Monday, November 25, 2013


Today I was a 'greeter' at a model home in one of the developments of a prominent central Pennsylvania builder.

"What does a greeter do?" you ask.

Well, most of the time it is quite simple. When the development sales manager is not able to be present, he or she hires a greeter from a temp service. The greeter comes and opens the house so that potential buyers can look it over. As a greeter, I pass out literature, collect names, and just use my charm and good looks to make the visit a pleasant one.

Today I enjoyed greeting in a $300,000 single-family home in suburban Harrisburg. I warmed up the Box and zipped over there (about 10 minutes) in time to get settled before the crowd started to gather out front, demanding admission.

I always check out the powder room in case a guest asks to use it. Then I walk through the house, straightening pictures, smoothing out the bed covers, and checking that there are no spiders in the bathtubs.

Sometimes, the instructions left for me include blowing up helium balloons and affixing them to various posts and signs at the model and at the entrance to the development. There is nothing I hate more than balloons, so I was always horrified when doing it. Fortunately for me, I have developed a latex allergy (heh heh) and can no longer do that job.

My day started at 11:00 a.m. By 11:10, I sat waiting for the first visitor. At 6:00 p.m., I was still waiting.

"What," you are now asking, "did you do all day!?"

Well, believe it or not, I was able to fill the time. Here are some of the things I did:

I arrived around 10:50 a.m. and peeked in to see that there were no monsters in there!

I knocked to scare them off. You know, like turning on the lights to get rid of cock roaches.

I checked out the house to make sure all was ready. Here are the living room and kitchen.

Upstairs, I checked out the bathroom for spiders.

Then I looked into the master bedroom. I saw the Box waiting patiently for me outside.

I built a fire in the fireplace. Well, ok, I flipped a switch. The result was the same!

The solarium is quite pleasant, but there is no remote for the TV. 
Boo hoo.

I made sure the chairs in the dining room were properly arranged.

Then I listened to public radio on my snazzy new transistor radio. I have not had one -- or seen one -- since I was a kid. I got it for ten bucks on I think it goes nicely with the Box.

I made cookies for the potential buyers. The Keurig on the counter stood at the ready.

 I read at the dining room table.

 From the solarium windows, I watched the cars go by.

I had tea in the little princess room.

I took a bath.

I napped on the divan in the master bedroom.

I read TIME magazine by the fire.

Before I knew it, it was time to turn out some of the lights, lock the door, and head home for dinner, content in finally mastering the timer on my camera. Say, do you see anything creepy in this picture? I thought I saw something moving upstairs as I floored the Box and got the heck out of there!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


On Tuesday, November 12, the Box and I took a trip to Manheim and West Earl in Lancaster, about 50 miles south of Harrisburg. Naturally, the scenic beauty factor was high along route 283, where open fields lie on both sides of the highway, sprinkled with scattered farm buildings and old houses.

My first stop was at Root's Market near Manheim. My mission: buy at least one cherry donut. My friend and former PennDOT crony Bob had been in the hospital and rehab for about three weeks, and, of course, under extreme conditions your mind begins to wander and seek out pleasant thoughts. For Bob, the thought was of a cherry donut upon which he had feasted (if you can all 30 seconds 'feasting') on a previous trip to Root's.

When visiting him, I kept hearing references to this legendary donut. Sometimes, Bob said, he even dreamed about it. I even got a call from him one Monday night to remind me that Root's was open only on Tuesdays.

In the summer, this area is crammed with shoppers and outdoor vendors.
I parked as close as I could to the door of the main building and roared in, pushing aside the old ladies and gents clogging the aisles, and soon arrived before the promised land of cherry donuts. The gods were with me. There was one -- but only one -- cherry donut in the case. I claimed it instantly.

The more I thought of it, being the sole cherry donut at Root's made this one pretty darned special. How special would the Hope Diamond be if you could buy a bagful?

I also purchased a berry-filled sugar-covered donut for our church secretary, who must remain nameless, because she is in a donut-addict recovery half-way house. I was going to be seeing her later in the day.

Next stop was up the aisle, where I contracted for the next Moravian Sugar Cake to come out of the oven. I had to keep myself busy for about half an hour. I watched hot sticky buns being harvested and took pictures of donuts and other stuff as I walked the aisles of the market.

Sugar cake in hand, I was soon back on the road, heading back down 283 to route 30 and then route 23 east toward Bareville, Leola, and West Earl Township.

The first thing I noticed as I turned onto route 23 was the Lancaster Country Club on the right, with its three golf courses, beautiful greens, and stately trees. On the opposite side of the road was an eclectic collection of older homes, of varying styles, each attractive, if not pristine. On the way back I crawled along the berm and took pictures of several of them.

Following route 23 for several miles, I came to Achenbach's Pastries, where I had been on October 26, my birthday, as you may recall from a previous post. I had spoken by phone with the baker about the special buns used by the Lititz Moravian Congregation during their centuries-old Love Feasts. Our church had decided to replicate this unique service in December (more on that in a later post), and I was coming to pick up a dozen buns for a surprise sampling by the planning committee at its meeting that evening.

Pulling up to the store, I saw what surely must be the last roses of summer. These faded beauties hung on long enough to rival the colorful Indian corn used to decorate the posts behind them.

I paid for the buns (not cheap!) and treated myself to one of the long johns for which the bakery is rightly famous.

I was surprised to see all the cinnamon and sugar on top. I thought they'd be more plain.

Below is the love feast bun and the coffee that was served to me in Home Moravian Church, located in Old Salem, North Carolina. I am holding the bun and the cup as the love feast begins. My sister-in-law Robin and her partner Ellen had taken me to this church one Sunday because they knew I would be interested in experiencing a love feast.

After scarfing down that little long john, I was in need of coffee, so stopped (ironically) at Dunkin' Donuts, where I spied this beautiful little MG in the lot.

Approaching Harrisburg again, I noticed this road sign and wondered it if was an invitation to become a more liberal-thinking region.

Later that evening, when the committee met at 5:00 p.m., I whipped out the box of buns and passed them around to great acclaim. The committee loved them! And then rejected them in favor of something that comes in a cellophane wrapper from Philadelphia. Of course, they did not reject them until they had had a second tasting. I licked my wounds by enjoying the leftovers at home.

A second committee met at 6:00 p.m., and around 8:00 p.m. I was pulling up to Bob's rehab center, where he was spending his next-to-last night. Of course, I encountered a locked front door and no receptionist in sight. Instead, a phone hanging on the wall instructed me to call ext. 204, 206, 209, 213, 215, 220 in that order until someone answered. I got lucky. On the second call someone named Phyllis said she'd be right out.

Bob's room was darkened as I entered, and I feared he was asleep. Instead, he was watching an old film on a movie channel. His eyes locked on the white paper bag that is the universal symbol for pastry. As he salivated like Pavlov's dogs, I brought forth the cherry donut and presented it to him. Heaven only knows how I managed to retract my fingers fast enough to keep them. I saw a flash of red cherry filling as the powdered sugar exploded into a cloud.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Well, I guess you are surprised (but delighted) to see a new post from Where in the World Is the Box? It's been some time -- a year and a half, in fact -- since my last post. You will be happy to know that the xB, while 18 months older, is still as cute as ever. The Box still has that charming dimple on the one rear door, the locks still don't work like they are supposed to, and the "check engine" light shines eternally, but at eight years old, what can we expect? Besides, it still looks clean and shiny, and I almost never need to wash it -- a nice rainfall usually does the trick. After looking at Nissan's Cube and publicity for the Ford Transit Connect wagon, I may just fix up the ol' refrigerator and keep it another eight years.

So, my excuse for failing to blog regularly since April of last year? Simply, I got really busy with a couple of things.

First, in 2012 I was still searching for host families who would welcome French teens into their homes. I was working for LEC (Loisirs Culturels à l'Etranger), a French company with American coordinators. It took a lot of time to find the homes, transport the kids from Dulles International Airport, oversee the visit, and return the kids three weeks later. This happened both in July and again in August.

My second excuse is volunteering at my church, Market Square Presbyterian Church, as choir librarian. I take care of cataloging new choral music, bringing pieces out for use, and then returning them to the library after performance. I decided that all of the information we had on  them -- title, composer, text source, etc. -- had to be put into a database. So I spent a great deal of time entering more than a thousand pieces of music into an Excel spread sheet. The director says this has saved him hundred of hours in planning. I also agreed to do publicity for musical events and manage the church's Facebook page, as well as serving in the worship committee and the session or church council. You'll read later about a different blog I worked on during this period.

The third excuse? I am on the Board of Directors of the Historical Society of Dauphin County and active there as a hands-on volunteer. I also did marketing and publicity for the Society and co-administered their Facebook page. In the spring, I was elected Vice President, and more recently President, upon the resignation of my predecessor. A $100,000 restoration of the Victorian front porch is now in progress, and with a new executive director we have some other new initiatives under way.

So I hope you understand why I was a slacker as far as the Box blog goes. But I kept hearing from family and friends that they missed it, and they in turn heard from their friends with whom they had shared it.

So here we go with a quick review of where the Box (or its bigger brother, the Sienna) has been since we last met.

We drove through the beautiful countryside of northern Virginia to the crossroads village of Lucketts to attend a large antiques/crafts show there, meeting our friends Bill and Debbie for a day of looking at treasures and junk. There were all sorts of things to be had. Susanne liked this "French" purse.

This month I did publicity for a concert by the Market Square Singers, a community choir based at Market Square Church, who were set to tour several sites in Italy. This photo is of their inaugural concert at St. Lawrence Chapel, a French Gothic church on Harrisburg's State Street. Throughout their visit to Italy, I maintained a blog of their activities there. (Another excuse for ignoring this blog.) If you like Italy, you will enjoy the many pictures of sites on that blog.


On July 4 the Historical Society of Dauphin County presented a re-enactment of John Harris' reading of the Declaration from his front porch only a few days after it was approved in Philadelphia in 1776. Mr. Harris was away on business this year, so the document was read from the porch of the Harris-Cameron Mansion by Mr. Benjamin Franklin instead.

Later in the month, I drove LEC students back to Sterling, Va., for their return to France from Dulles International Airport. I am happy to say that I keep in touch with several of them through Facebook and enjoy learning about their daily lives.

August's activities included a drive through the forests of Pennsylvania's gorgeous northern tier to Jamestown, New York, where we stayed in the immaculate bed and breakfast shown below. 'We' being members of the Market Square Church pastoral search committee. We had come to meet in person and hear a sermon by the Rev. Thomas A. Sweet, who did, in fact, become pastor of our church later in the year. Jamestown is near the famous Chautauqua Institution, which offers a mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities to more than 100,000 visitors each year. Four of us stayed at the B&B, and another four flew in a private plane piloted by a church member.

We spent the Labor Day weekend in beautiful New Brighton, Beaver County, Pa., with our daughter Sarah and her children Cole and Chloe. We did the usual stuff, like eat everything in sight, play games, watch television, and gab.

Later in the month, our friend Lindsay drove me to Lancaster to meet his granddaughter, who was about to leave for Russia to study with the Bolshoi Ballet school. I interviewed her and then wrote a piece about her great adventure that was submitted to and appeared in the local newspaper.

After the interview, Lindsay treated me to a crêpe at Rachel's Crêperie in Lancaster city. It was a delightful place with a French flair and delicious food. We topped off the meal with a unique kind of whoopie pie and then visited some nearby shops.

On my way back home from the church in the Box, I made two stops. One was in Bellevue Park, an early 20th century planned community on the eastern end of the city. It is still very beautiful, with rollings hills, creeks, and plenty of trees. The houses are all of that era and still very desirable. I took pictures of several different styles. This is one I like in particular.

Still further east, in Paxtang Borough, is Paxton Presbyterian Church and graveyard. Paxton is the "Mother Church" of Market Square and claims to be the 'oldest Presbyterian Church in continuous use east of the Susquehanna River.' Buried in the churchyard is John Harris, Jr., one of the founders of the city that bears his name, and builder of the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion. (Harris built the house c. 1766, and Cameron bought it in 1863. Cameron was a Senator, Lincoln's first Secretary of War, and later Ambassador to Russia.)

I finally broke down and replaced the broken-down chair in my office with this recliner from the nearby Lazy Boy store. It reclines just fine, but I usually fall asleep in it before feeling the need to recline. Susanne says it fits her 'perfectly,' so she would like to buy a second one for Part 1. of her sleep, which now occurs in an upright chair. For Part 2. she moves to the bed. I have read that people in, say, Medieval times, slept a few hours in the early evening because it got dark out and there was no lighting and nowhere to go. Then they woke up, sat by the fire, read a book, and had a chat. Back to bed around four until daylight. If those poor suckers had only known about the Lazy Boy store!

For Thanksgiving, we had the privilege of joining our son Matt and his wife Marylee and our grandson Ian for a sort of two-family reunion. Also present were Sarah and her children, Marylee's parents Tom and Pat Pearl, her brother Tom his wife Joanne. Matt cooked the major parts of the meal, as I recall, with help and contribution from the others, and we all had a good time in their still-new house.


The early part of December must have been pretty gloomy, because I stopped along the west shore of the Susquehanna to take this picture of fog over the river.

A visit from our grandson Ian and his mom Marylee brightened our days. Here he is charming the server at Chili's with his smile.

Later in the month we visited the western contingency of our family in New Brighton. The family clothes horse, Chloe, showed off her fashion sense before heading outdoors.

Meanwhile her brother Cole was very obviously glued to his game player. Heaven only knows what is going on on that screen!

It was Sarah's birthday so she put on the traditional birthday hat for the birthday singing and candle blowing.

Meanwhile, grumpy old dad was just trying to keep warm -- and it was not easy, I tell you.

The first month of the new year produced at least one snow storm, shown here as the background to one of our newly-planted bushes, several of which kicked the bucket that year or the next.

One of the wonders (and curses) of the Modern Era is Facebook. Through it I located my high school friend Susan Stackpole Wendt, who lives in Pennsylvania but near Wilmington, Delaware, and we have renewed our friendship. Susan and her husband Fred came for a visit and we spent the evening catching up on friends we had in common and on the happenings in our own lives.

We went to the locally-famous eatery Subway Café for its legendary pizza. Fred loves pizza and was anxious to see if it lived up to my ravings. (I am not sure it did, but he was really polite anyway.) We look forward to seeing the Wendts regularly in the future. Susan is still adorable, and Fred and I share an interest in learning and speaking French.

Ian enjoyed celebrating his fifth birthday in the fire museum near Perry Hall. Have you been to a five-year old's party lately? The noise level is high, and most of your pictures include a streak that may or may not be a kid zipping by. Here, the boys are taking a breather atop a fire engine. Ian is in the front row, at the right. Some of this blogs readers are friends of  my son Matt and have kids the same age or older, so you know all about these "theme" parties!

By April, the Harrisburg Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark, is cloaked in pink and green. The park-like setting was popular in the 19th century, and people came to enjoy the trees and flowers. I still do!

Every year at Memorial Day, Harrisburg puts on an arts and crafts show along the river and Front Street. The broad expanse of the Susquehanna on one side and the historic mansions on the other provide a perfect setting.

I have admired this house since I was a kid, honestly, and this year is the first time it's been for sale. I love the Colonial Revival style. The house belonged to a prominent lawyer and his family. If you have an extra $500,000 it would make a great little place to live! Hey! I just found out the price was lowered. You'd better hurry if you want to beat me to it!

On their way back from the shore, Sarah and the kids stopped in Harrisburg, and we visited the Hershey Gardens and butterfly house. It was hot as heck but they enjoyed learning about the butterflies. In fact, they took some larva home to hatch. Afterwards we stopped at an ice cream shop. Chloe asked Sarah is she could get sprinkles on her ice cream. Sarah said no and got paid back for it (video) later. But mommy won in the end.


We met Sarah at Somerset, Somerset County, and visited the Flight 93 National Memorial, site of the September 11, 2001 crash near Somerset. Sarah, Susanne and I had visited the site several years ago before work on the memorial was started. I still think that while the memorial is somewhat impressive the natural setting with virtually nothing around it and a huge sky above it conveyed a certain melancholy which no memorial can achieve. Visitors start out with a series of panels describing the events of the day.

Chloe was touched by the memorial, reading every name and looking at the face of every passenger and crew member on the flight on the last panel in the series. Cole also read them all, but this picture of a tiny girl standing almost reverently in front of the panel gets me every time I see it.

This rock was in place when the plane crashed and came to a halt just before striking it. It is off limits and is considered a burial site as well as a crime scene.


After our visit, Cole came home with us for a week. We had a great time with him!


One of the nice things he did was to befriend the grandson of our friends Bill and Edie Walsh. He brought William a set of Thomas the Tank train parts, and the two of them spent a morning putting them together and then swimming in the pool.

We babysat Ian one day at his house and had fun playing games, going to lunch, and watching Indiana Jones.

The end of October brought two big events. One was a trip to Robesonia, Berks County, to collect a book we had ordered about the Breininger Pottery. We saw Mrs. Breininger again and saw the remnants of Lester Breininger's estate being prepared for sale the next day. Sort of sad -- the end of an era. On the lighter side, we took our first selfie (below). Then we headed down the road to the Black Dog Café in Stouchburg, Pa., where Jon and Kate Plus 8's Jon Gosselin brought us drinks and cleared the table after dinner.

The next day was my birthday, so we zipped down to Lancaster County to buy something for Susanne. Hmm, what is wrong with that picture? Our first stop was at Achenbach's Bakery in West Earl, where we bought some goodies and got a free "Long John," their signature piece of pastry, one of which they give you on your birthday. I showed my driver's license to prove it was my birthday.

Next we took some country roads to the village of Intercourse, where Susanne wanted to place an order for a farm table made of recycled barn wood. The village was crowded with tourists while the main attraction, the Amish, were hard at work harvesting on their farms.

In the evening, Sarah and the kids Skyped us. We used one of the breakfast pastries as a birthday cake, and there was general rejoicing (video) that I had turned another year older. OMG. How long can that go on?

This brings us to the end of our review of the past 18 months. Oh, there were plenty of other places we visited, fun things we did, and delicious things we ate. But all that excitement in one sitting would have been too much for most readers to handle. Thanks so much for reading this far.

What thrills will November bring? Just wait and see!