Weekend in PA

THANKSGIVING WEEKEND for us was a mix of longstanding traditions and new experiences.  We began our favorite weekend of the year with our traditional Thursday morning drive north, complete with all 18 minutes of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant. Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving unless my kids suffer through this tradition!

After a fantastic mid-day dinner at my aunt and uncle's place in Lancaster PA, we swung by Curt's aunt and uncle's home for a visit before ending up at his parents' place, where we made ourselves right at home by making sure all of our stuff was strewn all over their house within minutes of our arrival.

Friday morning featured some shopping, but not the Black Friday kind of shopping. I avoid that at all costs. No, instead we visited a market run by some local Amish. While I was checking out, a nice young Amish man walked in with eight loaves of homemade bread still warm from their Amish oven. I added a loaf to my stack of goodies, and didn't protest much when my mother-in-law insisted she photograph me in front of the very horse and buggy responsible for the fresh bread delivery:


Later that day, we found ourselves at the fine establishment my father-in-law calls the "Hoot 'n' Holler."  While he schooled his son in the finer points of barroom pool, I made friends with the very patrons after whom the bar's delicious, handcrafted pumpkin ale was named.  Aaron and Patty were hosting some friends of theirs who'd traveled aaaaaall the way from Curacao, which is all

…to Central PA, which is not at all like this, which means they must have come to experience the Local Culture, which, to my pumpkin-ale-soaked brain, meant I was an AMBASSADOR! I needed to show these lovely people a Good Time! Besides, how many times do people from Curacao come stumblin' in to the Hoot 'n' Holler? (Answer: Not many.) So, we raised our glasses and sang happy birthday to the one who came all the way from the islands to celebrate turning 41, and I took lots of photos on my cell phone, none of which turned out.  But it was fun!

Saturday, I got to treat my mother and mother-in-law to lunch at The Kind Cafe in Selinsgrove, PA. What a cute place! If you're ever passing through the area, go there.  The coffee was good, the food tasty and the people were really, well, kind. Nice and kind.

Sunday morning, I made crepes for breakfast, then we gathered all of our stuff that was strewn about the house, stuffed all of it into our car, and departed. But there was one more tradition we needed to bookend our weekend: The annual cutting of the Christmas Tree at Pikes Peak Acres, owned by Curt's aunt and uncle.  And it was all

Tree pickin 

and all


and I would like to publicly thank Aunt Eleanor for providing Peezer with not one, not two but three candy canes so that he would stop freaking out after he dropped and broke the first two:

Candy cane kid 

And so, we strapped the tree to the top of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster Suburban and headed south through heavier-than-normal traffic, past several auto accidents and the ensuing backups, to our Home Sweet Home.



I’m heading south tomorrow, with my new pal Laurie, who blogs over here. She’s flying in from California, staying overnight chez Soup, then tomorrow we load up the ‘Burb and drive to Virginia Blogfest.

Two chicks in a car? On a roadtrip? Does that remind you of anything?



Oh yeah, we’re a couple of badasses for sure.

Don't mess with badass bloggers!
Don't mess with badass bloggers!

Our Excellent Roadtrip (Part Two: Vermont)

In our last installment, you learned how we spent thirty-seven hours driving from central PA to Vermont, at least forty-two of which were spent careening between orange and white construction barrels (not counting the stop at Wal-Mart to buy shoes), and another twenty-five of which were spent following a rental RV.  (And I say this without hyperbole.)

My sister and her family live on a dirt road, which we are told is not uncommon in their neck of the, um, woods. It’s very rural. The population of their county is around 36,000.  The county in which my sister and I grew up currently has around 40,000 people. But our road was paved. And while we grew up next to dairy cows, my sister now lives next to pheasants. Yes, way. They use nets to keep the birds in:

Nets keep the pheasants from escaping
Nets keep the pheasants from escaping. Think it would work for toddlers?

My sister and her husband are employed by that highly-regarded institution of higher learning, Middlebury College, home of some of the finest restrooms in the whole town of Middlebury. (At least that’s what my kids tell me.) We spent Monday toodling around the town of Middlebury, which features the ever-stunning Otter Creek:

Otter Creek, Middlebury VT
Otter Creek, Middlebury VT. I would never get tired of looking at this.

After lunch, we popped on over to the Otter Creek Brewing Company, toured the brewery, sampled the product, bought souvenirs, and became loyal lifetime devotees of the fine craft brewed beverages (talk about drinkin’ the Kool-Aid!) created by just a dozen or so good folks, right there, and only there, in Middlebury. Next, we dropped in at the Maple Landmark toy factory, where they craft fine wooden toys, including lots of train stuff and things with wheels. Saying the boys liked it a little bit would be like saying there was only a little road construction on I-81 in Pennsylvania.

A visit to Vermont that doesn’t include a scenic covered bridge is like, well, a visit to the Washington, DC region without a visit to the Mall. Yet, when my same sister visited me in July, we never left Montgomery County, Maryland. Shame on me. But my sister is not one to hold grudges. Despite my complete lapse in regional hospitality, she nevertheless made sure we got to drive across this gem of a bridge:

Pulp Mill Covered Bridge, Vermont
Pulp Mill Covered Bridge, Vermont

On Tuesday, we paid a visit to Apple Ridge Farms, where they have orchards and clydesdales and buffalo and some of the most beautifully idyllic farm-like scenery one could ever hope to enjoy. True to our redneck roots, we all piled into the bed of my brother-in-law’s pickup truck and set off on the field road to gaze at the pastures and spy us some buffalo. It was all:

Apple Ridge Farms, Shoreham Vermont
Apple Ridge Farms, Shoreham Vermont

and all:

BACK OFF, BITCH. (Or maybe, come hither.)

Afterwards, we made quick detour to the equally idyllic campus of Middlebury College (where I hear there are many fine liberal arts courses of study, excellent professors, an unparalleled library, and some of the finest restrooms), then headed north. Of course, by then, word was out about how much I love RVs and especially enjoy following them, so THIS is what we followed practically the whole way up the road:

Because following RVs is FUN
Because following RVs is FUN

Our destination? (After McDonalds, I mean?) The ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center on scenic Lake Champlain in lovely Burlington, Vermont (New England’s West Coast!). What a cool place to spend an afternoon. If you’re ever in Burlington, you should go there, and maybe your kid can stick his head inside a fish tank like mine did:

Middle Son literally inside a fish tank
Middle Son literally inside a fish tank

After a few hours, with the kids (and adults) in various stages of meltdown, it was time to go. We bid a reluctant adieu to Burlington and promised to come back and visit (maybe even without kids!).  On the drive home, we saw some more stunning scenery, such as:

Road Construction Season on the Whole East Coast
Road Construction Season on the WHOLE EAST COAST

Actually, I exaggerate. The drive between Burlington and Middlebury does hold some truly gorgeous views of Lake Champlain, and of the Adirondacks to the west and Vermont’s Green Mountains to the east. This is simply to make light of a recurring theme of our trip. But not an overriding one… for there is just too much nice scenery in Vermont to let hundreds of miles a weensy little bit of road construction be the only thing you remember.

If you are still reading this, then I should tell you that this will be on the test we enjoyed a dinner of grilled sausages and batter-fried garden-fresh zucchini, then spent the evening trying to tire out the kids so us grown-ups could watch preseason football pass out go to sleep.

Our alarm went off early Wednesday morning. We bolted out of bed, threw our stuff (and our children) into  the car and began the three-day zillion-mile never-ending drive back to Maryland. Curt was a champion and never complained even after what felt like FIFTY stops we had to make for a certain, semi-potty-trained three-year-old who shall remain nameless. (AHEM.) Ten hours later, I’m sure my sister had erased all traces of our visit, and we were back home, diligently unpacking our bags having drinks with the neighbors.

And that, my friends, is How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Or at least part of the last month of summer, anyway.