Monday, March 19, 2012


You know how I like to visit open houses around here, to see what's what. You never know what you will find. On a recent Sunday I visited two historic properties in the city and one brand new house in the burbs.

After church, I drove a few blocks south of Market Square and checked out a little building I have always wondered about. It's stone with a slate roof and looks sort of old. It was all moldy inside and pretty unkempt. It sits in a triangle created by the intersection of South Market and Paxton streets. It was last used by the Greater Harrisburg Council on the Arts and before that was a tourist promotion office.

I found out later, when I stopped at the county historical society nearby, that it was built by the city in the 1960s for the tourist agency but is pretty much abandoned now. It would make a neat little addition to my back yard! I could keep my redware pottery collection there and charge people to look at it. I'd be rich in no time!

I went around the block and headed into Shipoke, the oldest part of the city. After the flood of 1972, many people moved out, and the houses were bought and "gentrified" to a great extent. It's a lovely little section of town, isolated somewhat by the I-83 ramp in its backyard. Its saving grace is the charm of its buildings and the fabulous view of the Susquehanna. Only when the river decides to come up and visit is Shipoke not the place to be.

The house I looked at had just been re-habbed after the flood of 2011. Then the poor owner got a job transfer. There is a lot of space inside and a new kitchen, but as in all town houses, a whole lot of steps!

Here's part of the new kitchen.

This is the house next door. Pretty charming, except for the color!

My next stop was further north in what is call the "Capitol Area." We have friends who live on Briggs Street and are very happy there among some very nice old houses. 

Here's the one that was open for visitors. It's the one with the ridiculous black shutters!

Here's the entrance/exit from the basement. I think this place was made for Munchkins.

There was a nice open area on the first floor, but again with all the steps!

These were not only steep but narrow.

Next stop was out in the burbs on the way home. I can't even remember the name of the development in Lower Paxton Township, north of Linglestown Road off of Patton Road.  As I drove along, I wondered if the house could be on the location of "Patton's Fort," one of the French and Indian War forts memorialized on a state historical marker at the corner.

These houses were duplexes and had a first floor bedroom. I think that would be nice every time I drag myself up the steps at bedtime! Prices are high, of course, but lawn mowing and snow removal are included in the homeowners association dues.

Here's the living room/dining room/kitchen.

Not much space if you want to get away from it all! Here's the bedroom just next to the living room.

One thing that caught my eye was this perfect little window! We'd like to put one on either side of our fireplace to allow more light and air into our current living room.

On the way home, I noticed that I could see the rear end of the box in the helmet of the motorcyclist behind me. Can you see it, too? I took this picture in the rear-view mirror.

Soon I arrived home and said, as Susanne and I always do, "Oh, this is a nice little house! I hope they'll accept our bid on it!" And they always do.

Monday, March 12, 2012


I personally am not aging, but our grandson Ian is. He is now four times older than a newborn. Four times! It's amazing, really. To recognize this fact and to get some cool free presents from his little friends, his parents, Matt and Marylee, planned a bowling party this past Saturday for nearly a dozen of Ian's chums at a duckpin bowling alley not far from home.

According to Wikipedia, "the origin of the sport is a subject of some debate. One possible origin is that duckpin bowling began in Baltimore around 1900, at a bowling center owned by future baseball Hall of Famers John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson (Ian's great great cousin perhaps?), both of them then Baltimore Orioles.

"It's is a variation of 10-pin bowling. The balls used in duckpin bowling are slightly larger than a softball and lack finger holes. They are thus significantly smaller than those used in ten-pin bowling. The pins, while arranged in a triangular fashion identical to that used in ten-pin bowling, are shorter, smaller, and lighter than their ten-pin equivalents, which makes it more difficult to achieve a strike. For this reason the bowler is allowed three rolls per frame (as opposed to the standard two rolls per frame in ten-pin bowling)."

"Okay, kids, you get all that?" Matt asked before setting the kiddies loose on the alleys. "Sure, Ian's daddy, we got it. Now get out of our way."

And off they went, shattering record after record for gutter balls, pins left standing, balls thrown too lightly to make the trip to the other end of the alley, and frustrated little kids crying. In other words, they had a blast! The kids were Ian's classmates and the children of Matt and Marylee's friends. They were extremely well-behaved.

After an hour or so, it was time for the food. Pizza. The table was already set with Star Wars plates and cups, so the kids took their places and awaited the pizza. The adults enjoyed a slice, too, even though we had gorged ourselves on chips, pretzels, and dangerously hot Cheezits.

Once the pizza had been consumed, it was time for dessert. Each child had a miniature birthday cake, called a "cup cake." Adorning each was a character from -- you guessed it -- Star Wars. Who would have thought that four-year-olds would be into the same movie and characters that enthralled their parents 35 years earlier?

One of the cupcakes was special. It had a candle on it, and it was soon lighted for the traditional singing of "Happy Birthday." The kids performed the little ditty as Ian soaked it all in. I must say, I don't think the Vienna Boys Choir needs to worry about this group grabbing the spotlight from them any time soon.

Once the cup cake debris was removed from the table. it was time for the Main Event -- the giving and receiving of the gifts. Like all four-year-olds, Ian has mastered the art of opening a gift in one quick rip. He's a pro at it, really. He does not want the onlookers to have to wait around too long to see what's inside. And, unlike any other kid I have ever seen (especially his father), Ian opens a card carefully, admires the artwork, and never looks around for money!

So Ian got some cool things, some Star Wars in theme, several cars and trucks (he loves big vehicles and machinery), and other things I was not able to see from my vantage point. He very nicely thanked everyone, and then folks began to head home. Another of the hundreds of birthday parties they will attend in their lives had come to an end.

We stopped by Matt and Marylee's place for some quiet time before heading home ourselves. Ian played with some of his gifts, becoming a Jedi knight with his own light saber and helmet.

Before long we were on I-83 heading north toward home and thinking about setting the clocks ahead one hour.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Susanne on the trail of a good shaker.
This past Friday, we were invited by friends Debbie and Bill to join them at lunch and then visit the Lemoyne Antiques Marketplace in search of treasures. "Eat and look at old stuff? Heck, yeah, we're in," Susanne responded.

We drove to Debbie and Bill's place and clambored aboard Bill's big pickup truck for the ride to Lemoyne. Bill likes to take it when they go antiquing or to auctions. You never know what Debbie will bring home, and he wants to be prepared.

We had lunch in a new place where a Waffle House had been, well, housed. They overcharged me by $10, which I recovered -- I mean, come on, girl, the cash register practically works itself. I had a chicken salad panini, which I didn't really care for. The others, wiser than I, seemed to relish their dishes. Debbie's salad looked especially appealing.

Debbie tries on a vintage couture hat.
Back in the truck, we crossed the river to Lemoyne, where we found the marketplace, housed in an old bakery. We all recalled the name Manbeck's, the local bread that was famous when we were kids. It's a big rambling place with creaky wooden floors and high ceilings. You can find almost anything there.

Susanne was tracking down glass shakers to fill up a wire divided basket she had bought elsewhere. Debbie paints furniture, so she was interested in the small tables and chairs. Bill pointed out some cool 50s Valentines that we used to send to classmates in elementary school. He had bought some for Debbie on Valentine's Day last year. I showed them how Susanne and I exchange cards. I picked out one, she looked at it, and then I looked at one she picked out. This system saves us a fortune on greeting cards.

Bill ♥ the Valentines.
There are a lot of interesting things at the marketplace. But one of my favorite stands has to be Architecturally Speaking," an architectural salvage stand owned by Steve Ziegler. He is going great guns, and his booth is full to the rafters. I've bought some stuff from him, including a schoolhouse light for the bathroom ceiling. You've read about Steve in previous entries.

Let's stroll though the old bakery and look at some of the stuff that caught my eye.

I thought this old china closet was quite classy with its gray and white color scheme and carefully applied aging marks.

Bill liked these glass electrical insulators. I think they had Pennsylvania Railroad markings on them. Don't they remind you of Darth Vader?

The old shaving mug reminds me of the collection of them at the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion in Harrisburg.  I guess every barber shop had many of these for their regular customers in the old days.

You don't see something like this very often -- a priest's kit for administering last rites to the dying.

These parts from an old jailhouse call system would be useful in a house with one boy and one girl who are often sent to their rooms!

Nowadays "horsey" things catch my eye, since my grand-daughter Chloe is crazy about them.

Debbie likes Depression Glass, and this booth was full of examples.

These last pictures are all from Steve Zeigler's "Architecturally Speaking."

As I recall, Susanne was the only one of us to purchase anything, but the day was successful because we spent quality time with good friends among other people's old cast-off junk, er, antiques.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Thursday, Susanne and I drove downtown to the Historical Society of Dauphin County to help other volunteers to assemble and sort invitations to the Society's 2012 Blast from the Past -- a fundraising dinner serving a seven-course meal as served on RMS Titanic's last night at sea on April 14, 1912. The dinner will be exactly one hundred years later.

On the way, we stopped at City House B&B to pick up a very generous gift of a night at the inn and breakfast the next morning, to be auctioned off during a silent auction preceding the dinner. You've heard about City House in this blog on more than one occasion. It was nice to see Bruce the innkeeper once again and to be able to introduce him to Susanne.

The invitation-assembling process was already under way when we got there, although I must point out that we were on time! The job completed, we decided to cross the mighty Susquehanna and lunch on the deck at Duke's restaurant on the West Shore on the river. Unfortunately, it seems they were understaffed, and we were not prepared (read: too hungry) to wait 15 minutes or more to eat.

So we high-tailed it back across the river to Roxy's Café, opposite the State Museum of Pennsylvania. In fact, we (well, Susanne) had been there earlier when she forced me to find a cup of coffee for her after we left the B&B. The server poured her a cup and said it was on the house because he felt like doing something nice for someone. Unfortunately, he was not our server when we went back for lunch!

Instead, we were cared for by Stacy, a very nice young woman who worked there all the time I worked in the State Museum building and ate often at Roxy's.

We checked out the menu and made our choices. I had my usual Cousin Rachel sandwich, the best in town, and Susanne had the Roundup. While paying, I told the owner that I had had a Rachel at his other restaurant in Camp Hill and preferred Roxy's'. (Check out those apostrophes in Roxy's' -- could that possibly be correct?) You know what he said, "I think they are better here, too. Over there they insist on another kind of cheese. What are ya gonna do?"

After lunch, we drove north on Sixth Street, noticing the tremendous number of empty lots and houses marked for demolition. We did see some bright spots, though, including a large condo building at Sixth and Reily streets, opposite the site of a future Federal Building. All that development is part of a renaissance in the midtown area.

We were headed toward Agate Street, where Susanne was to be fingerprinted for the FBI. Yes, friends, she has lead a secret life of criminal activity, and the Feds have finally caught up to her. Next week she reports to Muncy Women's Prison for 15 to life. Just kidding. She is going to tutor and needs state clearance to work with youth.

We drove up Sixth, turned right on Division, and right again onto Agate street. A row of houses has been torn down and a small strip mall built there. None of the storefronts made any reference to the FBI, so Susanne picked one of the businesses and inquired of them. It turns out that she had to go into the Western Union office to submit to the electronic fingerprinting. It was interesting for me to wait outside in the neighborhood where I had grown up. You've seen pictures of the house I grew up in further south on Agate Street. I wonder if it's still standing.

We then continued up Sixth Street through Susquehanna Township to Linglestown Road and home again. All that fingerprinting had tuckered out Susanne, and she took a nap while I did a little more work on my computer for the Titanic event.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


We stayed close to home today, working on some projects for the historical society and doing a little baking. I received a box of "Whoopie Do" for Christmas and thought it was high time to use it.

"What," you ask, "is Whoopie Do?"

It's whoopie pies in bags in a box. Here, I'll show you. Please note -- it's the original! (I understand there is a "Smores" version, too.)

The white bag has the chocolate cookie mix, and the silver bag contains the "creme filling."

First, I had the difficult task of crushing any lumps in the cookie mix, which I did with a big ol' fork.

Next, I got out the oil, an egg, and a quarter cup of water.

I added the ingredients to the mix, as directed.

Then I mixed 'er up real good.

I dropped a tablespoon of batter onto the parchment paper, making 12 cookies.

As the cookies baked, I kneaded the bag o'creme filling.

Almost exactly 11 minutes later, I tested the cookies in the oven, and they were ready to come out.

After two minutes of rest, the cookies got scooped up and moved to a cooling rack.

After they cooled, I cut open the bag of creme filling at the corner, ready to squeeze it onto a cookie.

I was a bit disappointed that the filling was not light and fluffy but more like the icing you put on a cake.

The whoopie pies are assembled and stacked. Not bad looking. I wonder how real bakers get the cookies to be the exact same size!

The last direction on the kit is to "Shout WHOOPIE!" as the Amish farmers were supposed to have done upon finding the treat in their lunch boxes. Here's my attempt at re-creating that dynamic moment.

Well, there is certainly no doubt that the Amish love their whoopie pies. Here's a guy ordering some on the phone.

Note my faithful companion, The Box, watching wistfully from the curb in front of the house. He shouldn't worry. He'll probably get a few crumbs out of the stack of whoopie pies -- down between the seats, of course, where all good crumbs (and French fries -- come on, admit it, you  know I am right) go to die.

Well, after the drudgery of slaving over a hot stove all day, and because it was the 100th Anniversary of the Oreo cookie, we took the Box over to Red Robin, where they were giving out a free Oreo milk shake. Hey, observing anniversaries is required by the historical society!

The end.