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Friday, January 20, 2017

The "One Of America's Best" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Standing on North Prince Street in center city Lancaster, Pa in front of one of Alton Brown's top 2 restaurants for 2016.  The city of Lancaster is alive with restaurants to suit just about anyone's palate.  In the past few years there have been many new eateries that are drawing all ages to the downtown area.  One such restaurant is Ma(i)son located at 230 North Prince Street and somehow the Food Network's Alton Brown found his way to the doorstep of this old-world entry into Lancaster's restaurant selection.  
Ma(i)son located at 230 N. Prince St.
in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Alton first visited Ma(i)son in 2015 and enjoyed his meal so much that he returned once again this past year.  Ma(i)son is one of two restaurants Taylor and Leeann Mason operate in Lancaster; the other being Luca, an Italian style restaurant a few blocks away.  For those who may not know Alton Brown, he is an American television personality who is the creator and host of the Food Network television show Good Eats.  He is also the commentator on Iron Chef America as well as Cutthroat Kitchen.  As far as the Mason's go, the young couple met at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland and have found they share the same passions in the food trade.  The name of their Prince Street Restaurant, Ma(i)son is very well known now that it has been listed on Alton Brown's website as one of the top two restaurants in the United States along with 167 Raw located in Charleston, South Carolina.  167 Raw specializes in seafood (especially raw) while Ma(i)son features old world cuisine from local ingredients.  Easy to do since it is located in Lancaster County, known as the Garden Spot of America.  To give you an idea as to the fare at Ma(i)son, one entry on their menu is: Housemade Pheasant Sausage - Glen Rock, PA pheasant and chicken sausage, charred Savoy cabbage, Treviso radicchio, shaved Pink Lady apple, crispy Prosciutto, whole-grain mustard and cider jus.  If you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop and see why Alton Brown picked Ma(i)son as one of the two best in America.  They rate a perfect five stars!   It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The "Boy, This Is Going To Be A Fun Assignment" Story

It was an ordinary day.  My wife was sitting a few feet from me in her lounge chair when she said to me, "You know a Renee Heller?  She wants you to join some photographic group."  Renee was a photography student of mine years ago when I taught high school.  Two years ago, while preparing to take photos of a school musical for the Landis Run Intermediate School yearbook, for which I am advisor (actually the only person on the staff), I noticed a female parent also taking photos.  The equipment I was using was much below that of the parent so I wandered over to see what she was using.  
Facebook photo of Renee.
As I got closer she said, "Mr. Woods?"  Instantly I remembered Renee.  She still had the same face I remembered from years ago.  We talked and I found she had a child at the school and had volunteered to take photos of the musical they were about to present in a few days.  She told me she and her husband had a professional photography business.  Wasn't long before we were friends on Facebook.  My only problem was that I don't know much about Facebook, since my wife is the Facebook pro who participates in the site, but uses my face for her Facebook photo.  Well, today Renee sent a request for all her Facebook friends to participate in a project with her.  Note said:

Who wants to do a 365 photo project with me?  I'm starting a group and we'll all have say in what we're photographing!  You don't need to be a photographer!  You can take photos with your camera or phone!  

Sounded pretty neat so I sent a note back telling her to count me in.  Shortly I got a note on Facebook which read:

Welcome to Snap. Journal. This group is basically motivation to take a closer look at the world around us each day. So every day, we'll post a 'cue'. Take it as you'd like and snap a photo based on it :) Then, post your photo on the thread where the cue was announced for the rest of the group to see! This is NOT a photo competition! There's no winner, and we're not posting in hopes of great accolades! This is about sharing moments and stories with each other :) All levels of photography are welcome, you may use a DSLR or a phone! Feel free to also post your photo on your Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #snapjournal.
PS - Don't quit if you miss some days! Life happens :) Do as little or as much as you'd like!

Along with the note came the words for the week.  Starting today!!  Wow!  Just snapped a photo of what I am currently typing into this story.  
Fits perfectly into 'WHERE I STAND'.  'SEEING RED" is tomorrow.  Will be a fun assignment.  I'll save some and share them with you some time.  Now, all I have to do is talk my wife into helping me put the photo on Facebook, since I have no idea how to do that.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The "Putting My Teaching Skills To The Test Once Again" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Standing with my brother Steve in my driveway looking at the stained glass pieces he just bought from a store in downtown Lancaster.  Two days ago Steve spent the morning with me learning how to make stained glass pieces he could sell at a local farmer's market.  Steve is willing to give anything a try and since he retired he has time to do just that.  He knew I made stained glass windows and various other stained glass items and asked me to teach him how to do it.  I retired from teaching in 1999, but thought it would give me a chance to try my hand at teaching one more time.  We began about 8:30 am with making a drawing and then patterns from that drawing.  Something simple like a Christmas tree was my suggestion so we could keep it all in one color and make the procedure easier to understand.  
My brother Steve with his first stained glass creation.
We transferred the design to a piece of green glass and after having him practice both straight and curved glass cutting, he managed to cut the pieces of the tree following the pattern lines on the glass.  It was then I discovered he was having a hard time seeing the lines on the glass.  Seems he forgot his glasses!  After finally cutting the half dozen pieces, it was then time to have him use my glass grinder and grind the edges to get rid of any sharp corners and edges.  Next came the part of the operation that caused me to stop making stained glass pieces; wrapping all edges with copper foil.  Tough on the hands and there isn't an easy way to do this procedure.  You have to take the 1/4" wide copper foil and wrap the edges of each piece of glass that is in your design.  The foil has an adhesive on one side just as scotch tape.  I did help Steve with this step since you do need to see well to wrap the glass and he was at a disadvantage from the start.  We then placed all the pieces in the proper places and coated the copper foil with flux to help the solder to flow properly.  Next I showed him how to solder them together and add a small bead of solder along all the joints.  Before long he was looking like a pro.  
My brother Steve looking at a new piece of stained glass.
We then washed the green tree with water, dried it and added a black patina to the solder joints.  Fun to teach him what to do.  Teaching him was easy since he really wanted to learn what to do.  I gave Steve the basic equipment he needed to get started as well as a few pieces of glass.  Wasn't long before he called and asked if I had more glass I wanted to sell.  I had some, but told him where he could go in the city of Lancaster to buy stained glass sheets.  So, now we are standing in the drive looking at all the different colors he has purchased for his first window panel.  Anxious to see how good a job I did teaching him.  I'm sure I must have forgotten something, but we'll see.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The "Oh! You Better Watch Out!!: Part II" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Making my second post which features Christmas tree ornaments that have a Santa Claus theme to them.  Most of the ornaments have been purchased during the span of our 49 year marriage with many coming from islands in and near the Caribbean Sea.  I have a few favorites, but just about everyone is special.  The Santa ornaments are featured on our seven foot tree, but the tree holds at least two times more ornaments other than Santas.  And ... that is only one of the trees we decorate for the holidays.  Another tree in our family room features many ornaments that have been handmade by friends and family members.  Here is the final edition of Santa ornaments for your enjoyment.  Remember to click on the images to enlarge them.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Another favorite that has amazing facial details.
This ornament features our 1st granddaughter.

This is painted on a clothespin.

Our friend Just Sue made this for us in 2013.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The "Oh! You Better Watch Out!!: Part I" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Sitting in the living room, looking at the Christmas tree.  Way past time to take it down, but Carol and I still enjoy sitting with the lights turned down and watching the twinkling tree.  Its a sad day when the tree comes down.  At least for my wife.  She is the one who decorates it and hates to see all her hard work being put back in boxes.  The tree is covered with what seems to be a few hundred ornaments, but that may be an exaggeration.  Since Carol collects Santa Claus figures many of the ornaments deal with the Jolly Old Guy.  My story today will give you an idea of the magnitude of Santa ornaments that bring our Christmas tree to life.  Take a look and see how we celebrate Christmas through our decorated Christmas tree.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Carol's Christmas tree Santa collection is so large that I have included only half today.  Some may need some explanation while others are just for your enjoyment. Click on images to enlarge.

We do love anything beach related.  This one was made from a crab shell.

Another seashell ornament.
Many of the ornaments are carved from wood.

A beautiful ceramic ornament.

My favorite which is a blown glass ornament. 
Scuba Santa!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The "Razz Ma Tazz For The Photographer" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Standing on a 6 foot stepladder on the Landis Run Intermediate School (LRIS) stage preparing to take a photograph of the 6th grade choir to include in the school's Yearbook.  Landis Run, located in the Manheim Township School District in Lancaster County, PA, opened five years ago and includes grades 5 and 6.  It opened to relieve overcrowding in the elementary schools in the district.  At the time the Middle School, which included grades 6, 7 and 8, was also overcrowded.  Was a great move and seems to very successful.  At the time, I was in charge of creating the Middle School yearbook and when the new LRIS opened, I was asked by the new Principal if I would like to add the LRIS yearbook to my list of things to do.  So, I now do both the Middle School and the LRIS yearbook.  
Peggy directing her choir.  I'm sorry I didn't include the
children's faces, but I would need their parent's permission
to place them on the Internet.
That requires I take photos of all activities and groups from both schools.  The 6th grade choir has 161 very energetic members this year and could have been a nightmare had it not been for the music teacher.  Peggy has been at the school since it opened and understands the children who are in her classes.  She treats them as children and recognizes that with the onset of puberty they are beginning to enter adulthood and at times can be a handful.  Well, as I stood on the ladder, looking over the four rows of kids of different nationalities, cultures, ethnicities and sizes, they all looked the same.  They were children!  And, they were all alive and full of themselves.  Just having a good time.  And then Peggy sang a few notes.  And then they returned the same notes in unison.  And then they did it over and over again.  I stood on the ladder towering above everyone and enjoyed myself as some looked at me and smiled and some even gave me the piece sign which I naturally had to give back to them.  Instantly this group of students became respectful of their teacher.  Well, wasn't long before I was introduced as the person who was going to take their photo for the yearbook which I assume they might have guessed since I happened to have a camera and flash in my hand.  And then ... something different and wonderful happened.  They began to sing for me.  I stood there and was amazed as they sang the second verse of "Big Bad Santa" and then added some dance and jazz ma tazz to go with the music.  Don't know if they were referring to be with the song, but in no time they were listening to my commands as I took photos of the sopranos, altos, and the young men of the choir.  Peggy is a magician and knew exactly what to do to make my job easier.  The students cooperated fully and we all had a good time.   And then I was asked to stay and take photos as they sang a song or two.  As I departed the stage with my ladder then all called out to me, "Goodbye Mr. Woods."  I am old enough to be their grandfather, but they made me feel a part of their choir today.  What a great bunch of kids and what a great teacher they have.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary day.    

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The "That's What Makes You So Funny!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Everyone's laughing at me it seems.  Happens often at times when I am speaking and trying to remember a word or two.  When the word doesn't appear when I need it, I just say another word that absolutely makes no sense at all.  And that, my friends, is what makes everyone laugh.  I'm not trying to be funny, but I guess what comes out of my mouth is different, or funny to some.  Ever have trouble remembering what you want to say or what you want to do?  How about trying to remember where you put something or where you are going?  Tell you the truth, I have been like that all of my life.  
For 33 years I taught school and there wasn't a single year that I could remember every student's name I had in class, even by the end of the year.  When lecturing to my class about … let's say the invention of movable type, I would begin a sentence and by the time I reached the end, or close to the end, I would have no idea how I was going to end the sentence.  Usually just said the first word that came to mind when I reached the point where I needed the correct word to finish my sentence.  "German inventor Johannes Gutenberg developed a method of movable type that was used to create the Forty-Two-Line library pass!" I would tell my class as they looked at me and all began to laugh.  "I meant Bible!" I would say a second later when it came to me.  Made for some interesting lectures.  Often wondered why my students enjoyed my lectures so much.  Probably were taking bets on how many times I would say some silly or stupid word while lecturing to them.  Those momentary memory lapses I'm told are common, and they're not just for those who are getting older.  May explain why I've had them all my life.  When with friends, someone will ask me a question and I can't seem to instantly find the answer, but give me a few minutes and the time for the wheels and cogs in my head to begin turning and I will almost always recall the answer.  And then, I'll spurt out the answer and more than likely end the sentence or thought with a word that makes no sense.  All my life I have felt that a person's body and mind can only withstand a certain level of recall.  If the pain in my body is more intense on a specific day, my mind is more sharp and recall is easier, while if I have no physical problems, my recall may be more compromised.  Something like ... even steven!  While on a recent vacation I from time to time used the wrong word while talking which usually made no sense at all.  Didn't do it on purpose, but my mouth was functioning faster than my brain.  "I didn't say that on purpose," I said.  "But, that's what makes you so funny!" my wife said. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The "Strasburg, Pennsylvania - Part III: The Railroad Resurgence" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Posting my final story about one of the neatest and historical small towns in perhaps the United States.  If you have read my two previous posts about the town of Strasburg you realize how important the town was to the development of towns and cities to the west of Lancaster County as The United States moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.  The main road from East to West that traveled through Strasburg was known as the Old Conestoga Road.  Then in 1792 the new Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike was built, bypassing Strasburg four miles to the north; and four miles must have seemed an eternity at that time.  Since this was a toll road, another road was constructed starting in 1793 that followed the same route of the Old Conestoga Road and passage on this road was free.  
Engine #90 enters the station at the
Strasburg Railroad station.
Then in 1832 the Strasbrug Rail Road connected Strasburg to the nation's passenger and freight system, but major rail traffic never did make its way into Strasburg.  That original Strasburg Rail Road, the oldest continually operating public utility in Pennsylvania, is still a vibrant part of the town.  The road to Paradise, as it is called by many, has seen LDubs family making visits for not only riding on the train, but also making visits to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania as well as the nearby Choo Choo Barn which is a fantastic collection of HO miniature railroad trains and villages.  Today Strasburg is known to many as "Train Town USA" due to the many attractions in the town.  A few photographs from my recent day trip with my wife to Strasburg show one of the most interesting and beautiful structures in town.  
The Massasoit Hall in Strasburg.
The brick building which stands at 7 East Main Street is known as the Massasoit Hall and was built in 1856.  The building was used for dances, parties and graduation ceremonies and is as much a part of Strasburg's history as any other building in the town.  The Order of Odd Fellows has owned and maintained the building since 1866.  Today the front facade has several small businesses.  It is still used by the Odd Fellows organization, but membership in the organization has dwindled over time.  The original stage has been removed, but the auditorium and stage remain.  The third floor contains an assembly area suitable for large groups.  

The historical plaque on Massasoit Hall.
Today, as I stand across the street from the Massasoit Hall, I can't help but wonder what went on behind those doors for the past couple hundred years.  Just as I pulled my camera to my eye, a passing Amish buggy driver waved a greeting to me.  That's how it is in Lancaster County.  Residents who look out for each other as well as greet visitors to our county to explore its historic heritage.  Make a visit sometime to Strasburg and see for yourself!  It still lays claim to being one of the best-preserved historic towns in all of Pennsylvania.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania directly across the street from Strasburg Railroad.
Interior of the Museum.
Exterior of the Choo Choo Barn in Strasburg.
Part of the HO train display at the Choo Choo Barn.
This is a medal designed and sold for collection by the Lancaster Coin Club.  It shows an engine of the Strasburg Railroad.  In the beginning, the railroad used horse drawn carriages and wagons on wooden rails.  In 1851 iron rails were installed for the new steam-powered locomotives.  Make a visit to the Strasburg Railroad and ride the steam-powered train and step back into history.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The "Strasburg, Pennsylvania - Part II: Americana Personified" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading the "Strasburg Heritage Society" website and learning so many facts and interesting tidbits that I never knew before.  I have lived my entire life in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and still feel I know so little about the history of the county.  Yesterday's story dealt with the establishment of the town of Strasburg which has been voted one of the ten most historic and picturesque town in America.  In the early 1800s the town drew travelers, immigrants and craftsmen who honed their skills in trades such as blacksmithing, carriage making and tanning.  
The Limestone Inn from 1786.
Wasn't long before houses of logs, stone and brick lined both sides of Main Street.  Inn keepers and taverns drew those traveling along the Conestoga Road, the first frontier road in Lancaster County.  Strasburg's first tavern was built in 1729 by Edward Dougharty. The Edward Dougharty family and the Christian Herr family, who both owned considerable property, subdivided their vast land acquisitions in 1751 into 300 one-acre lots.  By June of that year 210 of the 300 lots changed hands.  Before long there was a shopkeeper, two innkeepers, two blacksmiths, one cooper and one weaver on the tax roles.  By the end of the 18th century, Strasburg was the second largest town in Lancaster County.  
Front view of the Limestone Inn.
Then in 1794 the Philadelphia to Lancaster Turnpike was finished and that paved road drew traffic away from Strasburg.  By 1815 Strasburg had dropped to the fifth largest town in the county. As I walked along Main Street today, taking photographs of the many original houses and watching and hearing the many Amish buggies pass by me, I wondered if the town has really changed all that much since its inception in the early 1700s.
Plaques tell the story.  Click to enlarge.
 I realize its not the same as it was centuries ago when Native Americans lived and hunted the acres and acres of land all around me, but is it really that much different.  Sure, there are macadam streets, power lines and automobiles, but life in Strasburg still has that country atmosphere to it.  As I stopped in front of one old home that displayed a sign in the window telling it was a printing company and focused my camera, a gentleman came from along the side of the house to ask why I was taking photos.  After I told him he invited me into his home to talk and see the presses he has used for years and years.  My wife was waiting in the car so I had to turn him down, but told him I would take him up on the invitation in the near future.  Further down Main Street another gentleman greeted me and told me he loved when people took photographs of his town.  When I returned to the car my wife suggested he may have been the Mayor.  Sorry I didn't think to ask him.  Well, time to show you some of the neat houses that line Main Street in this historic town known as Strasburg, Pennsylvania.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

A row of houses built in 1793.
The row of homes bears the plaques from The Strasburg Trust and the Lancaster County Historic Preservation Trust.
This stand-along brick home is in remarkable condition.
It too sports the plaques that tell of the 1874 home.
A favorite of mine.  Love the color combination.  Can't imagine how ofter these houses must have to be painted.
Closeup of the front door.
This home is dated 1887.
Just a beautiful home with stone wall around it.
Dated 1903. 
I love the door and window panels along either side of the door.
This is the Homsher Printing Company at 140 West Main St.
1858 displayed on the plaque.
This semi-attached home at 53-55 East Main is in remarkable condition.

It is dated 1852.