Monday, September 27, 2010


Yesterday the Box barreled down I-81 to the Newville exit on our way to the Laurel Lake area of Pine Grove Furnace State Park. We drove the eight miles from the exit to the park, uphill all the way, the Box purring effortlessly under the load of two-liter sodas and bags of ice.

We had a delightful time with Australian, French, and Norwegian families and their American community sponsors and enjoyed un pique-nique. 

The International Fellows are all Lt. Colonels or Colonels in their respective armed forces and come from around the world to study at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. The community sponsors help them to adjust to living in the United States and show them a little bit of the "American way of life." It's quite a wonderful experience in international friendship.

When we pulled up at the pavilion near Laurel Lake, several of the families were already there and introducing themselves to each other. We joined them and then started to prepare the tables. I had bought plastic table coverings and utensils at Neiman-Marcus -- er, I mean the Dollar Store -- and we covered the tables. We placed our cooler, filled with just about every fizzy drink known to man, as well as water and lemonade, on the bench of the dessert table (for which each family had brought a contribution).

Have you ever seen a swarm of locusts? Then you can imagine what it looked like when the kids saw the drinks and the desserts. They surrounded the table and tried all of the goodies, then mixed up potent cocktails of Coke-orange soda-ginger ale, and others defying description. It was amusing to watch. Dessert first! What a crazy idea -- and one that should be universally adopted.

Meanwhile the adults laid out their meals and began to enjoy them and the accompanying conversation. Then they had dessert!

I enjoyed speaking with the Norwegian IF, Odin, noting that of all the ethnic groups in Pennsylvania, there did not seem to be many Norwegians. I recalled, though, that there was a state historical marker about the Norwegian Ole Bull, and there was a state park named after him. According to the state park's Web site:

"Ole Bull State Park is named for Ole Bornemann Bull, the famous Norwegian violinist who toured the United States in the 1850s. In 1852, Ole Bull purchased a large tract of land in Potter County and attempted to develop a series of Norwegian settlements. He began construction of a 'home' at what now is called Ole Bull Vista. He never finished this large, wooden cabin. After a year of severe hardships, the majority of the colony disbanded and moved west into Michigan and Wisconsin."

Elsewhere, the kids were roaming the beach, toes in the water, sand on their soles, under the watchful eyes of their parents. Soon the adults were joining them in a game of (one might say "modified") football. Even the youngest children participated, along with the some of the dads and one of the moms.

As the sun began to set, the kids were treated to a game of Bingo, organized by Edie, sponsor of the Dutch family who were unable to be present. Edie's a natural with organizing events and making them fun. The kids enjoyed the game and the prizes they won.

Meanwhile, the two youngest French kids showed off their expertise in bubble blowing. They should take their show on the road -- they're practically professional! Their dad showed them how to make really big ones!

Finally the time came for farewells, and we all packed up and headed for home, looking forward to the next opportunity to meet. This time the Box nearly took flight as we cruised down the mountain, unencumbered by sodas and ice.

The kids check out the desserts.

The Norwegian family with their sponsors.

Everyone loves brownies!

Our French family rests after football.

One of the Norwegian kids.

Elizabeth  and her mom Sarah (from Australia)
blow some bubbles with the French kids.

Getting to know each other.

The Norwegian dad helps his kids with Bingo.

Raphael demonstrates the French way to blow "bulles."

Elizabeth successfully hides behind a tree.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Furnace stack at Pine Grove
Today old PHMC friend Edie and I drove the Box to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, south of Carlisle, to scope out the surroundings in preparation for a picnic we're having for several families in the International Fellows Program at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle. Edie and I and our spouses are in the community sponsorship program, designed to help foreign military officers and their families to adjust to and enjoy their year-long stay in the U.S. There will be about 20 of us there before winter hibernation starts.

The park is eight miles from I-81, through some beautiful countryside. We stopped at the park's visitor center for information, then drove down the road and saw the old furnace stack (a rather forelorn remnant of a once grand iron plantation). We also saw the paymaster's office and the ironmaster's mansion. We checked out one of the pavilions and then found a second one further off the beaten track. There were very modern, er, facilities, which everyone will appreciate.

Back on the main road, we found a second area next to Laurel Lake and decided that eating in one area and then visiting the other would be fun. We could visit the general store and the Appalachian Trail Museum, a new addition to the park. I think both kids and adults will enjoy the day.

South Korea and Japan meet at Ollie's
After lunch, I dropped Edie off and then made a stop at Ollie's "Good Stuff Cheap" to look for table cloths and some fun things for the kids to do. Bubble stuff, anyone? The box had a nice chat with a KIA Soul while I did the shopping.

Next, I crossed the mighty Susquehanna and exited at Progress Avenue, where I continued up the hill to the AAA office. There I picked up tourism materials on Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. I will be making a display on these three states for a gathering of officers' spouses next month, in order to introduce them to the U.S. I'll also be making something representative of Pennsylvania to eat. What do you think -- shoofly cake and pierogies in a slow cooker? Well, the pierogies will be in the slow cooker, not the cake.

St. Margaret Mary Church
Just down the road from the AAA office is the new St. Margaret Mary Church. We had passed the old one on the Rt. 22 by-pass about a million times, so I wanted to take a peek at the new one.

Unfortunately, like most churches, it was locked for fear of the weirdos who enjoy wrecking nice things. It's quite a good-looking building on the outside.

Finally, I continued out Linglestown Road, circled around the construction, and made a little movie so you could all see the progress being made in the village. The street has been lowered to accommodate curbs, and new concrete sidewalks, colored and stamped to look like brick, were laid. I hope some trees are to be added, too. Our old house is the green one on the left, just past the old post office building (0:18 - 0:23). I have it on good authority that once the project is done, the house will be painted and readied for sale. Who knows, maybe our daughter Sarah will come home and buy it. She always loved that place!

 All of this is gone, except for the stack!

A ten-plate stove made at Pine Grove. I would kill
to have one of these -- but from Cornwall.

Ollie keeps an eye on the Box for me.

The AAA office was full of great stuff for travelers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Over Labor Day weekend, we packed our stuff and then ourselves into the Box and drove due west to New Brighton, Beaver County, home to our daughter Sarah and her two kiddies. The trip was uneventful with only a stop or two, arriving around noon on Saturday. The weather was lovely, a little on the cool side.

Tea, anyone?
Upon arrival, we were greeted warmly by Cole and Chloe and invited in to lunch, prepared by Sarah. We handed over the gifts sent along by Aunt Rachel. For Chloe, a miniature china tea set and wooden dollhouse furniture that had been Rachel's when she was Chloe's age. (Apparently the Smithsonian did not want this for their collection.) Chloe quickly set the table for a tea party with two dolls as guests and filled the tiny sandwich plates and teacups with beads from her craft box. Later, she expressed (with some coaching) thanks for these fun gifts.
Ready for take-off

For Cole, there was a Legos set from which he could create three different things. He chose the airplane first. I wonder if his ability to create the things just by looking at simple line drawings means he might be some sort of engineer or craftsman when he grows up!

We had taken with us two chocolate shoofly pies from Root's Market (apparently Sarah has gotten the women she works with at FedEx addicted to this confection, and now they are her slaves) and a large pepperoni pizza from Lio's in Linglestown for Sarah's neighbors Moose and Melissa. Sarah delivered it right away, and it was not long before they arrived at the front door for a personal thank you. We had a nice time visiting with them and feel good that Sarah has such helpful and kind neighbors watching over her.

Melissa and Moose

Mid-afternoon, Sarah took off with a friend to a county fair in nearby Ohio. It sounded like it was the old -fashioned type of fair with all the midway food booths you'd expect. During the tractor pull, Sarah called us on the phone to let us hear the roar of the engines. I can only imagine what it sounded like on the spot.

Chloe and Cole spent the afternoon with their new toys, and then around 5:00 p.m. we headed south on Rt. 65 (Ohio River Blvd.) to Pizza Hut, where the kids enjoyed their own personal pan pizzas and Susanne and I shared a thin-crust pizza, although we had not ordered that type. We let it pass, mostly because the waitress had let us change tables three times to find the most comfortable.

Climbing near the falls
Following the Italian delight that is Pizza Hut, we drove north again to Rt. 18, called Delaware Avenue, to find a miniature golf course. It had an Old West theme, complete with mining shaft and a waterfall. As you can see from the videos, here and here, the kids had a good time and we oldsters had to make a real effort to keep up with them.

I got a huge kick out of Chloe's reckless number of strokes, and Cole proclaiming either, "I bogied that hole," or "I got a birdie this time!" after his ten or twelve strokes.

The evening was spent quietly, including a reading of Chloe's very first school library book, a story about Madeline, the little French girl who lives in a boarding school in Paris. Then quick baths and off to bed went the kids, while Susanne and I collapsed in front of HGTV.

Where's the ice cream?
On Sunday morning we set out in Sarah's new van for Station Square, along the Monongahela River on Pittsburgh's South Side. We passed the famous Duquesne Incline that carries passengers up and down the steep hill to Mt. Washington, and then pulled into the parking lot for the Gateway Clipper group of boats that offer river tours. It was so crowded that we had to park in a nearby garage.

Susanne had opted out of this adventure, because she cannot set foot on to a moving watercraft (with presumably retching or something). So Sarah and I and the kids descended the ramp, picked up our tickets, and boarded the Majestic, one of the paddle-wheeled boats. This special cruise included an ice cream social, dancing for the kiddies, and a magic show, all the while cruising up the Mon, back down the Mon, up the Allegheny, back down the Allegheny, down the Ohio and up back again, past the Point to the dock.
Pittsburgh's famous Point

The cruise gives you a great understanding of how important this geography was in the early days of our country, as the British and French fought for control of the three rivers, and later how this area became the launching pad for exploration and settlement of the West.

All that aside, certain children (ours) among the hundreds of whining, sniveling, and just plain annoying children (other peoples') were more interested in the ice cream and activities. Chloe especially liked the dancing, showing off her own particular style. Cole joined her for the magic show and even had a nice conversation with the magician after the show, getting to pet Maybelline, the rabbit that appears from a hat.

Brian and his goats
After something to eat, we drove up the hill to the house of Sarah's friend Brian to see his goats and his new "house" and yard for them. We also peeked at his newly-hatched pheasants, and tried to set off a rocket, but alas, there was an ignition failure and the launch was scuttled.

We decided to leave on Monday instead of Tuesday because a contractor was set for replacing our damaged house siding on Tuesday, and I was concerned about being there to make sure no errors were made.  You know, like the wrong color, or they apply it vertically instead of horizontally, that sort of thing.

Labor Day brunch was fun
Well, Cole was disappointed because we had planned a picnic for Labor Day evening. Being a genius, Susanne suggested a brunch picnic in the late morning before we left. She got up early and steered the Box in the direction of Rochester again to the Giant Eagle ("Gine Iggle"), where she bought sausage, cantaloupe, donuts, coffee cake, and chocolate milk. There were also cheese sticks and waffle fries. Something for everyone! We all enjoyed the beautiful weather on the deck as we talked and ate.

Once cleaned up, we said our farewells and headed home on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.


Oh, a little Box story from Baltimore. Our grandson Ian sometimes calls us from the car and chats away for awhile. During one of the calls, his dad told me that whenever Ian sees a Scion, he says "Papi's car!"

Ain't that cute? Everyone notices the Box!

 Cole and Meemaw work on a puzzle
while waiting for the pizza.

Chloe zones out.

Arriving in the Box, ready for a round of golf.

We work our way over to the Saloon at the
miniature golf course.

This is the new "tandem" style of golf.

Taking a breather at the golf course.

Cole, Chloe, and Sarah await 
the start of the cruise on the Majestic.

We pass another boat with the skyline in the distance.

Yum, ice cream sundaes -- with sprinkles!

Chloe is fascinated by the magician.

The goats were fun to see.

The Box could almost fit in Sarah's new van.

Cole and Chloe help to deflate the inflatable mattress.

Special seating for Ms. Chloe

For brunch there were donuts, not Oram's,
but pretty darned good!

Cole launches into one.

There were about a million onions on this truck
traveling east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Monday, September 6, 2010


(Click on a photo to enlarge it, then the BACK button to return to the text.)
On September 1, three women and a chauffeur set out in the silver Box for a little trip through neighboring Lebanon County. My charming wife Susanne, my adorable sister Rachel, and my delightful sister-in-law Wanda were the three women. I will let you guess who the chauffeur was.

A quick jaunt down I-78 to Bethel, a tiny town by-passed a long time ago by US 22 and then I-78, still has a wide square with houses and businesses. One of the oldest houses is now home to Geesaman's Country Furnishings, where they have a nice blend of antiques, collectibles, and reproductions of country stuff for your house (because you do not already have a houseful).

Rachel ended up with a pretty arrangement of silk flowers, Wanda got a neat miniature tin candle holder, and Susanne added to her tin collection, too, buying -- of all things -- a dust pan! I had my eye on bigger things, like a very big, very wooden hutch in the corner. It would be perfect for the latest pieces in my redware collection. I figured I would measure a couple of spots at home where it might fit and come back to it later. By then it would be sold, and I would have saved a bundle!

Next we headed down Rt. 501, passing Kum Esse Diner (of Lestermania fame), through Myerstown, passing its beautiful 18th-century Isaac Meier house, and ending up in Schaefferstown. There we found The Tweed Weasel, a shop selling primitive antiques and "stuff" in a lovely old barn on the main drag. We had been warned that the place was pricey, and we were not disappointed. The stuff was cool, and there were some real treasures among the antique furniture. Wanda was on the trail of a wooden box to hold paper and writing instruments on her kitchen table but felt that $150 was a bit much for this little luxury. Nobody bought anything, but it was nice looking around. (Unfortunately, the Weasel's web site said photos were forbidden, so I have no evidence that it was appealing.)

Soon we were driving up Pa. 897 through some beautiful farmland, past fields of corn and beans, and those wonderful sturdy stone houses of Lebanon County. We arrived in Lebanon, in search of the farmers market. I had found the address online, only to realize later that it was a different market than we wanted. We wanted the new enterprise downtown. Being a brilliant navigator, I stopped beside a mailman who told us how to find it.

By the time we arrived, everyone's blood sugar was low, so we made a beeline to the mezzanine, where there were tables and chairs and some food vendors. We all got something good to eat and then climbed a half-flight to an art gallery, which had a show featuring some very fine artwork not larger than 12" square.

Finally, we took the elevator to the first floor, where stalls sold meats and vegetables, prepared foods, flowers, candies, soft pretzels, and, of course, what every farmers market needs, jewelry. We cruised them all. Wanda got a bag o'peanut butter cups (later to become -- in the heat of the parked Box -- one giant peanut butter cup); Susanne got some chocolate-covered pretzels, some veggies and fruit, and some cookies for the grandchildren, as I recall; Rachel bought cream puffs (for Jack); and I bought a miniature fresh peach pie.

A ride up US 422 brought us to the Antique Station at Annville. It's a large antique mall, and we all split up to look for that one thing that would complete our lives. For me, it was a china soap dish with blue flowers, waiting to decorate the newly-tiled and blue-painted bathroom in the master bedroom. (If the soap dish isn't already antique, it may be by the time I get that work done -- quick, someone MAKE ME scrape off the old wallpaper NOW!)

Well, that vast mall took our last few ounces of energy, so we decided to pack it in. We headed north on Pa. 934, passing through Annville (where we quenched our thirst with one of those embarrassingly large fountain sodas you get at Turkey Hill), past the Lebanon Valley College campus, through the crossroads at Harper's Tavern, and onto US 22. I veered off onto Old US 22, also known as Old Jonestown Road, through Grantville and Shellsville (where a saved-for-another-day-shop is located) and back home to examine our treasures.

 Wanda advises Rachel on her little bouquet.

 Here's the hutch I saved a bundle on!

Wanda considers an item on the mantle.

Pretty, isn't it?

The women enter the fancy-schmancy Weasel barn.

The warm atmosphere of the market greets
us right inside the door.

 There's the aforementioned mezzanine.

Among the goodies, cinnamon soft pretzels.

Colorful crafts abound.

This phenomenal peach pie kept calling my name.

You could tell fall is approaching by visiting the florist.

Kale is a great fall decoration.

Hallowe'en calls for candy corn!

 Cracker pudding! I had forgotten all about this
Pennsylvania Dutch treat.