Sunday, February 27, 2011


The Box waits patiently outside Kiddie Crusoe.
Yesterday was not our grandson Ian's birthday, but his parents had a party for him anyway. You know, like the British royal family. Who wants to celebrate the Queen's birthday in cold and dreary weather when you can do it in sunny June? Could we do less for the Little Prince? Why not hold the party when it's convenient for family and friends if the actual date is in the middle of the week?

So off to Baltimore we headed yesterday around noon. We had not taken time for lunch, so we ate on the go, stopping for a moment at Chez Ronald McDonald at Cedar Cliff and ordered up some sammiches, fries, and drinks. Taking off again, we enjoyed a leisurely meal as the scenery flew by. Over the years I have learned to inhale fries right from their little red "pockets," much as anteaters suck up those delicious bugs they like. A sip of diet caffeine- free Coke, then on to the condiment-free dripless burger, using the wrapping as a hand-bib. Once finished, it's back to the Coke.

The trip down I-83 was uneventful, except for the cars that must have made a wrong turn out of a NASCAR rally and on to the interstate. Several roared up behind the Box, which got out of the way, and zoomed by, passing the next car (on the right or left, it didn't matter) and continuing on to their imaginary finish lines.

Sarah really surprised me!
We were soon outside Matt and Marylee's development and called ahead to find out the status of the Birthday Boy. He had been out earlier but was now in for his nap, so we were warned to be as quiet as possible on arrival. Susanne went it first, and I made my way slowly up Mount Olympus, also known as Matt's front steps, carrying a bag or two, and mumbling that someone could at least open the screen door for me.

I managed to get it open and stepped inside. Who was standing there? Our daughter Sarah, all the way from fabulous New Brighton, Pa. It seems I was the only one not in on her visit. What a nice surprise! Her children were with their father, so she was free to wing her way to the festivities.

We had lots of fun catching up and helping to make little "goodie bags" for the little party guests. Susanne and I told the kids we were planning to buy a new car soon, and amid grumblings of "squandering our inheritance," Matt and Sarah helped us locate some cars online and gave advice on getting a good deal.

Soon Ian was awake and busy playing the boy next door, who had come over to ride with us to the party site. Ian opened our presents, showing his skill with the pair of scissors in the box, using an old paper bag for practice. I don't know if he had used scissors before, but he was a natural, and I see many projects with scissors and glue in his future.

Ian practices his scissoring skills.
We all packed into our cars and headed back up toward I-83 and home, stopping somewhere (I really have no idea where) at the famous Kiddie Crusoe, devoted to providing fun for kids. It has a vaguely tropical theme, as in Robinson Crusoe. Of course, the kids all dove into the things you climb, bounce on, slide down, and so forth, waiting for the other kids and their parents to arrive.

Once everyone was there and plenty of fun was being had, the snacks and pizza arrived, and everyone enjoyed a relatively quiet moment as the kids chowed down. As Ian watched the candle on his delightful monkey-inspired cupcake, he was a little angel, enjoying the group singing "Happy Birthday." He blew out the candle and soon disappeared back into the games, too busy to even take a bite of the wondrous little cupcake.

As the kids played, we adults had a chance to talk. It was nice to see Marylee's parents, Tom and Pat. Tom was looking good and moving about easily. (He had been hurt in an auto accident.) Marylee's sister Marcia was there, looking newly svelte with a jazzy new haircut. Her partner Lauren was the official photog and had wracked up more than 300 pictures by the time we left. I think Marcia and Lauren were both in on creating the cupcakes.

Mike, second from left. Matt, third from left. Brian in red shirt.
We also liked talking to the "boys" that Matt has been friends with since middle school and who also live in the area. Mike gave us advice on getting heavy discounts on cars. Brian assured me that he and his wife Colleen are still avid readers of "Where in the World is the Box?" Obviously, they are intelligent and have good taste.

Eventually, it was time to go home, so we got simple directions and headed north to Harrisburg. The only interruption was a stop at Maple Donuts at the Valley Green exit, north of York. They have a nice clean restroom, you see. Can I help it if a sour cream glazed donut fell into a bag and jumped into my hand as I passed the counter?

Here are some additional photos of the birthday party:

Marylee getting ready for the party.

Ian comes down too fast to be filmed.

Monkey cupcakes are made with vanilla wafers.

Marcia and Pat, mother and daughter.

Sarah and Matt, sister and brother.

It's Kiddie Crusoe! Come in and play.

The jungle gym was fun.

Ian waits patiently for the birthday song.

Sarah and Matt bid farewell as we depart.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Guess who!
The other day I was driving the Box north on Rts. 11&15 from the Harvey Taylor Bridge at Harrisburg. Sometimes I like to cross the Susquehanna and go up the western side ("the other side") of the river instead of driving through the city to I-81 where it crosses Front Street.

Much of the river's edge on the Harrisburg side is invisible, due to the high bank. On the western side, it's much more natural -- no high banks and no concrete steps. You can see a lot more wild life and get a closer look at the water level and at the islands that dot the river.

I like to stop at a boat ramp in West Fairview. You turn slightly to the right at the antiques store on Second Street, which is the first building in town. You go to the first corner and turn right onto First Avenue, crossing Lutheran Street and going down a hill to Front Street. Turn right again and you come to the boat landing right where the Conodoguinet Creek empties into the river.

A moment for reflection.
There you can walk to the water's edge and survey the river with the city skyline on the horizon. On this day, the sun was in such a position that it was reflecting off the windows of some taller buildings, looking like it was coming from inside the buildings.

But the real action was taking place right in front of me. A flock of seagulls was sitting on the ice still remaining on the river. Some were flying from block to block. Others were nestled right up against the shore. As I was standing nearby and about to take a picture, an older man in a van, totally oblivious to my presence, pulled up right in front of me and parked. He circled around to the back of his van, opened the rear doors, and re-appeared with a large cardboard box.

The first round of bread starts flying though the air.
Then he began to yell towards the birds, "Come on, come on! Come on!," which is seagullese for "Come on, come on!" The birds just sort of looked at him and stayed put. He neared the river's edge, the water lapping at his feet, and began to throw rolls and bread into the water.

That got the birds's attention alright, and they began to fly around the target food, but only a few approached to eat. When the man had thrown out all he had, he retreated to his van and drove off. Now the birds were free to approach, and amid lots of squawking, flying, and dive-bombing, the birds feasted on the tasty treats.

The half dozen adults and two couples with babies enjoyed this little spectacle on a warm winter day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Pat and David greet the Box on its resting pad.
Sometimes the Box doesn't even have to leave the driveway to have a good time. Today our little silver friend just sat there waiting. Finally a big ol' Dodge vehicle pulled into the driveway, delivering our old/new friends Pat and David Raffel of Kansas City, Missouri.

We ran into each other on Facebook a couple of years ago and keep in touch regularly through our posts.

David lived in Susquehanna Twp. as a kid, and he was in one of my French classes at the high school in the early 70s. He was a nice kid then -- one who had an opinion on everything -- and he's a nice man now. And a smart one -- he picked his wife Pat (or maybe she picked him), from southeastern Pennsylvania.

That is why they come to Pennsylvania -- to see friends and relatives here and to enjoy those old Pennsylvania treats they cannot get out west. Things like hoagies, Tastykakes, Utz potato chips, and a favorite restaurant in Hershey. I was a little taken aback that the whoopie pie was not on their list. Ok, so they are nice -- and really smart -- but they have yet to discover the joys of the whoopie pie.

Well, David invited us out for breakfast, which we had done on a previous visit, but we invited them here instead. I knew Susanne could whip up a great breakfast. What I didn't know was that she would not be returning from babysitting at Sarah's house until tomorrow!

French breakfast muffins
But, undaunted, I sprang into action. Online, I found a recipe for a cheese/mushroom/tomato quiche using a professionally prepared (read "frozen") crust. I read up on peeling a tomato, and soon found myself boiling a bowl of water in the microwave. When the bubbles started, I plunged a nice plump tomato into the hellish cauldron. After 40 seconds, I removed it and immediately sank it deep into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking. I cut the ends off, carved an X on the side, and then slipped off the skin and cut up the tomato in some sort of chopper gizmo we have.

The gizmo performed on the mushrooms, too, but the results for the cheese were mixed.

I also found the recipe for French breakfast muffins, which have a light nutmeg flavor. Susanne used to make these on Christmas morning many moons ago. The most fun is plucking them from the pan, dipping the tops into melted butter, and rolling them in cinnamon sugar.

I also dug deep into the freezer and came up with tater tots! Oh, don't snicker. Do you think it's easy to tell how many tots is four servings? And then, having to line them up 1/2 inch apart! Good grief!

I think all things you bake ought to be formulated for one temperature -- say, 350 degrees. Then you can put everything in the oven x minutes before you need it and everything's done at once! We have two ovens, and they still did not take care of the 350 and 450 degree settings with different time requirements.

Nonetheless, everything came out pretty well and almost at the same time. Add orange juice and coffee, oh, and some tasty red grapes, and we had a breakfast!

Pat, David V. and David R.
Since Susanne was not here to join in the conversation, I invited our long-time friend David Volkman to join us. The three of us were all teachers at Susquehanna Twp. when we were young. I knew that the two Davids would know many of the same people and would enjoy meeting each other. Because Pat and David V. are both from the Philly area, they had much in common, too. And it looks like we all have much the same political views. It was a regular conversational lovefest!

Too soon, it was time for David and Pat to get underway. They were headed to Summerdale, across the wide Susquehanna, to meet a cousin from York at the famous Summerdale Diner. Mr. V. was off to visit his mom. And I headed into the kitchen to clean up. After all, Susanne is coming home tomorrow, and I'd like to live a bit longer.

Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Today is the 128th anniversary of the last day of operations of Cornwall Iron Furnace, Lebanon County, in 1883. On this day for 28 years, I have been phoning the staff at the Furnace to wish them a "Happy Last Blast Day!"  I knew you'd want to know!

Rachel and Susanne arriving at the market.
The Box has taken this same trip before, but it was pleasant and worth repeating! Susanne is going out to babysit the grandchildren while Sarah attends a meeting in Pittsburgh, so I asked Sarah if she'd like to have one of those spectacular chocolate shoofly pies we find once in a while in our area. It's far from standard fare, but I discovered that a Mennonite-owned bakery in a local farmers' market usually had one or two on Saturdays. But you have to get there early or they are snapped up.

So, my sister Rachel joined us at 9:00 a.m. and we headed east of U.S. 22 to Pa. 743 at Grantville. On the way I agreed to stop at Turkey Hill, a convenience store, so Susanne could get some much-needed coffee. Forget the pies, the coffee was more important! The little woman was none too happy as the Box glided silently past the Turkey Hill. "Oops," I said, and even offered to turn around and go back. But the pies were given a reprieve, and we headed forward.

The pies are packaged for the trip to New Brighton.
The market is located near an old barn on the corner and is housed in two large pole buildings. We headed to the second one, made a bee-line to the bakery, and bought two pies for Sarah. Now, Sarah is on a diet. She brags daily on Facebook about how much she is losing. So why did she ask for two pies? Perhaps she is on the "binge and gorge" diet. But then again, she might be trying to buy her co-workers friendship since she is so unlikable.

Anyway, after the pies, Susanne bought coffee, and we stopped in the Amish furniture dealer's stand at the very back of the room. We admired a wooden kitchen island similar to the one we had seen at Leonard's Oak World not too long ago. It had a poplar top stained cherry and the cabinet section was painted black. It has twp drawers and two shelves below with cabinet doors hiding them. And it was less than half of Leonard's price!

The kitchen island.
We talked to the owner of the stand, who said that the makers could add six inches to the height, making the drawers deeper. This will make it easier for me to work and sit at! We left a deposit and await its arrival.

Next came a little bit of breakfast. I forget what Susanne had, but I wolfed down an egg and cheese wrap. It was small. Rachel had already eaten breakfast so ate nothing. What will power! Personally, I have none, and so bought a whoopie pie -- just one, honest -- to have when I inevitably got hungry.

We wandered through the remaining stalls and took some pictures. Next door, the women bought fruits and vegetables and something called cheese volcano bread.

We headed home, using Old Jonestown Road, through Shellsville. There we came upon a little shop of treasures where we have bought stuff before at a previous location. The owner, Dawn, scours the countryside and finds stuff from old barns and houses. She arranges it imaginatively in an outbuilding next to her house.

The Box is the sole occupant of the parking lot at the shop.
The door was unlocked. We went in and found the place empty except for a propane heater spewing forth flames and heat. It was like a hot air balloon was taking off in there! Soon Dawn's husband appeared and said she would be out in a minute since she had seen us drive up.

Susanne bought a heavy pottery butter dish (everyone needs one, you know). I admired a piece of redware but, unlike Susanne, was able to resist. Rachel almost bought something  but came to her senses, too. Still, we enjoyed our visit and even invited the owner to come over and see our junk some day!

Susanne was taken by these colorful baskets.

I was taken by these whoopie pies.

This cake reminds me of slip-trailed redware pottery.

This beautiful birdhouse has 'apartments' 
for a number of bird families.

The wrap stand also had nice looking quiches-in-a-case.

Rachel and Susanne enjoy a moment at the café.

I think I was thinking about that whoopie pie in my pocket.

One stand offers Polish pottery.

Peanut butter fudge!

Colorful Sixlets, whatever they are!

Believe it or not, these are doggie treats.

Would you pay $40 for a jar of truffle flour?

Susanne uses the magic money machine.

Rachel buys some strawberries and grapes
for a party she will attend the next day.

This row of Adirondack chairs looked appealing.

An attractive outdoorsy display in the Shellsville shop.


A crackled-paint old dresser.

Dawn poses with Susanne, "the sure thing."

I thought this Iranian carpet was beautiful.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 4, 2011


The Box waits patiently at Leonard's Oak World.
This past Monday, Susanne and I drove to the Summerdale Diner in Enola to meet my sister Rachel, her husband Jack, and my sister-in-law Wanda for brunch and conversation. And converse we did! We hadn't all been together for some time, so there was a lot of catching up to do.

I think we were the last people to leave from the lunch crowd, so I am sure the servers were happy to see us go and start getting ready for the dinner crowd. I counted fourteen cobalt-blue glasses on the table -- signs of the water, diet Pepsi, and iced tea that kept us going.

With all the bad weather in recent weeks, we were feeling a little bit of cabin fever, so instead of going right home, we decided to take a ride up the river to an antiques mall. I could swear I heard the Box hum a little tune as we took off and headed up Rts. 11 & 15 towards Duncannon.

Near Marysville, we passed the notable Rockville Bridge, longest stone arch railroad bridge in the world; zoomed by the famous Lady Finger bakery; then stopped for the only traffic light in all of Perry County. From there it was smooth sailing along the frozen river to Duncannon.

From log to roll-top desk. What a machine! (Click to enlarge.)
Part way there, we pulled into the parking lot of an old barn full of antiques, only to find out it was closed until March! All that good old junk sitting in there, and no way to get at it. There are some French drinking glasses, the kind you see in all the French cafés, that I would like to buy, you know, because I really need them.

Well, we headed with high hopes a few miles further to the old sled factory, another antiques mall. This one was closed, too, but only until Wednesday!

"Oh, well," we said, "it was nice to be out and about." We took a tour of Duncannon's back streets and discovered some interesting old buildings and wondered at the number of churches found in such a small town.

Reversing direction, we drove south on 11&15, veering suddenly into the parking lot at Leonard's Oak World, a place we had often passed but never visited, mainly because we don't like oak furniture. However, their signs promised so much more! So we parked near a lone car and entered to find a rather nice selection of "country-style" furniture. Susanne searched for a small table to use beside a bed, and I was interested in a wooden island to replace the table in our kitchen. That would give me a place to work that is higher than the counters and therefore more comfortable for a tall person like me. We could also sit at it for informal meals as we watch our new flatscreen television -- if we ever break down and buy one! I guess I am sort of waiting until the price comes down to, say, $10.00.

We didn't buy any furniture but took measurements and came away with a nice catalog. The people were really friendly, and we really enjoyed our visit with Leonard. Oh, and there was that cool little machine that some clever woodworker invented. You put a log in one side, set the dial, and out comes a completely finished roll-top desk!

Kitchen island.
By now it was time to be thinking about dinner. Our goal is never to feel a hunger pang, you know, so we have to think ahead. After very careful calculations, we decided that there were two choices -- the Pizza Grille in Lemoyne, where they have that wonderful chopped salad; or the Eagle Hotel, which offers "the best wings anywhere" on the Square in Linglestown. Both serve a good cheese steak sandwich, too. We settled on the Eagle, piled into the Box, and headed south on 11 &15, east on I-81 across the mighty Susquehanna River, continuing on to the Linglestown exit, and finally landing in the parking lot at the Eagle.

From 1981 to 1991, we lived at the other end of the block from the Eagle. Our kids grew up playing with Bill and Tessy, whose parents owned the Eagle. Once we were invited to the Greek "name day" party for the kids' dad. It was a lot of fun, with great food, of course. Now Bill and his wife run the "hotel," and it's quite popular around here.

Susanne leads the way to the Eagle.
We ordered our cheese steak and quickly decided that we should have ordered one to share. (We did have the second half the next day for lunch.) Susanne had yet more iced tea, and I went a little wild and ordered a Tröegs’ Nugget Nectar Ale. You know, the one that "will take hopheads to nirvana with a heady collection of Nugget, Warrior, and Tomahawk hops. Starting with the same base ingredients of [Troeg's] flagship HopBack Amber Ale, Nugget Nectar intensifies the malt and hop flavors to create an explosive hop experience."

This seems to be one of the beers of choice of such young(ish) turks as my son Matt and our friend Mike, whose company built our back porch and patios. I drank responsibly, of course, nursing the drink until draining the last drop. It was then that I found out how wild I had been. That beer cost $6.00! The last beer I paid for cost about 25 cents! Nirvana ain't cheap!

We packed up our leftovers, stood out front for a moment soaking in the atmosphere on the newly redesigned Square, and then headed home to a nice warm house and an evening of junky TV shows. On the way home I recalled the old Linglestown knee-slapper: Question: "What do people in Linglestown do for fun on a Saturday night?" Answer: "We go down to the Eagle Hotel and see who got the room." Yuk, yuk!

These swivel-top stools go with the island -- 
for additional money, of course.

The SIX DOLLAR Nugget Nectar ale!

 Proof of consumption.

Basking in the glow of neon and sunset.

And just for fun, 
how do you like this stretch xB limo?
I need one!

Pimp my ride!