Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Lancaster County is one of our favorite destinations. Sure, there is plenty of schlock for the tourists, but we have found some places we like to visit over and over. Most of them are "authentic" in one way or another.

Yesterday Susanne and I drove in the Box with my sister Rachel to Old Mill House Shoppes on the Strasburg Pike, just off the Lincoln Highway at the east end of Lancaster city. It's a beautiful setting, really, with an 18th century house, a mill, a mill race with plenty of ducks, and a lovely old willow tree. There's also a 19th century barn. Even the intermittent rain did not spoil the ambiance.

And what do they sell here? Well, this time of year it's Christmas "stuff." There were decorations of all kinds, some of which I have pictured here. The house, formerly occupied by the owners, is now filled with furniture, pottery, wall art, rugs, and so forth. It's a great old house, and we enjoyed imagining living in it.

We made some purchases and then, overcome with hunger, headed down Route 30 to an old-fashioned diner, but found instead a vacant lot with a "coming soon" sign. So much for authentic Pennsylvania Dutch family cooking. We ended up at Cracker Barrel, eating what thousands of other people all over the country were eating.

Our next destination was Blue Ball or East Earl (it depends on where you look on the Internet) to shop at the Flower and Craft Warehouse. The Box almost knew the way down Rt. 23 and Rt. 322, because Susanne and I had been down there a few weeks ago. We ooed and ahhed over the old stone and brick houses that line the road and took note of some places to visit in the future. Rachel gave a thumbs down to a promising-looking bakery we passed. We also passed Yoder's buffet, which my sister-in-law Wanda (who was unable to go with us this time) reminded me was one of my late brother's favorites. We'll have to try it sometime when we are fainting from hunger. Michael knew all the places with the best -- and most abundant -- food!

We needed some faux greens for a Christmas arrangement. There were acres of artificial greens and flowers to choose from. They also have a ton of crafts for kids, so we looked there with the grandkiddies in mind. Upstairs, they had furniture and more home furnishings in a "country" style.

Unfortunately, that country is called China. This was true about nearly everything in the Old Mill House Shoppes. Many are really beautiful, but with so many American arts and crafts people producing beautiful work, why don't more shops carry their work, too, even though it may be more expensive than the foreign stuff? At least it would be a gesture! Susanne's sister Robin once shamed me out of buying a piece of Chinese redware. Honestly, it was really nice -- and cheap! I left the shop without it rather than face her wrath. That is why I call her "She Who Must Be Obeyed."

Well, my dogs started barking, so it was time to take a load off, plop into the Box, and head home on US 322 and Pa. 39 towards beautiful Englewood Heights and Wesley Drive.

Victorian-style Santas on display.

"Country style" is the thing here.

 A jolly snowman greets us.

 A traditional wreath and tin lantern.

 Susanne and Rachel in the old house's new kitchen.

The family parlor.

Trying out the big red chair.

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