Author Archives: Christina Gallagher

Christina Gallagher

About Christina Gallagher

Christina Gallagher is the Director of Marketing at St. Anne’s Retirement Community. Originally from North of Boston, Massachusetts she settled in Lancaster after graduating from Messiah College in 2006. She is a member of the Junior League, Rotary Club, and Lancaster Chamber of Commerce. She is an amateur photographer, and also enjoys horseback riding, being outdoors, and spending time with her husband Ted, and son Carter.

Amish Farm and House

If you’re looking for fun and education in one great location, check out the Amish Farm and House on Lincoln Highway. Although you might pause when you arrive – because it shares a parking lot with a Target store and shopping plaza – once you step onto the property you’re transported from the hustle and bustle of today to another time… a time when life was simple. The juxtaposition helps you appreciate what Lancaster County once was (and portions still are), and how times have changed. This destination is great for all ages, and features all aspects of Amish life, including guided tours through a staged Amish home, school house, wood shop, blacksmith shop, pump house, and barnyard. You can try your skills on an Amish scooter, or take a buggy ride through the property and over a covered bridge. In the fall, there is a corn maze. You can also go the “extra mile” and take a bus tour through the local farm land.

Being an animal lover, and having two small children, I frequent this destination just to see the farmyard. Playful goats leap and bound through their play place, ducks and chickens roam freely, sheep, goats, donkeys, pigs, peacocks, and other livestock provide constant entertainment for youngsters and young-at-heart alike. Ironically, my son’s favorite place is the herb and vegetable garden, for no other reason than it’s paved with white rocks…. and at 1 ½ years old, white rocks are the Best. Thing. EVER. Don’t worry – I don’t let him take them home with us, but making him part with his handful of rocks is typically cause for a highly theatrical and slightly embarrassing baby meltdown. Luckily, the rocks are soon forgotten when we see the baby sheep just down the path.

In the wood shop, you can see a local wood carver making unique crafts. The smell of the wood shavings is earthy and inviting. Be sure to ask him about the giant sling shot he has attached to the top of his minivan! Maybe you’ll even get lucky and he’ll launch a water balloon over the farm for you. (He’s a local celebrity)

If you choose to participate in all the activities provided by the Amish Farm and house, you could spend several hours there… or, if you’re like me… you can enjoy a pleasant stroll around the barnyard in about 45 minutes, stop for a few “selfies” with the lamas, and still make it home for snacks and nap time. Whether you live near or far, this is a great destination and I highly recommend it.

An authentic Amish experience

For an authentic Amish experience that’s guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of the entire family, be sure to visit the Lil’ Country Store and Miniature Horse Farm. There’s nothing cuter than a miniature horse and even cuter yet is that right now (as I’m writing this in May) three of the tiny horses have newborn babies; with two more foals on the way! These creatures are friendly as they are adorable and as we walked through the barn, they poked their sweet noses through their stall doors to say hello. I couldn’t help but smile as my 1 ½ year old son squealed with delight as one foal nuzzled his hand.

The barn houses about 8 mini horses (not counting the foals), two full size horses, and in the nearby pasture are some playful goats. You can browse the barn on your own and spend time interacting with the horses, as well as seeing the pony carts, two Amish buggies, and the tack used to saddle and bridle the horses for riding. For young horse enthusiasts, a private pony ride is only $5.50 per child! And for a more hands-on experience, you can call ahead to reserve a private workshop session where you get brush a pony, ride them, feed them, and learn about horse care. The workshops generally last about an hour, and (parents beware!) are sure to be so fun that they’ll inspire your child to add a pony to their Christmas list. You can also elect to try a ride in the single or double pony cart which takes you on a ride through the farm to the dairy area. You’ll be happy to know that for safety reasons, no pony cart rides venture onto the main roads. Also, please note, the weight limit for riding these little guys is approximately 70lbs. There’s no age limit, but for my son, I decided to wait until next year to let him ride, since as a rambunctious little boy his idea of fun would probably be to dive off the poor unsuspecting horse into the mud! Oy-vay!

The best thing about this particular location is that it’s located at the home of Henry and Linda Stoltzfus, an Amish family who opened their property to the public in 2009. It’s “as real as it gets” here in Lancaster County. To get to the farm, you drive through rolling acres of corn and tobacco crops, and as we pulled our car in to the driveway, we were greeted by three Amish children who were playing in the front yard of the home. The Lil’ Country Store is in the garage of the property, and features handmade gifts and crafts, as well as a variety of baked goods and a fan-favorite,he home-made root beer. You can enjoy taste-testing locally made cheeses and potato chips, or satisfy your sweet tooth with a whoopie pie or locally made ice cream. There’s also a wood shop on the property, and you can observe the men working as they create beautiful hand made furniture and accessories that are available for sale in the shop.

Before leaving I couldn’t resist purchasing a lovely equestrian-inspired leather bracelet, which will always remind me of our fun visit to the miniature horse farm. So whether you’re visiting with children, or just want to feel like you’ve been behind the scenes on a real Amish Farm, be sure to add this destination to your vacation plans!

Enjoying the New “Non-Retirement” in Lancaster County

Nowadays, everyone says 30 is the new 20… 40 is the new 30, and so on…. Well, I’m going to take that one step further and say 62 is the new “Non-Retirement” age.

Joe works as an accountant, and is gearing up for tax season; his neighbor, Emma, is an associate pastor who leads her local church part time, and also volunteers with a local soup kitchen.  Their neighbor, Karen, takes extended birding vacations throughout the country to follow migration patterns and grow the extensive list of species she’s seen.  George and Shirley tutor local Spanish families in English as a second language, and several of their neighbors volunteer at the local “re-uzit” shop.  Lauren and Sue enjoy their swimming classes every morning, and also participate in Zumba classes on Thursdays.   Sounds like any neighborhood in America, right?  Well, you might be surprised to learn that this is also becoming a typical scenario of your average residents of Lancaster County’s retirement communities – which is why a team of Lancaster County retirement community leaders are advocating for change in the way America views the word “Retirement.”

No longer does Retirement mean sitting in a rocking chair twiddling one’s thumbs. Nor does moving to a “Retirement Community” mean life suddenly stops and one is instantly “old.” National trends show many younger families and individuals – in their low-to mid 60’s – are choosing a community lifestyle over the stress and hassle of home-ownership.  They’re also opting for the lifestyle of adventure, freedom, and companionship that comes with a full-time activities planning staff, maintenance staff, and community of friendly neighbors. Karen loves being able to travel freely without having to worry about leaving her house unattended, or coming home to an overgrown lawn.  And, as an added benefit, continuing care communities offer the peace of mind that health care services will be provided in the future, if needed.

As an employee at St. Anne’s Retirement Community for nearly eight years, I’ve witnessed this trend first-hand.  “Life’s short – why spend it mowing grass and picking leaves out of your gutters!” says one Resident with a laugh.  She continued to say how she detests shoveling, and has thankfully traded in all that “wasted time” for time that she’s now able spend doing what she wants – volunteering with our pastoral care department and providing spiritual support to other community members.

If you, or someone you know, is considering the costs and benefits of community living, don’t wait! There are so many wonderful options in Lancaster County, you’re sure to be surprised at the array of features and amenities that make each community unique and appealing to “younger-older adults.” Also, as an added value, Lancaster County offers lower cost of living rates than many metropolitan areas such as New York, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.  “Plus, the people are much friendlier,” says another St. Anne’s Resident.

Check out www.Exploreretirementliving.org  for a listing of non-profit continuing care retirement communities in Lancaster County, or www.StAnnesRC.org to learn more about St. Anne’s Retirement Community.

Every candle you can imagine

MMMMMmmmm, you can smell it from the parking lot. That wonderful, warm, inviting cinnamon apple pumpkin spice smell that says “welcome!” and “make yourself at home.”  It’s the lovely aroma that always makes me want a pumpkin latte, some mum plants on my porch, and my wool scarf. That lovely aroma only got better as I walked into the Old Candle Barn. It is seriously one of my new favorite places. Forget big chain stores, the Old Candle Barn is family owned and operated, and is the real deal! Hand-made right on the premises, their candles feature that extra special local Lancaster flair that make them unique and special.

Jar candles, hand-dipped tapered candles, pillars, votives, even flameless candles made with real wax for a realistic look; every kind of candle imaginable. During my visit, I learned that a popular new trend is the “lumpy” candles. Also hand-made on the premises, they feature a more rustic and visually interesting look that pairs well with a display of fall leaves and gourds or even winter greens and berries. Most of their popular fragrances are inspired by baked goods – apple pie, pumpkin pie, vanilla sugar cookies, and cinnamon spice – all which invoke nostalgic memories of happy holidays with family and friends.

I was surprised to learn that in addition to an amazing selection of candle fragrances, potpourri, and fragrant oils, The Old Candle Barn also features a broad selection of seasonal home décor, furniture, rugs, and lovely accessories that make you want to redecorate your home – as soon as possible!

After browsing through the store, I took a few minutes to explore the candle making area. While this is not technically an “exhibit” (meaning, it’s not always in operation), you can still see the large drums of wax, the metal “trees” where the hand-dipped tapered candles hang, and the small round molds where the votives are made. But, if you’re lucky, you might just see candle-making in action!

So, if you’re looking for that perfect gift, little (or not so little) indulgence for yourself, or just a simple candle to welcome the season, make sure to check out the Old Candle Barn in Intercourse, PA!

Find the antique you’ve been looking for

Family, friends, and reminiscing about fun memories are some of the best things on Earth. Going antiquing is one way to combine all three of these things into one lovely package. So on a lazy, end-of-summer Saturday morning, I rounded up one of my best friends from college, Laura, and my sister-in-law, Sue, and we headed to Hershey to do a little sightseeing. Our main destination was Crossroads Antiques, conveniently located off Rt. 743 and Rt. 322 – one of the main “cross roads” through Hershey and only about 30 minutes from Lancaster.

Crossroads Antique Mall features two floors of antique amazingness! Over 85 unique vendors share the space in a co-op style antique market. The vendors each display their own antiques that they have collected from estate sales, personal collections, etc.

We barely set foot in the door when we started pointing out things that made us smile. “My dad had one of those!” “My mom loves those dishes!” “Oh my gosh, remember THESE? I was obsessed with these as a kid!” There is no limit to what you might find at the Crossroads Antique Mall. We spent over two hours perusing the rows and rows of curiosities including glassware and dishes, vintage games, toys, jewelry, furniture, hats, figurines, vintage memorabilia, posters, magazines, books, records (remember THOSE?) and everything else in-between. Even an antique prosthetic leg, which gave Laura quite a laugh, since she’s a physical therapist! “Imagine actually wearing that clunky old thing?”

Laura made two fantastic purchases – an irresistible Hershey Chocolate cook book, with every recipe even more tantalizing than the one before it. She also found a vintage brand name purse that was in excellent condition, at a great price. Sue and I were simply satisfied with our fun adventure and together-time.

If you’re looking for a great day trip destination near Lancaster be sure to stop by the Crossroads Antique Mall to make some new memories while enjoying the old.

Nxtbook Media – the Google of Lancaster

While not technically a tourist destination, Nxtbook Media is certainly a sight to be seen. Often called “the Google of Lancaster,” Nxtbook Media is determined to show the world that while Lancaster might be smaller than many cities, it is big and mighty in the tech world. July has been an exciting time at Nxtbook as they moved into their expanded location in the trendy Urban Place complex on New Holland Avenue. The historic architecture of the building is juxtaposed with the futuristic vibe of the renovated space.

The firm specializes in strategic marketing, brand management, technology solutions, digital content management, and workplace leadership. What allows them to excel is their progressive corporate culture of creativity, teamwork, and collaboration. “We exist to inspire,” reads the beginning of their vision statement. They have over 600 clients in over 20 countries throughout the world, and even have a sister office in Manchester, England, to whom they pay tribute with a large, red phone booth in their lobby. Over 2 million users access the digital content they manage. Want an “app?” They can do that. Want to produce a video? They can do that. Want to host your company presentation in their state of the art theatre? Sure, they can do that too. Or, if you just want to stare in awe at all the blinkey lights in their multi-color LED-illuminated server room, that’s probably ok too, because I have to admit – I did.

To increase productivity and creativity, Nxtbook’s 57 employees are provided with hula hoops, brain teaser games, inspiration stations, and even encouraged to “blow off steam” and regain concentration by engaging in an occasional Nerf gun battle! (Of course, to align with their mission, employees must donate to a designated charity to participate in the Nerf battles.) To excel in wellness, the organization sponsors employee running clubs (with employee running goals posted on their wall) and healthy snacks in their two kitchens. Employees are provided with modified desks if they wish to stand at their computer rather than sit, and ergonomic positioning of chairs, keyboards, etc., is apparent everywhere. It’s no wonder they are consistently rated by Central Penn Business Journal as one of the region’s best places to work.

Nxtbook also believes in giving back to the community, and supports many local charities including Pet Pantry of Lancaster, One Run Together, and JDRF. However, if you’re wondering if they raise money by the typical dinner gala, think again! Try Chocolate syrup chugging contests, communal meals, water wars, beard growing contests, and, of course, the previously mentioned Nerf gun wars.

So, if you thought that the only technology in Lancaster County is found plowing through a corn field, think again! Nxtbook is creating an awesome trend with it’s amazing people, amazing culture, and collaborative heart of gold.

To learn more, go to www.nxtbookmedia.com.

nxtbook-media2

Come here to learn more about the Amish

Did you know that the Amish have a horse-drawn trailer that contains benches, hymnals, and all the other items necessary for Sunday church services at one another’s homes? Or, did you know that the Amish are often bi-lingual, speaking English, German, and “Pennsylvania Dutch?”

For those inquisitive and curious minds who want to learn more about the Amish lifestyle and culture first-hand, a great place to check out is the is the Amish Experience. Located on route 340 in the heart of Amish country, this educational destination is the only location of its kind in Lancaster County to be named a “Heritage Site” by the Lancaster County Historical Society. And, unlike other museums or destinations, The Amish Experience is surrounded on all sides by farmland beauty; rural, rolling farmland, horses, cows, cornfields, and even a fruit market that set the scene for what guests will enjoy during their visit. The Amish Experience is also a perfect option for your Sunday itinerary because many other Amish destinations are closed.

So, on a sunny Sunday in June, I surprised my out of town guests with a visit to the Experience. As we toured the grounds, we enjoyed walking through rows of vegetables and herbs which are part of the museum garden. We learned that many guests had never seen what a beet, sweet pea, or potato plant actually looked like, and we enjoyed listening to the excited laughter of children when they saw a real tomato growing on a vine. We enjoyed seeing (up close) a laundry line of colorful Amish clothing, fresh from the wash, and hanging out to dry in the warm summer air. And, yes, even an Amish phone booth!

The homestead tour was fascinating. Even as a resident of Lancaster, I learned numerous things about the Amish that I had never known before. Our favorite part of the tour was the Schoolhouse, where we were able to learn from our tour guide while sitting in authentic desks donated from an actual schoolhouse in the neighboring town of Strasburg. We also got to browse through a real Amish Hymnal and see workbooks that Amish children would use.

A unique part of the Amish Experience is the theatre show “Jacob’s Choice,” which brings to life the story of an Amish teen who is struggling with his decision to join the church. The show boasts surprising special effects, and a story that is certain to touch the hearts of all who see it.

As we got in the car to head home, I couldn’t help but think of the “Jacob’s Choice” story, and ponder the similarities that we, as human beings, share, regardless of what lifestyle we choose or what path we walk. We all experience joy, sorrow, and the pursuit of happiness – whatever that may be. And while sometimes we have our differences, the more we learn about other ways of life, the more we realize that we’re all in this together.

An overnight experience in Bird-in-Hand

It seems like a fact of life these days that many families live far apart; college, careers and relationships drew my mom, my dad, my brother and I to settle in different cities across the east coast. When we are able to get together, it’s always a blessing and a blast! Being the spontaneous people that we are, my mom decided on a recent Monday to come from Pittsburgh that Wednesday to spend two adventure-filled days with me here in Lancaster. And of course, I wanted to impress my dear mother, so luckily, I was able to secure a gorgeous suite at the Bird-in-Hand Village Inn & Suites for our “mini-staycation.” This lovely bed & breakfast is subtle yet elegant, and a breath of fresh air among many traditional motel lodging options in Lancaster County.

During our stay, we learned from the innkeeper that this historical property was once a tavern, dating back to 1734. And while the property is full of rich history, the fresh and inviting feel of the inn made us feel at ease immediately. Each staff member wore a name badge proudly displaying the number of years they had served at the Inn.  Upon arrival, we were greeted warmly by LouAnn, who has worked at the inn for over ten years. For me, a regular traveler, this sense of caring and hospitality is what really set the Inn apart from other lodging locations, and according to innkeeper Penny Hershey, draws many visitors back year after year.

There are four separate homes on the property: The 1734 Inn, The Ressler House, the Desmond House, and the Carriage House. Our suite in the Carriage House featured its own private entrance, and lovely back patio shaded by winding, woven trumpet vines and overlooking a rolling corn field. We were pleasantly surprised by the spacious accommodations and the convenience of the mini-fridge and kitchenette. But for me, all I wanted to do was immediately forget the world and dive into the amazingly luxurious looking spa tub and never leave – ever! But, we decided instead to begin our adventures in Bird-in-Hand.

Well, we didn’t make it very far. Our first – and last – stop of the night was the Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant & Smorgasbord. The spread of authentic PA Dutch comfort food was perfect for our girls’ night out, and we topped it off with a hand-made slice of pie followed by some browsing in the gift shop. What could be better? We couldn’t think of anything, so we decided to turn in for the night. I never did make it in the spa tub. Bummer!

The following morning, we enjoyed a delicious continental breakfast in the Ressler House. Fresh fruit, muffins, and home-made waffles were available in the lovely private dining area.  A perfect way to start a great day together! The hostess was exceptionally pleasant, and offered suggestions for our day’s adventures, as well as educating us about the local history.  We learned that all guests at the Bird-in-Hand Village Inn receive a complimentary shuttle tour of the Amish farmland, as well as options for vineyard, brewery, and other interest based excursions.  But, for us, unfortunately, there wasn’t time to do everything, so we decided to treat ourselves to an afternoon of theatre.

My mom is a quilter, but, I am not. No, no, no, my attention span will not spare me even five minutes of sewing. However, we both absolutely loved the Amish musical “Half Stitched,” performed on the Bird-in-Hand Stage. I am not too proud to admit that I teared up at least five times during the play… which of course I tried to hide from my mom so she wouldn’t see what a blubbering sentimental I have become in my “old age” (I’m 30 now).  Thankfully, just when I thought she’d find me out, they would crack a hilariously unexpected joke and provide the moment of uproarious laughter I needed to slyly flick a tear off my cheek. We laughed out loud more than we have laughed in a long time. The whimsical characters were lovable, relatable, and provided good, clean entertainment – which is hard to find these days.

Leaving the stage, we both felt blessed and so thankful that we were able to take this time out of our busy lives to make lasting memories. So, whether you’re traveling from near or far, make sure you check out the Bird-in-Hand Village Inn & Suites, Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant & Smorgasbord, and the play, “Half Stitched.” If you’re anything like me, you’ll be glad you did!

 

Take home Lancaster’s farm fresh produce

There’s nothing like the crisp, juicy, delicious crunch of a fresh apple, right from the farm.  It’s not the same as an ordinary grocery store apple – there’s still a touch of warm cinnamon sun and sweet fresh air in that bite that makes that ripe apple extra special. This is what draws locals and visitors alike to Kauffman’s Fruit Farm and Market. This quaint farmer’s market is the perfect place to find a fantastic selection of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a variety of locally produced dry goods such as flour, oats, baking goods, and more. Not to mention fresh meats, cheeses, and pies. Kauffman’s is also known, locally and nationally, for their fresh apple cider.

Just inside the door, a display of live honeybees captivates visitors, young and old alike. My eyes wander to the colorful straws filled with fresh, amber honey, and I remember visiting the Topsfield fair (In Topsfield, MA) as a child. My parents would always spoil us with a fresh honey-straw treat. With this fond memory, I smile and turn my attention to the apples and other fresh fruits which are displayed in delightful wicker baskets. Courtlands, Honeycrisps, and Galas; types of apples that make you want to run home and instantly bake some warm apple desserts.  Continuing through the aisles, the aroma of flour and spices remind me of my grandmother’s kitchen.

At the far end of the market is a deli with a selection of sausage, chicken, steaks, and other fresh items. Right next to the deli counter is a mysterious wooden vault-like door, which immediately piqued my interest. I inquired about the thick wooden door, and learned that it is a deep freezer which will chill fresh foods in record time, therefore preserving flavors and freshness that might otherwise be lost. To me, it looked like the secret door to Narnia (a favorite book from childhood) and, if the door is opened under just the right circumstances – my imagination believes there will be snow and fresh pine limbs there to greet the unsuspecting employee.  Another reminiscent smile.

I decided to make one more round of the market to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and this time I noticed the delivery bay at the back of the store where all the fresh fruits arrive.  A collage of bright stickers decorated the wall behind a counter – remnants of sales of apples from seasons past while a cheerful young Amish girl straightened baskets for new deliveries to come.

Before I left, I took a few minutes to sit on the wooden bench in front of the store and just watch the world go by. Several Amish buggies clip-clopped down the road, customers came and went, and on the horizon a few cows grazed happily on the fresh June grass.  The warm sun and blue sky reassured me that summer had arrived to stay. Times and places like these allow you to truly appreciate all the things and all the moments that make life great.

The perfect destination for retirement living

I’ve been working at St. Anne’s Retirement Community for seven years now. Seven! How time flies. This is my first “real” job out of college. In my initial interview when asked “have you ever worked with older people before” [my 40-something year old boss was referring to our Residents] I replied “why of course! I work with people your age all the time!” After the howling laughter subsided from our entire senior management team who were in the interview, I returned from lobster red to my normal shade of skin color, and they unanimously decided that I was perfect for the job – PHEW!

I came to settle in Lancaster after graduating from Messiah College, and after joining the St. Anne’s team. Originally, however, I’m from Ipswich, MA, a beautiful little shore town north of Boston. So, why did I choose to stay here? The same reason that many folks are choosing to spend their retirement years here – Lancaster is awesome!  And here’s why:

People: No. I’m not being cliché, it’s true. Everyone is so nice here. People smile, they lend a helping hand, and whether they’re a “native” or not, they’re easy to make friends with!  Many folks have vacationed in Lancaster for years and it’s the compilation of those happy memories that bring them to settle down here.

Variety: There are so many choices in Lancaster. From small city charm, to country farms, to gourmet restaurants to the local diner… there’s something for everyone.

Weather: While we still have 4 seasons, they’re not nearly as extreme as one might find in New England, and we don’t have hurricanes like Florida, or droughts like the mid-west. The majority of our days are bright and sunny. The farm land is green, the sky is blue, and – as long as it’s not manure spreading day – the air is fresh!

Location: Lancaster is within a few hours drive of Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City, and Pittsburgh. Which means we’re conveniently located to major airports, attractions, and all that comes with that. On the other hand, if you’re more into the great outdoors, we’re also close to the Chesapeake Bay, Raystown Lake, Poconos, and Blue Mountains.

Health Care: Lancaster General Hospital, Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Center, Hershey Hospital, and other health facilities are all within minutes of downtown. In Lancaster County, there are also 17 non-profit Continuing Care Retirement Communities that offer a continuum of health care services while also providing excellent accommodations and amenities.

Cost of Living: Everything from real estate to groceries are more affordable in Lancaster compared to many larger cities. For those of you who are number crunchers, I also hear the tax benefits for older adults living in PA are better than average.

What’s great about St. Anne’s? We like to say we’re the “Just Right” community. We’re not too big, not too small  – approximately 250 Residents call us home. We’re not too fancy, but our campus is still beautifully decorated, maintained, comfortable and home-like. As a continuing-care community, St. Anne’s offers a variety of floor plans in independent living Cottages, Villas, and Apartments as well as Personal Care, Skilled Nursing Care, and Rehabilitation. Our Residents enjoy maintenance-free living so they can continue to be involved in wellness, volunteerism, and other life-enriching activates. As a non-profit organization, our Residents and our Mission will always be a priority.

Want to learn more about St. Anne’s Retirement Community? Visit: www.stannesretirementcommunity.com
Want to learn more about retirement options in Lancaster?  Visit:  www.exploreretirementliving.org

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