Monday, May 31, 2010


To our great delight, Susanne and I were invited for dinner at the farm of Gwen and David, friends from Market Square Church choir. They live in Harrisburg but have a delightful small farm near the Lancaster-Lebanon exit of the turnpike, not far from Manheim.

We set out in the Box, armed with EZ Pass, and headed east on the turnpike. It was a beautiful day, and the sun was just beginning to fall out of the sky. We soon crossed from Dauphin County into Lebanon County, and then into the extreme northern section of Lancaster County, about 5 miles south of Cornwall. It was just a short drive down Rt. 72 until we came to the country lane where the farm is located.

We pulled into the drive, passing the massive barn, and parking next to the corn crib. Ahead lay gardens filled with flowers, vegetables, and blueberry bushes. The house is a perfect country place, all white, graceful in scale, but simple in design and detail. Just beside it is a storage shed and a porch roof covering a small flagstone terrace.

At nearly the same moment, the other guests, Lee and Lois, also of the choir, arrived. We entered the house at the kitchen door, and inside found, like the exterior, a simple charm, warmed by pretty French wallpaper. Gwen and David, our gracious hosts, visit France every view years, and the French country style is apparently their favorite.

We enjoyed a glass of wine as we toured the barn and gardens, including a huge bed of daylilies (former owners cultivated them for sale), iris, poppies, and cornflowers. Vegetables included tomatoes, peas, and lettuce. Everything was so neatly cared for!

Next we settled at a table placed on the foundation of an old chicken coop now covered with a pergola supporting wisteria vines. Gwen had made guacamole dip and also served crackers and a might tasty cheese. Remind me to ask what it was. We enjoyed conversation and hors d'œuvre as Gwen completed preparations for the meal of chicken, asparagus, rice with spinach, and carrots. Colorful and tasty indeed. This was all topped off by a wonderful fruit tart that Lois and Lee had brought. Dinner was lighted by kerosene lamps hung on the pergola.
By the time we were finished enjoying the meal and the lively conversation, it was dark and time to skeedaddle on home. We marveled at the number of stars you can see out in the country, climbed into the Box, and, directed onto the dark road by our hosts, made our way back Linglestown.

And now to share some of the visual delights of our farm visit!

Climbing roses greet visitors to the farm.

The house as seen from the gardens.

Flower gardens near the house.

Pink peonies grace the farmhouse table.

The simple 1920s exterior includes 
a course of sawtooth siding.

Gwen and Susanne discuss country living.

A gorgeous blue iris shines in the sun.
Gwen shows Lois the iris bed.

Poppies and cornflowers, a perfect combination.

Lee captures the beauty with his camera.

Foxglove or digitalis abound on the farm.

The dinner bells sounds its call to eat.

We headed to the outdoor dining room.

A salad of greens and beets just a 
few hours out of the earth.

Chicken, rice with spinach,
asparagus, and carrots.

The colorful and delicious fruit tart.

As evening fell, oil lamps gave off
their warm glow.
Farewell to a most pleasant evening!

Saturday, May 29, 2010


This entry is all about food. Sarah and friend Brian came from New Brighton for a visit, and we went out to a cool restaurant at Lickdale, Lebanon County. It's called Woods Creek Grill, and besides good food, they have many large critters (or parts of them) standing around looking over your shoulder. The idea was to make Brian, the hunter and fisherman, feel at home.

We parked the Box, known more these days as the LECmobile, in the lot beside the grill, and found we were in a lovely park-like setting, including a meandering stream with wooden bridges. It was idyllic, with that glow you get in the sky towards the end of the day.

We were seated quickly (Susanne had called ahead and asked to sit in the shadow of the brown bear she saw on their Web site) and ordered drinks. Next came the appetizers, then salads followed by entrées, and concluding with dessert -- the whole nine yards!

The waitress was very efficient and helpful, and the food was delicious. Afterwards, we went upstairs to see additional critters holding still for all to see. There were a ram and a turkey, a moose, a wolf, and several bears. Norman Bates would've loved it!

On the way home, we detoured from I-81 at the Indiantown Gap exit and drove past the entrance to the National Cemetery, spotted the Pennsylvania Lt. Governor's home, and then saw the World War II-era barracks and some retired tanks, planes, and helicopters.

Back on the interstate, we zipped back to the Linglestown Road exit and drove toward Linglestown so Sarah could pick up a big pepperoni pizza that she was taking back to a friend in New Brighton. It was weird to drive through town, where they are rebuilding the street, adding storm sewers and water pipes, and preparing to install curbs! The place looks barren, because they have removed all of the trees, and all traffic flows in only one direction. Hopefully, a nice village setting will emerge when the project is done.

Now for the pictures of the food!

Brian says these are pigeon wings. Yum.

Fried pickles for Susanne.

Delicious fresh salad.

Portabello mushroom was Susanne's entrée selection.

John chose a steak, something he rarely does. Brian got the same.

Sarah's choice was a cheese steak sub and sweet potato fries.

We shared this berry and cream cheese cake for dessert.

Brian and Sarah wolf down the cake.

This fisherman stood watch by the door.

Sarah makes friends with Mr. Grizzly.

This moose must have been enormous in the wild!

Grrr. Or was it brr?

We were still hungry so we got a pizza to go. Just kidding!

Friday, May 21, 2010


Today the Box rumbled down the Pennsylvania Turnpike -- America's first superhighway -- toward Philadelphia to visit a prospective host family for a French student homestay.

We passed my favorite farm on the eastern side of the turnpike with its all-white buildings and its "Repent!" sign, then stopped short of the city, roaring off the Schuylkill Expressway onto the "Blue Route" to Villanova.

It was interesting to see the beautiful campus of the famous school of the same name. There were a number of other institutions of higher education in the vicinity.

Thanks to Mapquest and GPS, I easily found the family's house, located on a quiet street lined with vintage houses, appearing to be from the 20s and 30s.

There I was greeted by the oldest of six children and invited in by the mother. All the kids were at home. They hung around throughout the "interview" with mom and dad. They were all so quiet and well-behaved. The parents were delightful, too, and had a lot of experience hosting foreign students over the years.

After completing the application and asking a few questions, I went upstairs to see the room where the student will sleep. The French kids are allowed to share a room, and this one will probably do so.

I left Havertown feeling very comfortable that this French student would be in good hands.

I grabbed a bite to eat and got right back on the turnpike to head home. At the Lancaster/Lebanon exit I zipped through the EZ Pass lane and headed up the road to Cornwall. I wanted to stop to say hello to the folks at Cornwall Iron Furnace and pay my dues to the Associates group.

I was given a DVD of the orientation film used for visitors -- a very nice gesture. I reminisced a while with the staff and then headed back to Harrisburg through Annville and Palmyra.

Our good friends Bill and Debbie asked us to go out to dinner, and we went to their place first. It's rather new and beautifully decorated with the kinds of things we like -- including a ton of Lesterware! We looked around and talked a bit, then headed into Harrisburg to a restaurant called Dodge City.

There we feasted on shrimp, chicken parmigiana, seafood pie, and seafood sampler. This was followed by strawberry shortcake, shared by the lovebirds Debbie and Bill, a sooper dooper chocolate brownie for Susanne, and apple pie à la mode for me (always thinking outside of the box.)

A short ride, and we were back at Bill and Debbie's, where we found the Box waiting patiently in the glow of a streetlight. A quick visit to Debbie's craft room (she is into stamping and makes beautiful cards) and then a peek at her lime chiffon bathroom (which poor Bill will be painting soon because Debbie has lost her "touch" at selecting colors) ended our delightful evening.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


When your grand-daughter turns five, you just have to be there to help her celebrate. Susanne had a commitment over the weekend and opted to come out later, but I saddle up the Box and mosied on out to New Brighton on Friday, April 30, in anticipation of a grand party the next day. The trip was uneventful, and I soon found myself winding my way from the turnpike down through Beaver Falls to New Brighton, arriving around 5:30 p.m.

Many of the river towns in western Pennsylvania have fallen on hard times. Beaver Falls has a number of vacant storefronts, and, unfortunately, some fine old buildings on the main street have been replaced by chain stores and fast food restaurants. Some of the neighborhoods are less than attractive, shall we say?

Geneva College is located there, but up on a hill where a neighborhood has grown up around it. "College Hill" seems barely to be part of Beaver Falls. There is a grand Carnegie Library there, but it needs work. We sometimes visit a large antiques shop at Beaver Falls, and, of course, I stop too often at Oram's, the legendary donut shop. (In my own defense, I had but on this trip, leaving the rest for Sarah and the kids.)

New Brighton has a neighborly feeling about it. The tree-lined streets are, for the most part, pleasant. There is a lot of older housing there, a mix of mansions on the main street and small frame houses on the side streets. Sarah and the kids live in a rather attractive traditional style house perched on a little hill at the top of a big hill that starts at the edge of the Beaver River. Believe me, you may enjoy walking down the hill, but walking back up is murder!

On Saturday morning, last minute preparations for the party were done. The kids had a bite to eat and I drove down the hill to the Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe, famous in the area for its chili cheese dogs. Sarah had a hankering for one, but I thought the burgers on the grill looked tasty. I really don't like taking fast food home to eat -- it's best eaten on the spot. So I sat down and ate that burger -- no fries! -- while watching and listening to the New Brightonians coming in and out.

The shop is located on Third Avenue, the main street, where rather recently the sidewalks have been replaced and trees added. It looks a whole lot better than it used to. When those trees mature, it will be a beautiful broad avenue through the major retail area.

Well, soon it was back up the hill with Sarah's chili dog. Almost immediately, her friend arrived with her three kids. It was only 1:00 p.m., and the party was to start at 2:00 p.m. Hmmm, what to do? Snacks were served as the kids kept busy playing (two of the kids were Eddie, Cole's best friend from school, and his brother Andy). No cousins in sight this year!

Cathy and Ab Darnley, the birthday girl's other grandparents, arrived and had some snacks. The kids gathered around Chloe on the living room sofa for the annual orgy of gift opening. Chloe is way into clothing these days, so some very cool togs came out of bags and boxes. I think there was jewelry, too, and a little bikini with peace symbols on it. Let's hope that former hippie Sarah doesn't try to squeeze into it this summer! There was also an angel from Aunt Rachel for Chloe's collection.

Soon it was time to bring out the cake and sing the song! Everyone gathered around the table, and out came a Hannah Montana cake with a big number 5 candle on it. The candle was lighted, the song was sung, and the "happy birthdays" were shouted. We all enjoyed the cake. Thanks, Hannah!

Sarah distributed the "favors," some neat little gifts for the kids, including lightweight airplanes, magnifying glasses, baseball bats, and purses for the girls. When I was a kid, you got a lollipop!

Soon everyone had gone, and the place settled down. Baths were given and pajamas donned. Bedtime. Silence.

On Sunday morning, we all went to Grace Lutheran Church in Rochester, not far at all from New Brighton. The kids were well-behaved and went forward for the children's sermon. It is amazing what children soak up in church. A week or so before, Chloe sang over the phone to me the recurring antiphon for the canticle "Worthy is Christ," which is "This is the feast of victory for our God, alleluia!" She sings it with almost as much gusto as "The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow" from "Annie." (You gotta hear her sing this!)

After the children's sermon, the kids all went downstairs to hear some stories and make some crafts.

We gathered them up after church, and Sarah drove us to a buffet at Chippewa, armed with "kids eat free" coupons. Sarah, Chloe, and I took advantage of the vast array of food, while Cole, claiming he had "probably" eaten too many goldfish crackers back the church, nibbled on some cheese and pineapple. We all had some dessert, too, with the birthday girl liberally sprinkling her ice cream with M and Ms and other dentist's nightmares.

The day ended quietly back in New Brighton.

On Monday, Sarah went off to work while I delivered Cole to school and took Chloe to preschool for the morning. The Box and I then made a beeline to Oram's Donut Shop in Beaver Falls, where I bought a couple of donuts. I ate one -- honest, only one -- and then stopped at the KIA dealer to look at the KIA Soul, a Box-like car, all shiny and new. Around noon, I picked up Chloe and the Box headed across the Beaver River to the town of Beaver.

Unlike many of the other river towns, Beaver is more prosperous looking. It is the country seat, so there is a large modern court house located there. The main street is in excellent shape, and there are many small shops and eateries. I like the Café Kolache, where they serve an eastern European baked goody and delicious coffee.  Susanne says that Chloe loves to look in the store windows and see all of the sparkly things in the jewelry stores in Beaver.

She also likes a good cheeseburger from McDonald's, so we drove through town to the far end for lunch. Afterwards, Chloe wanted to go into the cemetery next door and look at the statues on the graves. She wasn't spooked at all and asked about whose names were on the stones. She even climbed up an unusual mounded grave for a picture. At the mausoleum made to look like Christ's tomb, with a huge stone rolled against the opening, I explained the idea behind it, and Chloe asked if Jesus was still in there!

Later in the day we picked up Cole from the Y, where he goes after school, and waited for Sarah to come home. I didn't feel very well and went to bed early.

I was still sleepy in the morning, so Sarah took the kids to their schools, and at 11:30 a.m. Mr. Box and I went to the Pittsburgh International Airport to pick up Susanne. She took over, and I went back to sleep. She picked up the kids and took care of them overnight as Sarah was stuck in Pittsburgh for a business meeting.

On Wednesday, Susanne took the kids to school again while I drowsed, and then we headed home. I was feeling better and was able to drive for a while, but Susanne did most of the driving, and we arrived home just in time for the evening rush hour.

 Guess who!
 A little bowling before the guests arrive at the party
BFF Eddie
A hug for Cole from Grandma Darnley
The old folks wear the same uniform.
 (l to r: John, Betty, Cathy, Ab)
Chloe and Sarah enjoy a quiet moment.
Uh-oh, trouble ahead!
A game of Connect Four after dinner
The kids go up for the children's sermon.
Cole plays his game while ignoring the
food at the buffet. Oh well, more for me!
The server comes around with "sticky buns." 
What I want to know is, where is the sticky?!
Phoebe greets us when we arrive home.
A little too much cake? Nah, Chloe is
looking through the magnifying glass.
A lovely older home along the river in Beaver.
Chloe's friend Barbie plays on the porch.
In the last picture of the trip, Chloe is admiring her 
Mom in her wedding gown.