Yearly Archives: 2009

The Comic Store

Well into my college years, I collected comic books. Titles like Spiderman, Ironman, Captain America & G.I. Joe (Yeah, I was a Marvel guy) were purchased with the small amount of disposable income I had on hand at the time.   loved the art and the creative storytelling that was inherent with the medium.  hat’s why when Sarah needed someone to go down to the Comic Store in Lancaster for the 25 days of Christmas Shopping assignment, I was quick to volunteer.

Stepping into the store, I was filled with nostalgia from my collecting years. Besides having a wall filled with the week’s new delivery of fresh issues, the Comic Store has shelf upon shelf of graphic novels for every taste. I spent some time thumbing through some past issues in backers and bags hunting for bargains and also took some time to look at the wide variety of collectible figurines, toys, statues, collectible card games and board games.

They had something for every comic and movie lover on your list. From an eclectic selection of Star Wars comics, magazines and action figures, to toy replicas of the characters from the Rankin/Bass stop motion classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, there was a wide array of comic, tv, and movie memorabilia for sale.

I ended up buying myself a wind-up tin robot of URL from Futurama (in a fantastic looking two-color box no less!), a current G.I. Joe book, and a few younger-skewing comics as stocking stuffers for my boys. Hopefully, one day, one of them will take up my interest in comics.  If they do, we’ll have a great place nearby to go together in the Comic Store to look for the latest and greatest.

Wilbur Chocolate Factory Store

Exploring the delicious options on offer at the Wilbur Chocolate Factory Store in downtown Lititz last week, I couldn’t resist a Peanut Butter Mega Melt Away. Mmm, mmm. I’m sure glad I didn’t.

The Wilbur folks have been making chocolate and other fine candies for more than 125 years, including their signature Wilbur Buds – dollops of smooth, velvety milk or semisweet chocolate whose taste delights every part of your mouth.

But it’s way more than just the buds, as I found out from my scrumptious Mega Melt Away experience. There’s chocolate peanut clusters, a rainbow of gummis, chocolate-covered cashews, chewy spearmint leafs, caramel creams – all made with that distinctive Wilbur goodness, and some of which you can watch being made right onsite.

A classic Wilbur sweatshirt, a few funky chocolate- and candy-related knickknacks, and a look ‘round the store’s neat Candy Americana Museum can all add up to a fun and delectable holiday tradition!

Click here for more photos.

Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery

How do you like your history? I’ve always liked mine crackly and flavorful. How’s that, you ask? Well, just follow me to Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in downtown Lititz and you’ll quickly understand.

Established by its namesake in 1861, Julius Sturgis is the first commercial bakery in America and today still makes warm and delicious hand-made soft pretzels onsite, while also selling a wide selection of hard pretzels produced by Julius’ direct descendants at Tom Sturgis Pretzels just up the road in Reading.

The types of hard pretzels on offer include traditional Dutch and Thin pretzels, but it’s all the great flavors that really get me – Cinnamon Stix, Jalapeno Minis, Little Cheesers, Real Baked Chocolate . . . you see what I mean?

Plus, during the holiday season they’re featuring a fiendishly-delicious little concoction called the Pretzel Popcorn Pie, which is peanut brittle with pretzels spread over a mound of popcorn, topped with a drizzling of chocolate. Like I said at the outset – crackly and flavorful.

You can also buy stylish-looking Sturgis t-shirts and mugs or a shippable sampler box of Sturgis favorites. Combine your shopping with a bit of history by taking a hands-on tour of the original pretzel bakery in the same building, and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful experience.

Click here for more photos.

S. Clyde Weaver

I’m sure you’ve heard of being a “meat & potatoes” man. Well, I’m more of a “meat & cheese” man, myself, and if you or someone you know shares this passion for enjoying some great sharp cheddar or smoked bacon, then have I got the place for you – S. Clyde Weaver in East Petersburg (and other locations ‘round the area).

The Weaver folks have been at it since 1920, and all that experience shows in the flavorful quality of their products and the easy expertise of their customer service. Longtime specialties like natural hardwood smoked ham, Canadian super sharp cheddar, and farm-style sweet bologna are certainly worth the drive, and are staples in the beautiful and bountiful gift baskets that are always on offer.

The store also features an onsite bakery, where delectable pies, cakes, breads, and various other baked goods are made from scratch daily, not to mention the house specialty – sand tarts, a thin cookie-like wafer that crackles with flavor in your mouth.

S. Clyde WeaverEver thought of giving olive oil or vinegar as a gift? That’s what I thought, but S. Clyde Weaver might just change your mind with the wonderful array of types and flavors they offer, straight from individual storage tanks. You can bottle it with one of those they sell at the store, or bring in your own (perhaps a stylishly-shaped classic or antique bottle) and create a very unique present.

And to top it off, you can order up a slice of one of those mouth-watering pies or a sandwich of those famous meats & cheeses, and sit down to enjoy them in the S. Clyde’s Café portion of the store. After all, what better way is there to see if someone will like their gift than by trying it yourself, right?

Click here for more photos.

Waltz Vineyards & Winery

Looking for some great wine to take as a hostess gift? Head right over to Waltz Vineyards & Winery. Need it soon? They do ship wine via UPS.

I went with a few co-workers for a wine tasting at Waltz Vineyards – and it was amazing. We met with Jan & Kimberly Waltz, who established the business in 1997. The tasting room is on a beautiful hill on their family farm. We got to enjoy the wines paired with local artisan cheeses and chocolates.

They grow and hand pick all of their fruit that goes into the wines – and one thing that I found really interesting is that they use wine-making technology imported from Italy, and the wines are aged in 100% French oak barrels! Currently, the Waltz’s produce 3 white wines, 3 red & 1 rose – my favorite is the Cherry Tree Merlot.

So there are two things that I want to do in the future at Waltz – one, you can plan a picnic on their property – call ahead to reserve a table and chairs, or roll out your own picnic blanket, and enjoy a peaceful afternoon! Second – I want to attend one of their Summer Concerts – they have live entertainment throughout the summer from 5:30 – 8:30 PM – and they even have an outdoor movie night to end the summer!

Hershey Farm Country Store

I love whoopie pies. Where I grew up in Philly, I had never even heard of a whoopie pie – the closest thing we got was an ice cream sandwich, which is good, but doesn’t come close to the whoopie pie. I like to pick some up to take to my family as  a special treat when I visit them.

Hershey Farm Country Store doesn’t just carry baked goods though, they’ve got a wide variety of great gifts available for purchase from Lancaster County souvenirs, beautiful figurines, decor, clothing, dolls, games, and much more.

While I was there, I picked up a batch of mini-whoopie pies for my co-workers, as well as something for my sister Abby. She loves to bake, but she works night shift so she doesn’t always have a lot of time to bake. I picked her up a jar of Cranberry Chip cookies – all of the ingredients are in the jar, she just needs to mix it, add some wet ingredients and bake! Super simple. Happy shopping!

Miller’s Bake Shop & Quilt Shop

If you’re visiting, and are looking for a traditional gift, something that screams “Lancaster County,” Miller’s is the place to go. They’ve got fresh baked goods, such as raisin bread, whoopie pies, shoo-fly pies, apple pies, as well as canned preserves, like chow-chow, red beets, fruit, jellies and much more. In addition to the food items, the little shop has tons of little trinkets – one of my favorites is this choo-choo train with letters as the cars – this would be great for my nephew. He LOVES Thomas the train, and pretty much anything trains. For the little girl in your life – they have Amish dolls!

Something that I picked up for myself was a little coat rack that you can hang on the wall – my husband & I have wanted something like this to hang in the mud room to put our jackets on!

Lastly – the Quilt Shop at Miller’s. What a great place to get a handmade quilt. They have amazing quilts, and other stitched things, such as pot holders, hot pads, coasters, and more.

The Amish Lifestyle

Here at the Visitors Center, we receive a lot of questions about the Amish lifestyle, and how they are raised. I’d like to explain a little bit about that now, because I’m sure that it’s of interest to our blog readers as well!

At an early age, the Amish child is taught to worship God, to love work, and to love the land and farm life, as the Bible connects sin & wickedness with laziness. Amish children do not attend school beyond the elementary grades, although their “elementary” reaches knowledge far beyond our elementary levels. For this reason, they must decide on an occupation early in life, as after the eighth grade, they will work full time.

Sons in most cases follow the occupation of their fathers. The rural form of life is traditional for the Amish, and a lot of them are farmers, although the lack of land is pushing the Amish into other occupations, such as furniture making.

As tractors are not allowed, the Amish work their fields with horses and mules. The Amish were one of the first to realize the importance of rotating corps, and for this reason, their farms remain productive today. Their two-story barns provide storage for hay, grain, straw, farm implements as well as all of their livestock.

Farm work is shared by all of the members of the family. The women and girls keep house, cook, clean, sew, and assist with farming tasks. Using the horse & mule, the men & boys plant, cultivate and reap the crops. Skilled in the use of tools, they build and repair their homes, barns, and chicken houses. The practical training given to the Amish children allows them to assume these responsibilities by the time they reach their teens.

To read more about the Amish lifestyle, click here.

A Trip to the North Museum of Natural History & Science

I had a chance to return to the North Museum of Natural History & Science with my family this past weekend.  The museum, located on the edge of the campus of Franklin & Marshall College near downtown Lancaster, is a fantastic, accessible way to introduce your school-aged children to the world of science.  My oldest son has shown more of an interest in math and science since he’s started first grade (much to the befuddlement of his English teacher mom and his book-loving Dad) so I thought a return trip to the North Museum might be in order.

The North Museum is filled with lots of hands-on activities and displays for kids.  Even my 3-year-old could get into the act.  Sure, he may not be gleaning any of the “science” from his exploits, but he was having fun which is a bonus for any parent who’s ever heard the phrase, “Can we leave yet?”

The first level of the museum contains a live animal room full of snakes, turtles and insects the kids can inspect through the safety of glass enclosures.  A helpful docent was on hand to clue my boys in on lots of interesting facts about the reptiles and amphibians on display.  We also spent a decent amount of time in the “Hall of Cosmos” which had all kinds of interactive displays geared towards those with an interest in space.

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The boys also enjoyed the “Light & Sight Gallery” where they got to see what kind of effect ultraviolet light had on their respective clothing.  Having already been in a college dorm room in my lifetime, I was somewhat less shocked and intrigued by the day-glow effect then they were, but it was great fun to see how excited they got nonetheless.

The current traveling exhibit was Attack of the Bloodsuckers, which focused on the science behind insects that… well… enjoy an opportunity to dine on you.  The boys particularly enjoyed seeing the world through a mosquito’s prism-like eyes and sitting on the giant inflating tick (no lie).

We hit pretty much everything in the museum, from the expansive Cabinet Museum on the lower level with a vast collection of birds and bugs and gorgeous geology specimens, to the Dinosaur gallery filled with fossils and a fierce looking T-Rex model.  We finished up our visit with the planetarium (south-central Pennsylvania’s largest), where we learned quite a bit about the stars we see in the skies here in Pennsylvania Dutch County, and got a primer on the different constellations.

All in all, the North Museum of Natural History & Science was a fun (and educational) way for the family to while away a brisk fall afternoon in Lancaster County.

Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve

One of my favorite Lancaster County hiking trails to conquer on a weekend morning is Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve, a nice moderate 2 mile loop in the southern end of the county. The hike is along a tributary in a ravine that ultimately feeds into the Susquehanna River. The Glen itself is part of the Lancaster Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Lancaster County’s open lands.

Walking along the stream, at points both peaceful and rushing depending on the time of year, is a perfect way to relax and unwind. The trail is heavily canopied by a variety of trees and rhododendron thickets. Towards the end of the trail the stream comes to a head and flows past several rock and boulder placements for some runs of spectacular falling water. The water in the tributary is usually very pristine and has been designated a Wild and Scenic Pennsylvania River by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

I like to get out to the Glen in the early spring to check out the various wildflowers in bloom and then again in the fall to see the spectacular foliage. It takes about 2 hours for me to hike the loop, but I usually spend the better part of the morning there, taking in the fresh air and beautiful scenery, not to mention taking a photograph or two.

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