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No visit to Lancaster should end without the unique experience of Stoudt’s Brewing Company, Stoudt’s Black Angus Restaurant & Brew Pub and the Wonderful Good Market. One of the oldest and most distinguished craft-breweries in the region, Stoudt’s Brewing Company produces over a dozen exemplary beers from its decorated “Pils” (a true-to-form German Pilsener) to its “Old Abominable” (a heady but highly drinkable barley wine).

Stoudt’s Black Angus Restaurant & Brew Pub features superlatively good German food, from Jaegerscnitzel (a traditional German dish of fried pork cutlets over spaetzle, topped with mushroom gravy made with Stoudt’s “Fat Dog” beer) to traditional bratwurst with sauerkraut. For seafood, Stoudt’s features a raw bar with oysters and clams, along with heavenly crab cakes. The burgers – hand-formed and often fretted-over by Ed Stoudt himself – are some of the best I have ever had. Head chef Josh Hilt clearly cares about his guests, taking great care to execute every detail perfectly even on vegetarian entrees that often get overlooked in other restaurants. That said, the true stars of Stoudt’s Black Angus Restaurant are the beautiful, hand-cut and perfectly-marbled steaks. There’s not much that this writer could say except that it would be difficult to find a more spectacular steak anywhere in the region.

After lunch, take a short walk around the corner to Stoudt’s Wonderful Good Market which includes cheese caves and a bakery. Here you will find fantastic artisanal breads, soups and other baked goods lovingly made by Elizabeth Stoudt (daughter of founders Ed and Carol) and her team. My favorite is the sauerkraut rye, a delightfully hearty and intensely flavorful twist on a German classic. Pair any of their breads with any of their young-but-flavorful alpine cheeses for a delicious snack. Be sure to stroll through the enormous adjacent Stoudt’s Black Angus Antique Mall. With over 300 dealers and 70,000 square feet, their mall is the granddaddy of the antique malls for which Adamstown is now famous.

Plan your visit soon. You’ll enjoy every aspect of this unique destination.

To learn more about Dave, be sure to read his profile on “The Bloggers” page.

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One of the best ways to experience Lancaster County’s celebrated German heritage and world-renowned craftsmanship is a Sunday visit to Stoudt’s Brewery. Situated in lovely Adamstown – the antique capital of PA and just a short drive from Downtown Lancaster, Amish attractions, and the outlets – is a true tribute to artisanal food, beer, and German folk-art that will be a highlight of any visit to Lancaster County.

Long before it was hip to make “craft beer,” before chefs were sourcing local ingredients or making their own breads, and hobbies like home cheese-making were in fashion, Ed and Carol Stoudt had a vision to share the best of their German heritage and experience by doing just those things. Along with a dedicated staff of master craftspeople, the Stoudts set out to make food and beer that would honor the traditions of Lancaster County (once called the “Munich of the New World”) and the old world from which they came, keeping the highest standards and making beautiful, delicious things as a result. That they did this while other breweries and restaurants were producing lesser-quality products to cut costs is a testament to the deep sense of values that the Stoudt family brings to everything that they do. That they have had such success is a testament to their hard work and determination, and to the fact that good food and beer always brings people together!

Recently, I had the pleasure of taking a tour of the Stoudt’s properties and sharing a meal at Stoudt’s Black Angus Restaurant, which sits adjacent to the brewery. Between courses of delicious oysters from their raw bar, perfectly-fluffy spaetzle made in the German tradition, phenomenal burgers hand-formed by Ed Stoudt himself (on rolls made by in their own Wonderful Good bakery!), and, of course, their award winning beers, I had one of the best and most memorable meals of my life, gained new friends, and a new favorite place in the process. Tune in next week for part two of this blog to learn more about Stoudt’s Black Angus Restaurant, Brewery, Wonderful Good Market, cheese-caves, antique mall, and more!

To learn more about Dave, be sure to read his profile on “The Bloggers” page.

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Do the Amish Celebrate Christmas?

December 17, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May

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Photo taken by Jeff Smoll, Jeff Smoll Photography

Yes, the Amish celebrate Christmas!

They observe Christmas as a sacred holiday with simplicity and tradition. While some are influenced by the traditions of their English friends, many do not get caught up in the modern-day commercialism as we experience it. Most don’t include Santa Claus, electric lights, flashy tinsel, fancy wrapping paper, or Christmas trees. Rather, they focus on the reason for the holiday– Jesus’ birth.

Because Christmas is so important in the Amish community, it is celebrated for two days. On December 25, they fast, meditate, and read Scripture; on December 26, or “Second Christmas,” they celebrate with family and friends with festive gatherings, great feasts, and gift-giving.

Because the Pennsylvania Amish have been greatly influenced by German Christmas traditions, they often decorate by lighting candles and hanging stars, angels, greenery, and holiday cards. Most families exchange gifts and usually pick names out of a hat so each person receives one gift each year. Gifts are not always of the old-fashioned handmade variety. Sometimes they give gifts such as Barbie dolls (dressed Amish), board games, and toy tractors. In addition, homemade cookies, candy, and stamped Christmas cards are very popular. Often Amish owned stores sell these homemade items.

At the Amish schoolhouse, a Christmas program is usually planned and is one of the most anticipated events of the year. The Amish community enjoys watching the children sing, read poems, and perform Christmas plays.

And, when it happens to snow, the children enjoy playing outside. They race down the hills on their sleds, ice skate, play ice hockey, and of course, have snowball fights and snowman building competitions.

While we, the English, enjoy our traditions at Christmas, the Amish, too, will be enjoying their holiday traditions, but always with Jesus at the center of their celebration.

To learn more about how the Amish celebrate Christmas, listen to Ada’s story.

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Get in the Holiday Spirit with American Music Theatre

December 9, 2013 | Posted by: Kathleen Frankford

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The first time I visited American Music Theatre (AMT), it was love at first sight. I was so impressed with the gorgeous lobby, the elegant bathrooms (yes, the bathrooms are really elegant), and the staff in tuxedos, I told myself I had to work there. Five months later, I was fortunate enough to land a position as a member of their management team.

I had the privilege of working at this world-class theater for over two years, during which time I discovered AMT is much more than just a “pretty face.” In addition to the beauty and comfort of this state-of-the-art, 1600-seat theater, the shows they produce are of unparalleled quality. Besides hosting celebrity concerts such as Frankie Valli, Vince Gill, Foreigner, and more, they also write, choreograph and produce their own Original Shows, the most popular of which is the annual Christmas Show.

The 2013 show is themed “The First Noel.” While every year the show has a different storyline, they all have several things in common: top-calibre vocalists and musicians, talented dancers, and beautiful set designs and costumes. The show features both secular and sacred music, and is ideal for guests of all ages, from families with young children to seniors.

This year’s show did not disappoint and had the perfect blend of singing, dancing, and light-hearted moments. The vocals were fantastic, as was the AMT Orchestra (Michael Lambert, the violinist, is truly amazing). The set resembled a perfect family fireside, and everything from the lobby to the theater was decked out in lively red & green seasonal decor.

AMT’s Christmas Show rivals any holiday show you’ll find in a major market. They hire outstanding talent from all of the country (sometimes all over the world), and the scenery, lighting and costumes are some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Attending this production is a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit and spend a quality afternoon or evening with your family or significant other. There are so many restaurants nearby that it’s easy to make a night of it and eat out before you attend. But just in case you don’t have time, AMT does have a fully-stocked snack bar (as well as a gift shop with a wide variety of merchandise for last-minute holiday shopping).

The 2013 Christmas Show runs through December 30, so visit www.amtshows.com for more information. But get your tickets soon, as the show sometimes sells out on weekends.

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Christmas in Lancaster County

December 2, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May

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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!

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Shop Lancaster County without Leaving Home – by Shawn Marie

November 25, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May

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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.

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Shopping Off the Beaten Path – by Shawn Marie

November 18, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May

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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.

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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.

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“Holiday Shopping is Sweet at Dutch Haven” by Shawn Marie

November 4, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May

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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.

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DogStar Books… books for the Sirius reader

October 23, 2013 | Posted by: Kristen May

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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.

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