December 2, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May
My husband and I have an annual Black Friday tradition. Instead of shopping for gifts at crowded stores, we shop for the perfect Christmas tree at our favorite little tree farm. We love to enjoy Christmas decorations for as long as possible; so the day after Thanksgiving, the tree must go up, and all the decorations must come out.
This year we decided to start another tradition. Since our daughter is now a preschooler, we thought that having an activity-based Advent Calendar would be fun. As we thought through ideas, we knew that caroling, making cookies, watching classic Christmas movies, seeing Santa at Park City, reading about the birth of Jesus, and driving through neighborhoods to see Christmas lights were non-negotiable. We also wanted to include fun and unique adventures. After some brainstorming, we came up with some great ideas like going to see ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas at the Fulton Theatre, taking a trip to the National Christmas Center, enjoying Christmas-themed rides and activities at Dutch Wonderland’s Winter Wonderland, ice-skating at the Lancaster Ice Rink, going for a ride on Santa’s Paradise Express at the Strasburg Rail Road, and strolling through the Country Christmas Village at Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before we had more than 25 ideas. The hard part was narrowing down the list—there are so many fun Christmas events and activities to choose from.
While my husband and I enjoy all the buzz and excitement that the Christmas season brings, it’s most important to us as a family to create our own traditions and memories. Because of that, we love living in Lancaster County where Christmas feels warm, sentimental and genuine.
Whatever your plans are for this month, plan some time to slow down, reflect on your blessings, and spend time with family and friends. And, when you have a chance, come visit us. We look forward to having you!2 Comments | Category: Events, For the Kids, holiday, Outdoors, Things to Do | Permalink
Tags: Christmas, Dutch Wonderland, Fulton Theatre, Lancaster County Christmas, Lancaster Ice Rink, Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum, National Christmas Center, Strasburg Rail Road, Winter Wonderland
November 25, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May
I’ve made my gift list and checked it twice. Now I’m ready for the busiest shopping days of the year. Though I love the festive atmosphere of the local stores, all the driving and walking in the cold weather sometimes gets to be too much.
Thankfully my best friend absolutely loves visiting Lancaster County and sampling all it has to offer. This year I’m going to be shopping for her from the warmth of my favorite chair in my living room by visiting Dutch Baskets, an online gift company featuring only products made in Lancaster County.
If you visit the Dutch Baskets website you can see all the beautiful baskets they offer filled with tasty goodies from companies like Wilbur Chocolate, Stoltzfus Meats & Deli, and more. Not only do they feature foods from Dutch Country, they also have candles from the Old Candle Barn and art from local artists.
I honestly had no idea they offered so many different gifts, not just for the holidays, but all-year round. They have a large variety of baskets in different sizes and themes. Their special Holiday Basket is made just for this festive time of year and includes a set of locally made sleigh bells.
I also have a friend who has always wanted to visit Lancaster but hasn’t quite made it yet – for her the Lancaster Countian Basket would be a good fit, letting her sample both a whoopie pie and a shoo-fly pie. Or maybe I should get her the huge Dutch Feast to share with her entire family on Christmas. That basket has everything including Amish dolls, a straw hat, and local honey!
For my husband who can’t go a day without candy, there is the Chocolate Lover’s Basket featuring delicious Wilbur chocolates. For my in-laws who like to snack, there is the Meat and Cheese Basket with bologna from Stoltzfus Meats & Deli, horseradish mustard, and artisanal cheeses.
And for my best friend? She loves to bake, so the Premium Bakers Basket would be great. It includes a cookbook, baking supplies and mixes, and an Amish basket large enough to hold a 9×13 pan for her famous brownies.
Not only did I find great gift baskets at Dutch Baskets, but they offer items for individual sale as well, so I can add a few things to the baskets I’m making at home and tuck a little Lancaster County into someone’s stocking on Christmas Eve.
So if you can’t make it to Lancaster County before the holidays, don’t fret. A trip to the Dutch Baskets website from the comfort of your own home will help you find great gifts for everyone – without needing a scarf. Happy Holidays everyone!
To learn more about Shawn Marie, read “The Bloggers” page.Leave a Comment | Category: Shopping | Permalink
November 18, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May
If you are looking for a place off the beaten path to do some holiday shopping, head to Country Creations.
As I was driving, I saw a huge bank barn on the right side of the road and thought I had come to the wrong place, but no, Country Creations is indeed a huge store in a beautiful barn. There is a lot of easy parking and no traffic; it is so peaceful compared to the bustling outlets.
Country Creations, although housed in a huge barn, is an intimate shopping experience, warm with the sights & sounds of the holidays, and festive with the chatter of happy shoppers. I was lucky enough to visit as they were setting up for the Festival of Trees, so I got to see some beautiful displays ranging from whimsical to breathtaking. There is just something about a holiday tree that makes you smile.
It took me ages to walk through the first floor of Country Creations. It is full of so many different kinds of things, I’m sure I didn’t see it all. A wonderful candle display held a few of my favorites – including a S’more candle that smells just like toasted marshmallows (mmmm…). Another area held jewelry and clothing plus other personal accessories perfect for gift giving.
I stopped to admire a red and gold Christmas tree with a fellow shopper, and we both agreed it was one of the prettiest in the shop. Just past the tree was a display of hard-to-find picture and dish hangers. I have tons of pieces that need to go on my walls, but it wasn’t until I stopped at Country Creations that I found hangers that fit my needs at reasonable prices.
From handmade soaps to textiles to tea, there is no shortage of items for gift basket making and stocking stuffing at Country Creations. I also had fun looking through their collection of Embellish Your Story products which are so fun to use. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are a collection of magnetic art pieces that you can put together to celebrate special occasions in your life – on your fridge, your wall or wherever – think scrapbooking meets home decor. They are so fun, especially for kids and they have magnets for any special occasion you can come up with.
After shopping myself silly downstairs, I proceeded to the second floor. What I found there was a charming selection of furniture and home accessories. Though the barn doesn’t have an elevator, you can ask at the desk and there is an upper level outside door that can be used to access the second floor for shoppers who are unable to handle stairs.
Touring the inviting furniture, I fell in love with a double sized goose-neck rocker that I absolutely need to replace my own goose-neck rocker which has fallen apart from rocking three babies in it.
There were more trees upstairs and a lot of great decorated homey vignettes to show you how to use all the items you find at Country Creations. Lots and lots of delightful ideas for how to easily brighten up your holiday home can be found on that second floor.
Can’t make the trip to Lancaster but still need ideas and goodies? Check out Country Creations website where you can order their products and also see video of their shop. I have a good friend who loves country decor, but she couldn’t make the trip with me this time. I’ve already told her we have to go because I can’t wait to share Country Creations with her!
To learn more about Shawn Marie, read “The Bloggers” page.Leave a Comment | Category: General info, Shopping | Permalink
November 11, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May
From the flickering lanterns on the porch to the scents of pine and peppermint greeting you at the door, The Old Candle Barn is the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit this year. The Old Candle Barn has been in its present location on the Old Philadelphia Pike/Route 340 in the town of Intercourse since 1982 which makes it so easy to stop by while visiting some of the other great shops in the area like Kitchen Kettle Village, Zooks Fabrics, and Dutch Haven.
I visited on a Saturday and the atmosphere was festive inside with the signs of the season everywhere from Santas to stockings. Though I had primarily come to look at their candles, I fell in love with the primitive and folk art displays set up in every possible corner of the shop.
In one section of the store, I searched through endless choices of home textiles – rugs, placemats, and other necessities of a well-dressed holiday home. I was delighted with their selection of potpourri in many scents and sizes since that is an integral part of my holiday gift baskets. It was so hard to choose which ones to include this year.
Then, tucked away in a corner, I found a line of lotions and soaps with scents so enticing I just had to try a few. The lotion was so beautifully silky and the light scent stuck with me for quite some time that I decided to get a little something for my own stocking. What a treat!
But on to the real reason for my visit, candles.
The Old Candle Barn carries nearly 500 different candle scents to try out so make sure your nose is ready and you have enough time to try them all! They have scents like Christmas Essence, Banana Nut, Green Tea, Sugar Cookie, Roasted Chestnuts, Red McIntosh, Toasted Coconut and Winter Wishes.
If you are only used to seeing votives and jar candles at other candle stores, then you will be enchanted with the large variety of candle shapes and sizes from small hand-dipped tapers to large candle blocks. I was especially fond of the unusual lumpy candles that are so different from a plain barrel candle.
Once you choose your candles, then you can look for the perfect holders. The selection of black iron holders is wonderful, but there are glass holders as well for a more modern look.
We have several family members with respiratory ailments, so our first choice in candles is always soy. They are not easy to find in a wide variety of scents. Thankfully, the Old Candle Barn stocks a full line of their scented candles in soy and palm oil versions for families like mine. They also offer unscented candles if you have people on your gift list who are unable to tolerate the scented ones.
I was surprised to find out that the Old Candle Barn offers many lighting options other than candles as well. You’ll want to check out the selection of Coleman and Dietz products. With the increasing amount of severe weather in our area, I’m definitely interested in finding other lighting options for my home in times of emergency. We have small children, so candles are not always the best option in our home.
I had such a great time shopping at the Old Candle Barn for gifts for my family. Next time you are in Intercourse, Lancaster County, drop on in and try out a few new candle scents for yourself. Just be sure to allow enough time to shop the entire store, you’ll be amazed at all you will find.
To learn more about Shawn Marie, read “The Bloggers” page.Leave a Comment | Category: General info, holiday, Shopping | Permalink
November 4, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May
Now that Halloween is behind us, the holidays will be here before you know it and it’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving dinner and holiday gift shopping. On a recent trip to Lancaster County I discovered you can take care of both of those things at Dutch Haven Shoo-Fly Pie Bakery located at 2857A Lincoln Highway East, just look for the windmill.
Dutch Haven has been in the business of making Shoo-Fly pies since 1946 and now they also house the largest Amish souvenir shop in Lancaster County so when you visit Dutch Haven, be prepared to be overwhelmed. From the moment I walked in the door, I was amazed at the variety of merchandise offered at Dutch Haven. Not only were there wonderful Amish Country souvenirs, but there were many quality gift items as well.
As I was taking it all in, and probably standing with my mouth open in awe, a woman walked over and gave me a free sample of their homemade Shoo-Fly pie. I was so delighted by all the souvenirs I forgot that everyone who walks in the door receives a free taste of Dutch Haven’s Shoo-Fly pie.
Never had Shoo-Fly pie before? Well, it is a Lancaster County specialty, a nice flaky crust filled with a molasses sweet filling and topped with brown sugar crumbs and just a smidgen of whipped cream. Once you have a taste you’ll want to take a whole pie home with you so it is a good thing Dutch Haven sells their Shoo-Fly pies whole or by the slice so you can do just that.
I made short work of my pie sample since it was so good and continued my shopping. Every corner at Dutch Haven has something new to look at and souvenirs are available in all price ranges to fit any budget. If you want something to remember your trip to Amish country they have Amish dolls, straw hats, bonnets and Amish cookbooks. If you are looking for something spicy for your Thanksgiving table they have jars of pickles and relishes to choose from. You can also find linens and country furniture pieces in the shop in case you feel you need a bit of redecorating before the holidays.
Dutch Haven also sells home-made root beer in glass bottles which is a delicious alternative to the kind you find at the grocery stores these days. If your family has never tasted real root beer I highly suggest you pick some up. And then there is the abundance of candy and trinkets just perfect for a Christmas stocking or holiday gift basket.
All in all I spent nearly an hour looking through everything Dutch Haven had to offer. I picked up a few things but I know I’m definitely going to make a trip back to Dutch Haven soon to finish up some Christmas shopping and pick up a Shoo-Fly pie and some root beer for my Thanksgiving meal.
Not going to be able to make it down before Thanksgiving? No problem, Dutch Haven has a website where you can order your Shoo-Fly pies and souvenirs to be shipped to your house or to a friend for the holidays!
If you are looking for one-stop shopping for Thanksgiving and the December holidays with a free sample of Shoo-Fly pie thrown in for good measure then make your way to Dutch Haven where they have it all.
To learn more about Shawn Marie, read “The Bloggers” page.3 Comments | Category: holiday, Shopping, Things to Do | Permalink
October 23, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May
Sarah, our Director of Marketing, and I both have kiddos that love books. If they could, they would go to the library every day and stay for hours. So we decided to take the kids to DogStar Books & Gallery to buy some new reading material. Sarah and I are enchanted by this bookstore for many reasons—it’s the epitome of quaintness, it’s located in a residential neighborhood in historic Lancaster City, and it has a welcoming play area equipped with puzzles, a train table, and, of course, books for the children to occupy their little fingers and imaginations.
We may have gone to the store for children’s books, but their endless selection is impressive. There’s something for everyone and the prices are stellar. They have mastered selling minimally used books at affordable prices (music to our ears) while creating an atmosphere that is personal, eclectic, and curious. In addition, the owner, Brian, is super knowledgeable about the books in the store and about books in general. If you are looking for a specific book or series, he’s your guy!
After a while, it was time to leave. Of course, the kids would have stayed longer. We bought handful of books as planned and even started planning our next visit. (One can never have too many books, right? Besides, the kids love this place!)
The next time you’re in Lancaster, remember DogStar Book & Gallery. It’s a great place to find the book you need, the gift you want to give and entertainment essential on a cold or rainy day. Trust me, this place will meet your expectations.Leave a Comment | Category: Downtown Lancaster, General info, Shopping, Things to Do | Permalink
October 14, 2013 | Posted by: Kathleen Frankford
With my husband and two daughters out of town for sports activities, my son Jack and I were home for the weekend. I wanted to do something fun, so I told him we, along with two of his friends, should go to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire at the Mount Hope Estate & Winery in Manheim on Saturday.
Jack has been to the PA Ren Faire several times, but Alec and Mikey had never attended, so I was anxious to see their reaction. When we pulled into the parking lot, we were surprised by how many people arrived in period costume (turns out, adults in costume get $4 off a full-price ticket). I think the boys initially thought this was a bit silly, but stay tuned for their feedback on this topic.
For those of you who have never been to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, it is an amazing event and attraction, featuring a diverse range of live entertainment (magic shows, comedy skits, period musicians, and of course, jousts), demonstrations, unique shops, and fantastic food. Admission covers the entertainment and demonstrations, and there are also some rides & games available at nominal cost.
The boys’ favorite shows were the human chess match – where practically every move resulted in a sword fight – and the jousts. There are three jousts throughout the day, each one building up to the next. The grand finale is at the end of the day, the Ultimate Joust, which features a culmination of jousting, sword fighting, and pyrotechnics. I won’t spoil the surprise, but the ending was unexpected and truly spectacular.
While the boys enjoyed the entertainment, I visited the shops, which featured costumes, pottery, candles and soaps, and other unique gifts. I also watched glass blowing and blacksmith demonstrations, and took part in wine tasting. The boys did some shopping of their own and bought large replica swords, which they had fun using to create their own duels throughout the day.
And I can’t forget to mention the food: giant turkey legs, cheese steak sandwiches, gourmet macaroni and cheese, fried brownie bites, and more!
What I appreciate about the faire as a parent is its wide variety of things to do to suit visitors of any age. There are entertainment options for older and younger kids alike. Teens can enjoy jousts and comedy shows, while younger kids can go on rides, watch a magician, go through a maze, or visit the Children’s Discovery Garden. On this particular weekend of Halloween activities, there were also costume contests, pumpkin painting, and more.
The boys had an amazing time and thanked me profusely several times during the day for bringing them to the faire. At the end of the day, they all agreed that next time they would come in costume and bring their “swords” – in the hopes of being “discovered” and hired as some of the actors!
We all had a great day, and in the process hopefully I scored a few points with my son and his friends. For a fun, engaging fall activity with your family, visit the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, but make your plans soon – it’s heading into its final two weekends of the year, through October 27.
For more information, please visit www.parenfaire.com.Leave a Comment | Category: Events, Festivals, For the Kids, General info, Outdoors, Things to Do | Permalink
October 7, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May
Last week, 14 staff members, including myself, enjoyed a day of team-building. During our road trip through the County in the most beautiful fall weather imaginable, we visited a handful of delightful places.
First we stopped at Kitchen Kettle Village for a blind taste test of their delicious salas, relishes, and jams followed by a scarecrow-making contest (yes, we built two scarecrows from head to foot, including the stuffing in between). Kitchen Kettle Village is a quaint attraction that houses over 40 country shops and several restaurants—all of which are built around their nationally celebrated Jam & Relish Kitchen. They also have fun and interactive festivals throughout the year, like their Tailgate Festival which was in full swing during our visit. Afterward we walked through the quaint village of Intercourse to the Intercourse Pretzel Company for taste-testing, pretzel twisting demonstrations, and a speed competition. Talk about experts! The folks there know how to make a yummy snack—whether hard, soft, sweet, savory, big or bite size.
Before lunch we headed to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm to tackle the Amazing Maize Maze and a couple of their other fun onsite farm-related activities. This is an awesome place that the whole family will enjoy for an entire day (I can’t wait to take my 3 year old!).
By this time our tummies were growling, so it was off to The Strasburg Country Store & Creamery for lunch and homemade ice cream. The ice cream is to die for (Sweet Cream & Nuts is my favorite). In addition to homemade ice cream, they also have homemade fudge, candy, nut butters, and honey that is simply wonderful (I ate more free samples than I care to admit).
After lunch we headed to Village Greens Miniature Golf and Snack Shoppe for 9 challenging holes of mini golf. Village Greens has two spacious miniature golf courses in a unique garden setting along with a snack shoppe and outside patio. The weather was perfect for our after lunch activity.
Our day wrapped up at Clearview Lanes Bowling Center for drinks, appetizers, and thoroughly entertaining games of bowling. From gutter balls to Turkeys, we laughed until our sides hurt. Clearview Lanes is a great place to have fun with your friends without breaking the bank.
We may have been divided into teams or pairs for some of the competitions throughout the day, but we all walked away feeling a renewed excitement. We love where we live and where we work; but most importantly, we love working with each other.
It was an awesome day!1 Comment | Category: Events, Food, Outdoors, Things to Do | Permalink
September 25, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May
Fall has officially arrived in Lancaster County.
For some of us, this time of year makes us feel nostalgic. Our childhood experiences – the sight of leaves changing color, the anticipation of jumping into a pile of fallen leaves, the feeling of cold days and warm sweaters, and the taste of hot cocoa — often flood our memories. For others, this season evokes feelings of romance. The cool weather brings thoughts of huddling by a cozy fire, cuddling under a warm blanket, and taking a romantic walk hand-in-hand.
No matter how you identify with the season, experience it with zest. Drink warm pumpkin lattes and hot apple cider. Pick your own pumpkin for decorating. Journey through a corn maze. See community members join together at their local fair. Dare to encounter scary Halloween attractions.
Lancaster County welcomes you to enjoy our Autumn – it’s everything you want.
Leave a Comment | Category: General info | Permalink
September 19, 2013 | Posted by: Kathleen Frankford
As I continue my culinary tour of Lancaster County (I know, I know; this is a tough part of my job), I sampled two other types of fare this past week: traditional PA Dutch cooking, and delicious candies.
My first stop was at Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown, where we held our board meeting. Good ‘N Plenty has been around since 1969 and features both family-style dining and a-la-carte offerings. They’ve been voted best local PA Dutch restaurant for 17 years, so if you’re craving authentic PA Dutch favorites, Good ‘N Plenty is the place to go.
I sampled my regular favorites: roast turkey, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and whoopie pies, which were all delicious. But I also decided to expand my horizons and try two PA Dutch food items I had never sampled – brown buttered noodles and cracker pudding.
I’ve been told brown buttered noodles are a popular PA Dutch specialty but always wondered what all the hype was about. They’re just noodles cooked with butter, right? Well, they’re also made with a mix of seasonings that make them unbelievably tasty. I tried some and they melted in my mouth – I can see why they are a favorite of visitors and locals alike.
Then I was asked to try rice pudding, to which I reflexively replied “Yuck.” But Glenn Lapp, the owner of Good ‘N Plenty, coaxed me into trying a small dish. The pudding was cool and refreshing, and tasted like a cross between tapioca and coconut cream pie. It was so yummy, I went back for seconds.
The food at Good ‘N Plenty was delicious, and the service was friendly and fast. They also have a bakery and a large gift shop.
I ended my week with a visit to the grand opening of Miesse Candies’ newest location, on Water Street in Downtown Lancaster (they have a total of three locations). Attendees included a Who’s Who of Lancaster, so it was definitely the place to be on a beautiful Friday afternoon.
Miesse Candies has been in business since 1875 and features some of the best candy you will ever taste, made with all-natural ingredients. Sea salt caramels, coconut creams, and chocolate-covered pretzels were just a few of the delectable treats I was fortunate enough to sample. If you love candy, this is a must see (and taste!) for you.
Miesse Candies offers informative factory tours at their Water Street location for a nominal cost, and they will also package and mail your candy for you. They are great gift ideas – I have given them as gifts on several occasions and have come out as quite the hero.
Add a stop at Miesse Candies’ new downtown store to your next visit and you won’t be disappointed.1 Comment | Category: Amish, Food, General info | Permalink