had. A couple of weeks ago, she visited us and took measurements and listened to us moan about all the things we needed, including some sort of drawers or pull-out shelves so we did not have to fall into a tall, narrow closet to retrieve things.

We looked at countertop materials, tiles for a backsplash, and some under-counter lighting ideas, and found out what Meredith had in mind for replacing the "desk." She had obviously had done her homework and made a very nice presentation in her friendly manner. Susanne chose a large single undermount stainless steel sink, and we agreed on a possible countertop pattern. It's a man-made (person-made?) quartz material, I think.

We asked a lot of questions and came away with a lot of ideas. Since removing the current backsplash will require repairs to the wall, we'll have to consider painting the room. What color shall we choose? We'll keep you posted as the process continues.

Look, a cookie sheet fits in there!
We liked the curved valance at the right.
Meredith shows Susanne how the cabinet
above the microwave will be altered.
This is a sample of the quartz countertop.
We brought it home to see how it looks with the cabinets.
Some samples of cherry finishes and hardware.
The lower left cabinet on the left replaces the "desk."
Drawers will replace the tall narrow cabinet on the right.
A new microwave/exhaust over the stove.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Since we have more money than we know what to do with, we hopped into the Box today and roared up to the Farm Show Building to look at all the wonderful and expensive things at the annnual Builders' Show.

There is just about everything you could want there, from a whole house to a water faucet. We picked up names of  several firms who do things like basement remodeling, kitchen updating, porch railings, garage doors, and the like.

It was nicely laid out this year, with less walking around than before. I have done tourism trade shows, and it's no fun, but I am always amazed at the number of vendors who sit in their booths, for which they have paid a small fortune, and never even make eye contact with you -- even if you are lingering around their exhibit. Others are too pushy, and many just right.
(l) Susanne said this display reminded her of me -- a big drip!
The Farm Show Building is looking nice, too, with fresh paint and improved rest rooms. The only thing I do not like is paying to go into a place to buy something! And parking was $8.00! Now I see why people park on the Rt. 22 bypass hill and walk to the events. I tried to get Susanne to drop me off and go park on that hill, but she would not do it. Was that so much to ask?

We thought this stove was cool.

This display was colorful and made me want a barn.

Susanne always loves a log house.

The gazebos and pavilions were nice.

So were the landscaping displays.
I like the sound of running water.

On the way home, we encountered this Scion wannabe.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Today, the PHMC Executives in Exile got together for lunch in Mount Joy, Lancaster County.

Just who are the EIE? Well, once upon a time, we were pretty high up at the State's official history agency. We were members of the Executive Staff and reported to the Executive Director. I was the press secretary, Gloria was the marketing director, and Marcia and Joan ran the Pennsylvania Heritage Society. Edie, who was on her way home from Texas today and unable to attend, was legislative liaison.

Gloria was the first to wise up and moved on to greener pastures outside the agency. When Gov. Rendell moved to town, things changed. Edie was exiled to the Bureau for Historic Preservation (where she became a shining light, doling out millions of dollars). Mr. Rendell canned all the press secretaries, and I was exiled to the Division of History to run the historical marker program. Marcia and Joan's office had already been moved to the Keystone Building -- the place to which Edie and I had been sent. Thus we became Executives in Exile, banished from the fabled Fifth Floor of the State Museum building..

In the several years since we all departed the agency, we've managed to stay friends and keep in touch with lunch at Roxy's, opposite the museum, as one of our favorite activities. We also get together occasionally with our spouses.

Gloria, however, lives far away in Lancaster, and spends a lot of her time in Florida, too. So we have not gotten to see her so much. Thus we were delighted by her invitation to meet midway for lunch. We went to the Country Table in Mount Joy. The menu looked extensive, but I don't think anyone was blown away by the food we ordered today. The highlight may have been the hot cross bun, a rather odd accompaniment, I thought, for our meals, but tasty nonetheless.

We swapped photos and brought each other up to date, spending way more time than we expected to. After making plans to meet with our spouses and stopping in the restaurant's overpriced bakery, we headed our separate ways. It was lots of fun.

Oh, and I even vacuumed out the Box so it would not be too disgusting for Joan and Marcia to ride in. I thought of taking it through the carwash, but I am too cheap.

Bakery goodies
Apple pie


Easter egg cake

Shamrock cookies

Icing with a bun under it