Sunday, November 28, 2010


After our trip to Lititz on "Black Friday," we spent the rest of the day with Matt, Marylee, and Ian. The three cousins had a quiet day at home. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. As all kids do, they found that the number of toys on the floor is equal to the amount of fun to be had. They played a game called "Let's Chase Each Other and Scream." They also exchanged Christmas gifts since they will not see each other then.

The kids spent time on Matt's lap, enjoying the miracle of the iPad. There was some sort of cat who purred when you rubbed its tummy and repeated things you said in a cat voice. All of the kids tried to make it say things, but I heard only one response from the cat. Once it was bedtime, the adults spent some time clearing the floor and then enjoying some adult conversation. Marylee read through house plans and told us that her parents were embarking on a Caribbean cruise.

On Saturday morning, the Box hauled me to Market Square Church, where I joined other members of the worship and music committee in putting up some seasonal decorations.

The team was placing wreaths around the walls and hung them outside, too. Two tempting white boxes were displayed in the atrium -- sticky buns with and without nuts. I enjoyed a cup of coffee but somehow did not have time for a bun. Can you imagine that?

Phyllis and Wilmer
My job was to assemble the Advent wreath and find the candles. Wouldn't you know, there was one screw missing -- one that held the candle cup onto the brass ring. So off I headed to the local hardware for a time-consuming and frustrating search for the screw. Finally located among the thousands of choices, I returned to the church and finished the assembly. (I was happy on Sunday morning when the whole thing held together for the service.) Now we have five extra screws!

As the crew began to finish up, I grabbed a sweeper and went to work on the needles lying all over the carpet. Decorations are a messy affair!

I got home in time to find the family going to a bowling alley to meet my sister Rachel and her husband Jack. Rachel and Jack bowl regularly, and Jack is the best. Rachel knocked down all but one pin much of the time, The rest turned in uneven performances! Cole is in a bowling league and has his own bowling ball. His team has advanced to the next level in the league.

I needed some time to gather my wits and then gas up the Box before heading over there myself. Things were in full swing when I arrived. I watched the fun, took some pictures, and had a good time. Ian used a neat contraption, a metal frame with a sort of sliding board section. He placed the ball on the top and gave it a shove down the alley. Sometimes he knocked down a few pins! Chloe and Cole each had their own unique styles.

Afterwards, Matt and Marylee took Ian home for a nap, as he was feeling down due to a cold and runny nose. In sympathy, the rest of us went to Friendly's for ice cream!

When we arrived home, we learned that Matt and Marylee had decided it was best to take Ian home early so he could feel better in his own surroundings. You all know how good your own bed feels when you're sick. So off they went, and the rest of the day was pretty uneventful, with the two leftover cousins playing computer games like old pros.

On Sunday morning, I went off to church after saying good-bye to Sarah and the kids. I was lugging the Communion table's fair linen, which I had ironed and rolled up with Sarah's help, and three dozen cookies I had baked and iced for the youth group's cookie sale.


Our daughter Sarah arrived with her kids Cole, 7, and Chloe, 5, around dinner time on Wednesday of this past week for the Thanksgiving holiday. After a great meal together on Thanksgiving, we enjoyed some leisurely time together.

The next morning, we decided to hop in the Box and head into Lancaster County to visit the beautiful town of Lititz. It was founded in the 18th century by the Moravian Church, a Protestant sect from Bohemia, now in the modern Czech Republic. The church places a high premium on Christian unity, personal piety, missions, and music.

In Lititz you will find the church on Moravian Square; Linden Hall, the oldest all-girls boarding school in the United States; a number of 18th and 19th century stone and log houses; and the two places the Box was heading for: the Wilbur Chocolate Company store and museum, and the Sturgis Pretzel house, America's oldest pretzel bakery.
The chocolate store is always crowded, so we made our way carefully through the museum displays, watched some women making lollipops and dipping candy, and found the secret tub of samples of the number one product, Wilbur Buds. Sarah bought some to take home, and the kids each got a treat.

We got back in the Box and drove though the square and a few blocks down the main street, passing the church and part of Linden Hall, where we parked opposite the pretzel bakery. There we bought our tickets just in time to join the next tour. While the guide was telling the history of the place, he was cutting up pretzel dough as we stood in front of a long counter, with visitors facing each other on two sides. The dough was passed down the row, and everyone was told to roll the dough out into a snake-like piece of about 14 inches. There were wooden rods to help you measure. Then he told us how to twist the dough into a pretzel shape. It was lots of fun, although we couldn't bake our own pretzel. Maybe hundreds of tourists had handled that dough. Probably not, but maybe.

We went into the next area to see the ovens and then a final area to watch a young man twist the pretzels in a flash. These became soft pretzels for sale on the way out. Of course, we had to have one.

The kids must have been listening because they knew that the soft pretzels were baked once, and the hard ones twice. This simple secret was apparently discovered by accident when some soft pretzels were left in the back of the oven one day and were baked a second time.

Then we drove around the town a little, admiring the handsome houses, and headed back to Harrisburg by way of Quentin, a small Lebanon County town near Cornwall. Quentin's original name was Bismarck, and the population was mostly of German descent. During World War I, its unpopular name was changed to Quentin, in honor of Quentin Roosevelt, son of Theodore Roosevelt, after Quentin's plane was shot down by the Germans.

We stopped for lunch at the Quentin Haus, a friendly little family restaurant on the edge of town along Rt. 72. We had a very nice server, and the food came out of the kitchen very quickly. We all enjoyed our meals, then climbed back into the car for the ride home. We drove north through Annville to US 22, which runs just a block or two from our house.

There we found son Matthew, his wife Marylee, and their son Ian, up from Baltimore, waiting to join the Thanksgiving merriment.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Roots Market, the famous farm market and auction house, is open only on Tuesday. Yesterday being the last Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the impending visit of daughter Sarah and her children Cole and Chloe, it was imperative that I make one last trip this year to the huge retail complex near Manheim.

The Box drove off Pa. 283 one exit too early, so we had to wind through some back country roads to find the place. It was a misty morning, with the sun struggling to break through the clouds. Finally, I spotted the market in the distance and headed in that direction.

All of the parking lots were full, so I had to park along the road on a grass strip apparently reserved for silver-colored cars (see photo). Pedestrian aisles were full, too, both inside and outside of the sprawling complex. I headed straight for the stand where I have bought the chocolate shoofly pies that Sarah loves. I expected to see the bearded Amish man and his daughter, dressed plainly in black and bright solid colors, at their stand full of baked goods. Instead, all I saw was the stand. Empty. Desolate. Void of human presence. Well, you get the picture.

Beginning to panic, I recalled another stand outside run by plain people, but they seemed to specialize in whoopie pies. Would they even have a shoofly pie, let alone a chocolate one? (The difference is that chocolate sauce or syrup of some sort replaces the molasses found in a "regular" shoofly pie.)

Can you believe there were four chocolate shoofly pies in a row at the end of the stand? Naturally, I snatched up two of them. The young Amish man behind the table (I say Amish even though he might have been from a number of different sects among the plain people) boxed and bagged them for me. Satisfied, I decided to spend a few minutes more before heading back to a lunch date in Harrisburg.

Just for visual fun, I checked out the other bakeries. At one of them I found a stupendous lemon meringue pie. There must have been the whites of a dozen eggs on top! I passed up the bear claws, the sticky buns, the donuts, and the pies, even the Moravian sugar cakes, which I love.

I made my way through the smallish group of outside vendors and back to the Box. On the way out, I stopped once again at the stand where I had bought the shoofly pies and ogled the miles of whoopie pies on display. Not being a fool, I bought a couple to take home. When I asked the young man if I could take his picture behind the table with the hundreds of whoopie pies, he backed up, tossed the bag of whoopie pies I bought onto the table, and said I could take a picture of the whoopies, but not of him.

We headed north on Pa. 72 to Manheim, then turned west on Pa. 772 toward Pa. 283. Before entering the highway, I realized we were only two miles from Mt. Joy and decided to stop at the Wilton Armetale Outlet there to see what bargains they might have. They did not have anything that interested me, and when I asked about bringing some Armetale dinner plates to have them polished, the woman told me that they no longer operated in this region, but instead that all of their products were made in Mexico or China. Disappointed, I left, probably never to return.

Next we headed north on Pa. 230 through Elizabethtown, Middletown, Highspire, and Steelton, arriving finally with our precious cargo of pies at Harrisburg. I found a parking spot on Briggs Street and hoofed it over to Roxy's Café at Third and North, where I met old (I mean former, of course) PHMC cronies Joan and Marcia. We had a good meal and witty conversation. We watched former colleagues crossing the street and continuing on to fancier and pricier eateries. When the time came, Joan and Marcia left, and I walked to my car.

There I ran into my friend Guy, who had walked home from downtown for a cake he had forgotten to take to work. Though unable to talk him out of a slice, I offered him a ride back downtown on my way to the John Harris Mansion, where I was to meet with, you guessed it, Marcia from Roxy's!

After the meeting, I walked around to the front of the mansion to see the progress on the front porch, which is being repaired. The north end will be finished soon and the south end after that.

I also walked across busy Front Street to photograph one of the few trees in Riverfront Park still bearing fall foliage. It was near the grave of John Harris, Sr., who had lived nearby and operated a ferry across the Susquehanna in the 18th century.

An array of whoopie pies -- the largest variety I have ever seen!
Double click to enlarge and read the labels.

Here's that beautiful tree in Riverfront Park.

Monday, November 22, 2010


My daughter Sarah was heading back to work after having her car serviced when she came across this hot little Scion in use as a taxicab.

This is a testimony to the roominess of the Scion, although if anyone is heading to the airport with a couple of big suitcases, there might be a problem, because the trunk is about the size of a foot locker.

I wonder if you can buy the light for the roof at the Scion dealer. If so, I might just go into business!

Now this next part is just gratuitous. We have all seen plenty of whoopie pies on this blog, but we have never seen one being eaten. Well, here's a guy named Ian "The Invader" Hickman, who is famous for eating all sorts of foods in great quantities. You can see what he has eaten here.

In 2006, he ate 36 mini whoopie pies in three minutes at Strasburg, Lancaster County. In 2008, he ate 45 of the average-size ones in the same contest.  And check out this 225-pound whoopie pie, the world's largest they say, exhibited at the food festival.

If you simply must read more about the whoopie pie eating contest, look here. Anyone interested in attending this foodfest in 2011 should let me know as soon as possible so I can save you a seat in the Box. It seems to be in the second half of October each year.

Gosh, I hope it's not while I am sailing up the Rhone River with Holiday Tour and Travel on the River Royale riverboat.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


My sister Rachel and I took a quick ride down I-81 and I-78 to Bethel, a crossroads town just over the Lebanon County line in Berks County. The area was settled in the 18th century. Apparently, the name Bethel came from a Moravian bethel, meaning "House of God," that was once located in the area.

We were headed for a large brick building on the square that houses an antiques and folk art store, as they were having a Christmas open house. We had been there earlier this summer with Susanne and my sister-in-law Wanda. Wouldn't you know, they sold the hutch I loved so much! I think they should have kept it until some wall in our house stretched out long enough to accommodate it. Now you know that house stretching takes a while. Well, they just couldn't wait, I guess. So no hutch for more redware!

There were interesting things to see, and Rachel bought some candles and a sprig of Christmas greenery. I promised to buy some more and make her a Christmas arrangement. We'll see if I still have the skill to do it. If not, I will sneak back to Bethel and buy one and pass it off as my own -- in the Christmas spirit, of course!

On the way home we stopped in Shellsville, Dauphin County, to visit a shop owned by a very outgoing and interesting woman named Dawn. She always greets you like a long lost friend. She has all sorts of "stuff" from people's attics and outbuildings and barns. A lot of it is just great, including some nice pieces of furniture, especially cabinets and cupboards. Next week is her Christmas open house, so we may go again to see if she has any of the little Japanese paper houses that we had as kids. I have a small collection already, and Dawn's prices are always good.

It was getting late, so we left there and headed for a nice lunch of eggplant parmigiana and spinach pie at the Crossroads Restaurant on Rt. 22. It was delicious. We had to move to a table, though. Someone must be going into all the restaurants we frequent and moving the benches in the booths closer to the tables.

These reproductions of 50s brush trees caught my eye,
but the shape is not really authentic.

Here was a pretty arrangement on the window sill.

Rachel liked this one especially.

At Crossroads, whoopie pies! I can't
resist photographing them! Someone help me!

Upon entering the house, I found this 
pretty scene outside the kitchen window.

Friday, November 12, 2010


The Box seen from the top of Mt. Everest.
Our son Matt was out of town on (monkey) business, and his wife Marylee had to work, so we had the pleasure of buzzing down to the Baltimore area to spend the day with our grandson Ian. We left Harrisburg around 7:00 a.m. and arrived in Perry Hall at 8:30 or so.

We parked the Box, climbed Mt. Everest (the front steps), and encountered a locked door. Susanne called, "Ian...!" and soon the door was opened by the little tyke. He welcomed us with a big smile.

Soon mommy left for work, and the day began. Ian entertains himself a lot of the time, playing with his toys. He likes to play with his train set. It's amazing that so many kids have rarely seen a train or ridden on one, yet they love the idea of hooking up the cars and moving them around the track. Susanne read some books with him and some Christmas toy catalogs, too. Ian chose a ton of stuff for Santa to bring.

Two-fisted drinker.
Susanne made grilled cheese and baked French fries for lunch, and we enjoyed lunch and conversation. Ian wolfed down his sandwich and drank both white and organic chocolate milk. During this time he took advantage of the quiet time to explain Einstein's theory of relativity, interrupted by the occasional hiccough.

After lunch there was more play, and then everyone zonked out for a nap. At least we grandparents did, although through my sleep I could hear Ian over the child monitor making noises, speaking, and singing when he should have been sleeping.

Marylee arrived home around 5:00 p.m., and soon we headed to the nearby diner for something to eat. A woman in the next booth stopped to say she was surprised there was a little boy in our booth since he was so quiet and well-behaved that she was unaware of him. The minute she left, his second personality (we think there may be more) appeared. "Mr. Whiney" didn't like things much and ended up banging his head on the wall so he could get a free sprinkled-laden cookie.

Ian wore his backpack to dinner.
When it was time to leave, "Mr. Whiney" disappeared and Ian was back in charge. He ran down the ramp at the diner (much to Papi's horror), gave everyone kisses, and set off for home. Susanne and I headed north, with a stop for gas in Shrewsbury, and for donuts at the Valley Green exit store of Maple Donuts. We have long ago discovered that the Box will not pass a donut shop without stopping, so we just don't fight it.

Meemaw and Ian check out the 
Christmas catalog that came in the paper.

  Ian uses the crane to load his train car.

Ian and Papi watch an action-packed
episode of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Meanwhile, a yard crew is doing some
pruning of the crepe myrtle out front.

The cool, shiny 50s-style diner is just down the road.

Traditional burger for Papi.
A gyro for Meemaw.

A mushroom omelette for Marylee.

And pancakes for Ian.

 Mom helped to cut up the pancake.

Mr. Whiney with his consolation cookie.

Tasty desserts were offered but declined.

No cake, either. What willpower!

 I want that BIG donut on the roof, but they 
just won't sell it!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


As I left a meeting tonight at the church, my friend Wilmer gazed upon the little silver beauty we call "The Box," and gushed, "It's so ugly, it's cute!" I could tell he was sort of sweet on the thing. He peered into the window (mercifully, it is tinted so he was unable to see how messy it is in there), and then we agreed that he should join me in a jaunt one of these days. I suggested that he sit in the back to test the leg room and suspension, and when he has to yell "Stop!" while bouncing up and down, I will yell back, "We did! Five minutes ago!"

Well, Wilmer sees the charm of that plain little Box (called by some Scion owners "my toaster"), but other guys like something a little more, well, decorative. I found some pictures on the Internet to illustrate what I mean. Here they are without comment.

These last two are "concept cars," where the 
designers try out all sorts of ideas. The orange one
looks like it drove under a low bridge.

Put a tall handle and a bag on it and voilĂ ,
a yellow Electrolux!