Craving Dole Whip

Disney & museum obsessed, homeschooling mom of 3, parenting to focus on experiences, not possessions. Sharing Disney tips, educational adventures and a few reviews. Constantly craving Dole Whip.


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The Birth Of A Homeschool Guru

I wrote 3 very long (sorry!) and candid “flashback” postings last year, detailing the process of the beginning of my family’s unique journey. This week, I re-shared those honest posts and got a TON of traffic and feedback. Thank you everyone!

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Today, I looked through those entries and decided to tell the rest of the story.

So…here you go! Better grab some coffee and a muffin. (Or tea and some Milk Duds!)

This is going to take a minute.

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After my two daughters took the full scale IQ tests, we FINALLY knew the reasons for our extreme home-life. My girls NEEDED to learn.

NOW.

It isn’t like we never taught them stuff before. We ALWAYS read to our children. Offered workbooks in the summer, bought all of the “Little Einstein” videos and music CD’s, encouraged a “tinkering” mindset., limited time in front of the TV, etc. The problem was…the environment, the offerings, the access, the amount and the pace…It was just not enough…

As I mentioned before, over-excitabilities come with the gifted territory–even more pronounced and severe in the profoundly gifted individual. I have two of those living in my house and they experience our world in a way that is foreign and strange to me–and that will never EVER change.

How did I even start to bridge the obvious gap?

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I started where most desperate parents begin–looking and searching for the “right” academic fit for my kids (specifically my youngest daughter). The psychologist who administered the full scale IQ tests suggested a visit to an unique school in Houston–a school designed to accommodate the varying and accelerated needs of gifted children.

Wasting no time, I immediately made the appointment for a tour. My youngest daughter skipped her public school kindergarten to experience one day at the gifted school. That afternoon, the head of the gifted school pulled me into his office. Of course, I felt that all-to-familiar fear that my daughter’s behavior somehow tarnished her visit.

Nope. Wrong again, hyper-vigilant mom.

I am wrong a lot.

Let me tell you, it is SUPER difficult to be the dumbest person in your own home. And… I am not just saying that so everyone messages me and tells me that I am smart, too. Nope. It is a proven fact that I fall to the bottom of the intelligence totem pole in this family. I have the scores to prove it. LOL.

Anyway, the head of school proceeded to show me a few scores from other enrolled students. By this time in my journey, I only knew a few things about the gifted world. But, I DID know enough to understand our interaction and to deduce what he was trying to explain without making it too obvious. This “gifted” school could not help my daughter.

A super quickie tutorial:

Human intelligence exists on a bell curve–yep–just like the one you wished your college professor put into place for each exam.

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About 95% of the world’s population operates within the range of 70 to 130. 100 is considered an average IQ.

***Please understand that several intelligence tests only evaluate certain traits–and each test has a different score ceiling. For example, one test might not allow testers to achieve anything higher than 150. Another test might go as high as 200. So, the IQ number itself is not as important as the percentage. The percentage ceiling for any test is 99.9%. But, for simplicity, I am using this number scenario.

125 to 130 is the typical threshold for a public school gifted program. The average score accepted by Mensa is between 130 and 132–Again, it depends on which test was taken. A score in this range represents about 4% of our population and the same can be said of the opposite side of the bell curve–about 4% of our population falls beneath an IQ of 70.

As the bell curve travels further from the middle (or average), the percentages get smaller and smaller…until you reach the super far left or super far right. Once IQ range hits 145, the percentage is already hovering around .1% of the world’s population. That is a very small number of people.

My two daughters fall in that tiny .1% because they both scored in the 99.9% on a full-scale test.

So…when that man at the gifted school in Houston showed me the scores of other enrolled students, it was his not-so-obvious way to “tell” me that my daughter would not find her people at his school. She received an official acceptance into the establishment, but there were no “.1%-ers” there.

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I left his office and cried the super ugly cry in my car for about an hour.

And cried on and off again for several more days.

Here is where this post gets real people. Real and honest and hard to admit…

Like allllllllllll people, I tend to form opinions about topics that I have little to no actual or direct experience or knowledge. It is a not-so-popular thing to admit, but we ALL do it. **Everyone has an opinion about the military, but the percentage of soldiers and their families in the general population is actually quite small. Do you have an opinion about teen pregnancy??? How many of you have gone through that? Everyone has an opinion about divorce…but not everyone has suffered through the devastation of a cheating spouse.

Everyone has an opinion about everything. It is just the way the human brain works.

So, along those lines…I formed an opinion about homeschooling. I had VERY LITTLE personal experience with educational options outside of the public school system. My son attended a traditional school, K-12, and I was an art teacher for 7 years–all public school background. I saw students pulled from school by angry parents and then witnessed the same (and exhausted) parents return those students several months later–usually to the determent of that child.

I lectured friends about the downsides to homeschooling. (sorry Kim!) I made faces when homeschooling was mentioned in conversations. I was not a fan. Not a supporter. No way. Nopers. Just no.

Be careful what you joke about and be SUPER careful when you form opinions about topics you have no direct, personal experience…it will come back to bite you in the self-righteous butt.

I speak from experience.

Life sure is funny sometimes, right?

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Faced with no viable educational options for our youngest daughter, I started researching ‘homeschool’. (YIKES!) Watch me swallow this huge pill.

By the end of my daughter’s kindergarten year, I knew I was going to educate her at home. I contacted every homeschooling parent I knew (which was only 3 at that time!) and I asked a million silly questions–I didn’t know what I didn’t know, you know?!? 🙂

I bought books and read anything I could find on home education and parenting gifted individuals. I wanted to know about the various learning styles and differentiating curriculum. I poured over studies about academic acceleration and extreme academic acceleration–highlighting, underlining and dog-earing everything I found relevant.

If I was going to be solely responsible for educating my daughter, I wanted to do it right.

And, homeschooling offered the freedom for my daughter to pursue specialized interests–like American Sign Language and chemistry–when she was 6 years old.

My next mission was to find someone willing to teach her those things–because I knew NOTHING about those subjects. It did not take me long to realize that our “homeschool” would not take place at home. My daughter did not need ME to teach her–she needed me to become an expert researcher and fierce advocate for extreme acceleration.

My journey was just beginning.

I will write more soon, friends. 🙂

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If you missed it, read about my family in these flashback postings:

Flashback 1

Flashback 2

Flashback 3

Why do we homeschool? Read the top 5 reasons here!

5 surprises about my life with profoundly gifted children–read this.

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100 Experience Adventures–February Summary

WOW!  What a fascinating adventure all ready!

In just 2 short months, we completed a whopping 30 exciting and educational experiences!

THIRTY!

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When I look back on each experience, I am so very grateful my girls have this awesome, once-in-a-lifetime chance to grow and learn and expand their understanding of our world.  And, I have the privilege of sitting in the front row to watch it unfold. 🙂

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Here is a complete list of the 12 adventures (#19 through #30) we enjoyed during the month of February!  Click on each link to read a summary and honest review, as well as personal and educational tips for each experience!  Let me know if you have any specific questions–always happy to help.  🙂

Experience 19:

The Blue Man Group in Orlando, Florida

Experience 20:

Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida

Experience 21:

The Carlisle Ice Art Fest 

Experience 22:

The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, PA

Experience 23:

Our First Hike on the Appalachian Trail 

Experience 24:

A Tour of the Harley Davidson Factory in York, Pennsylvania 

Experience 25:

The Wilbur Chocolate Store and Museum in Lititz, Pennsylvania

Experience 26:

A Tour of Julius Sturgis Pretzel in Lititz, Pennsylvania

Experience 27:

Recycled Sari Flower Making Artisan Class in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Experience 28:

A Dinner Lit Only By Firelight at The Accomac in York, Pennsylvania 

Experience 29:

A Concert by The Diva Jazz Orchestra

Experience 30:

Film Screening of The Girls in the Band and a Panel Discussion with Diva

 

For a list (with clickable links to all cool places!) of #1 through #18 events from January, click here!

More to come–March has been a super busy and educational month!

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Screening And Panel Discussion Of The Girls In The Band–Experience Adventure 30 of 100

When my daughters and I attended an inspiring concert by the unbelievably talented, all-female, Diva Jazz Orchestra, the evening’s program invited guests to a screening of the documentary, The Girls In The Band.

Read all about our 29th experience here!

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During the concert’s intermission, I Goggled the award-winning documentary and instantly decided we would attend the film’s screening and open panel with the band’s members.

The screening and inspirational discussion marked our 30th experience.

The Girls In The Band features the poignant stories of female instrumentalists and jazz musicians who persevered through extreme sexism and racism in the fight for the equal right to play in the traditional, all-male dominated, big band music genre.  Beginning with the 1930’s, the film not only highlights the struggles of women, it also acts as a historically accurate film depicting major events in the United States.

We found the documentary informative and interesting and I always appreciate an experience that shows my daughters the path paved for them by women who fought and made sacrifices for future generations of girls.

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After watching the film, the members of the all-female band, Diva Jazz Orchestra, answered questions and facilitated a thought-provoking and empowering discussion about gender equality and inequality within the music world, while sharing intimate and personal stories of sexism, prejudice and triumphs.

 

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The evening certainly provided me and my daughters with a new understanding and appreciation for jazz music as well as a significant glimpse into the history of the fight for equality.

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To purchase a DVD of the documentary, The Girls In The Band, click here.

For more information about the all-fabulous Diva Jazz Orchestra, click here. and here.

To purchase the 25th anniversary CD from Diva Jazz Orchestra, click here.

Curious about the 18 exciting adventures we experienced during the month of January?  Click here!


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The Diva Jazz Orchestra–Experience Adventure 29 of 100

Embarrassingly, I admit I know very little about music.  My musical background consists of a few violin lessons when I was 10 years old and a semester of playing the recorder in 6th grade.  My son and my oldest daughter never showed any interest and my youngest only dabbles (though I keep encouraging her to investigate further).

I often find myself wishing I received more exposure to music during my younger years.  Thousands of neurological studies show a direct correlation between music and math, music and higher level thinking and music and emotional stability.  So, as a homeschooling parent, I continuously find ways to incorporate a love and appreciation of music even though we are not a musically-inclined family.

For our 29th experience, my daughters and I attended a spectacular performance by the Diva Jazz Orchestra, hosted by Dickinson College.

 

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The Diva Jazz Orchestra features an ensemble of amazingly accomplished female musicians, lead by the über humble and talented drummer, Sherrie Maricle.  In 1993, the founder, Stanley Kay, seized an opportunity to create and showcase an all-female, big band orchestra, which celebrates 25 years of making music magic during 2018.

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Most impressively, the band’s collective sound highlights every woman’s individual, amazing strength and talent, while creating a fresh and unique collaborative sound and musical experience.

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For their 25th anniversary, the band is performing new music, all composed by the unbelievably talented members.  Buy their newest CD here!

To learn more, visit www.divajazz.com

Click here to see a list of upcoming shows!

Click here to read about the movie screening and Diva panel discussion we attended the next evening!

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The Accomac Firelight Night Dinner in York, PA–Experience Adventure 28 of 100

When my daughters and I decided to attempt 100 adventures during our 6 month sabbatical from our home in Texas, one of the rules we put into place specified that each experience must be NEW and different.  Obviously, since we are newbies to the east coast, every restaurant we visit is technically “original”, but I refuse to fill this exciting adventure list with a million mundane restaurants.

–Except, we found this extraordinary one.

For our 28th adventure, we experienced a fantastic Firelight Night dinner at the Accomac in York, Pennsylvania.

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With a long, winding history, dating back to the early 1700’s, the Accomac Inn overlooks the beautiful rushing waters of the Susquehanna River.  (It was raining and foggy on the evening we visited, but still gorgeous!)

Read about the history of the Accomac Inn here.

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The massive and commanding stone building sits to one side of the narrow road, nestled into the bottom of a timber-filled hill, facing a large parking lot along the water’s edge.

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Offering visitors the opportunity to dine only by candle light, the Accomac hosts “Firelight Nights” on select evenings from November to early March.  Charming and über romantic, the tiny flicker of soft candle light and a roaring fireplace fill the dining room with a peaceful glow and calming warmth.  No light bulbs.  No lamps.  No electricity generating light.  **I tried to take as many pictures as I could before the sun went down and I lost the light streaming in from the windows.

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Meticulously pressed, white table cloths drape the intimate tables and comfortable leather chairs allow guests a chance to relax and unwind in the Queen Ann dining room.

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Serving all kinds of delicious and artisan food since 1971, owner Doug Campbell and general manager Zach Seitz hired Jordan Crews in 2010, and promoted him to executive chef in early 2016.  Crews, born and raised in Lancaster, visits the Lancaster Central Market weekly, choosing fresh and local ingredients for his award-winning seasonal menu.

(The Lancaster Central Market was our 8th experience and is the country’s oldest farmers market!  Read all about it here!)

Our dimly lit journey began with a pleasant palette cleansing shooter of creamy pea soup and an assortment of breads.  I typically prefer to pass on peas, but this soup was exquisite and an excellent start to our meal.

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We ordered several items from each section of the menu as an opportunity to try interesting combinations and sample from each others’ plates.

The mushroom risotto, created with fresh, local mushrooms and served as a warm side dish, features Caputo ricotta en salata, (created locally by the amazing Caputo Brother’s Creamery–our 32nd experience! Review coming soon!)

Topped with watercress and truffle foam, the risotto melts in the mouth–We ordered two bowls!

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The potato gnocchi at Accomac reigns as possibly the most divine food I have ever eaten in my entire life.  Full of complex, delicious flavors, the gnocchi appeared surrounded by a very light and savory cream sauce, fresh greens, and earthy mushrooms.  I wanted more (and MORE!) and I hope to return just to eat this dish again.

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The full-bodied, umami beef stock showcased in the Accomac’s French onion soup made this menu “starter” my husband’s favorite dish of the evening.  Topped with caramelized, rich Swiss and provolone cheeses, the chef added a dollop of fresh scallions, a delightfully surprising, yet tasty garnish.

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Pierogi, a traditional central European-style dumpling, arrived with a topping of savory sautéed onions on a cushion of creamy sour cream sauce.  I almost loved it as much as the amazing gnocchi and my vegetarian daughter claimed this special, off-menu offering as her favorite.

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My meat-eating daughter ordered the Accomac beef tenderloin burger with bacon, melted cheese, horseradish mayonnaise, and topped with a house made Brioche roll.  A slab of fried potato wedges and fresh, crisp vegetables served as accompaniments.  Though my daughter enjoyed the burger, it seems out-of-place on the elegant menu.

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As a main entrée, I appreciate the freedom to order a vegetable-based meal–braised cabbage rolls, filled with a hearty rice and mushroom mixture and smothered with tangy, chunky tomatoes.  A variety of roasted root vegetables surrounded the dish and offered more flavor than the bland cabbage rolls.  I found myself wishing I ordered another serving of the delicious gnocchi!

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My husband chose the chicken roulade with garlic polenta, glazed carrots, charred savoy cabbage and a red wine infused pear.  Though he devoured the chicken and creamy polenta, he found the overpowering sweetness of the pear off-putting and not enhancing of the dish.

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The under seasoned and tasteless side of roasted Brussel sprouts brought the only real disappointment during our exquisite meal at the Accomac.  I don’t expect perfection, so the Brussel blunder can be overlooked.  (Though, as a sprout lover, I did have high hopes.)  They were very fresh and bright!

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At the end of the meal, we found ourselves too pleasantly full to properly enjoy any of the sweet offerings from the menu.  We chose to share one small, but heavenly treat–the sticky toffee pudding.  Topped with a luscious dolce de leche ice cream and drenched with a syrupy toffee sauce, this dessert completed a wonderful and satisfying candle-lit meal at the Accomac.

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Overall, our meal was wonderfully prepared and the staff at the Accomac welcomed and served my family in a professional and friendly manner, even though we brought our children to an obviously adult-centered, date-night event.  Eating a satisfying meal by firelight proved to be a joyful, unique and relaxing experience.

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The Accomac works with local Pennsylvania farmers and provides a list of menu food sources online, which I appreciate and rarely find.  See the list here. 

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Kudos to the Accomac Inn.  Thank you for serving fresh and local, farm-to-table food, which moves our society closer to sustainability and an overall healthier way of life.  My family will return for another wonderful meal before we move back to Texas.  (Please serve the gnocchi!)

The Accomac also serves Caputo Brothers Creamery cheese–which just happened to be our 32nd experience adventure!  Read all about it here!

The Accomac is located at 6330 South River Drive in York, Pennsylvania.

Lunch is served Monday-Saturday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.

Dinner is served Monday-Saturday from 4:30 pm to 9:00 pm. and on Sundays from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm.

Sunday brunch is offered from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm.

***Reservations are recommended.

For more information, call 717-252-1521 or visit www.accomacinn.com

 

Looking for some original and new experiences in the great state of Pennsylvania?

Visit the National Watch and Clock Museum–read all about it here!

Click here and check out the Stroopie Co., a world changing social enterprise found at the Lancaster Sweet Shoppe.

Take a drive to Ten Thousand Villages in Mechanicsburg to buy all kinds of authentic, artisan-made, fair trade crafts and treasures from another global-impacting social enterprise.  Read what you need to know here.

 

Traveling to Illinois?  Put the Firefly Grill on your must-eat, farm-to-table restaurant list!  Click here.

 

 

 

 

 


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Recycled Sari Flower Making Class–Experience Adventure 27 of 100

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For our 27th experience adventure, my daughters and I took an artisan’s apprentice class and learned how to create decorative flowers using recycled sari fabrics from Bangladesh.

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Like so many of our adventures, this experience taught us a lot more than just a fun crafting process.

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The class was offered at Ten Thousand Villages, a non-profit, social enterprise that I accidentally found during one of my Google “fall-down-a-rabbit-hole” searches.  I previously knew nothing about it.

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So, let me share what we learned (above and beyond making fabric flowers).

Ten Thousand Villages began in 1946 and continues to grow over 390 retail outlets and alliances all across the United States, including the one we visited in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.

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These not-for-profit establishments carry home décor, jewelry, accessories, tea, furniture, art, soaps, and spices–all created by 130 artisan groups, representing 38 developing countries.

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As a fair trade, globally-focused, social enterprise, Ten Thousand Villages employs very few people– in fact, the store we visited only keeps 2 or 3 people on salary.  The other 30+ “employees” are volunteers that greet and interact with customers, help with unpacking and displaying orders and run the cash register.  It is a wonderful, thought-provoking and very forward-thinking business model.

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Almost all of the beautifully and skillfully handcrafted items are displayed with an informational sign about the artist, village or country.

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Purchases improve the lives of over 20,000 makers, allowing access to better food, shelter and housing, appropriate healthcare and opportunities for education.

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Ten Thousand Villages also verifies that represented artists and craftspeople create in a safe working environment, where each human is treated with dignity and respect in an ethical and responsible system.  Fair trade focuses on stability, paying a fair income to individuals, empowering women and improving the lives of all people.

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The more exposure I receive to these world changing social enterprises, the more I prefer to give my business to establishments that make a difference in the life of others.

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A list of all Ten Thousand Villages stores and alliances (stores that carry products) can be found on the website at www.tenthousandvillages.com. Search by zip code or state and find one near you!

 

For my Texas friends, full retail stores are located in Austin and San Antonio, with alliances in McKinney, The Woodlands and Magnolia!  Who knew?!?

Pennsylvania boasts 11 stores and 3 alliances.  AWESOME!

The store we visited is located at 701 Gettysburg Pike, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 17055.  Open Monday-Friday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Saturday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and closed on Sundays.  For more info call 717-796-1474.

They offer other artisan apprentice workshops, so follow them on Facebook for updates!

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We originally learned about social enterprise from one of our earlier adventures to a local candy shop.  The Lancaster Sweet Shoppe houses the Stroopie Co., a family-owned company hiring refugee women and providing meaningful work for people who are forced to flee their countries due to famine, war and instability.

Read about this AMAZING company here.

 

 

 

 


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Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery Tour in Lititz, PA–Experience Adventure 26 of 100

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Dang, the pretzels up in Pennsylvania taste heavenly.

For real.

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Beautiful and golden, with just a slight outside crunch and a warm, soft, bread-like center, topped with a tiny tang of salt…yummmmmy!

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Fun Fact:  The state of Pennsylvania produces a staggering 80% of the nation’s hard pretzels!

Why???

The Palantine Germans brought soft pretzels and pretzel recipes to America in 1710.  And where did these people settle?  That’s right!  Pennsylvania.  Today, we call these pretzel-bearing geniuses the “Pennsylvania Dutch”.

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Though several PA pretzel makers and companies offer tours, we decided to visit the FIRST commercial pretzel bakery in America–to see where it all began!

Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery

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Our 26th of 100 adventures!

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In 1861, Mr. Julius Sturgis built the original ovens for his pretzel bakery in a 77 year-old building located in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  Today, pretzel lovers, visitors and crazy homeschooling families on sabbatical (like us!) can visit the site, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The interesting, 30 minute tour includes the history of pretzel making and baking, a hands-on pretzel twisting class and a quick tour of the original bakery, ovens and equipment.

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We twisted some impressive pretzels!

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Visitors also learn about the evolution of machinery used by the company and as a small treat, receive a bag of hard pretzels at the conclusion of the tour.

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Guests can watch large, soft pretzels being made onsite!  ***The company still uses the same recipe from 1861!  AMAZING!

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The shop offers quite a bit of historical information, relics and museum-worthy exhibits, too!

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All kinds of yummy flavored hard pretzels, souvenirs and hot, fresh soft pretzels can be purchased in the front gift shop, separate from the tour.  But, take the tour!  (And then shop!)

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This tour offered all my favs:  an interesting history, a knowledgeable and entertaining guide, original relics, a hands-on activity and FREE snacks at the end!!  Certainly an excellent way to learn about the history of pretzel making and the Julius Sturgis Pretzel company.  A++

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Put this tour on your list of “must-do adventures” during your next visit to Lititz, Pennsylvania!  We loved it!

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Julius Sturgis Pretzel is located at 219 East Main Street, Lititz, Pennsylvania, 17543.

Tours are offered Monday-Saturday, 9:30 am until 4:30 pm.

Prices:

Child: $2.75

Ages 13+:  $3.75

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The store is open 9:00 am until 5:00 pm.  Closed on Sunday and some holidays.

For more information, call 717-626-4354 or visit www.juliussturgis.com

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Looking for other things to do in Pennsylvania?

Check out Wilbur Chocolates–right down the road from Julius Sturgis!  Click here for more info!

Don’t miss this awesome museum:  The National Watch and Clock Museum

Interested in the Appalachian Trail?  Read about our first hike here!

Check out the State Museum of Pennsylvania here!

If you find yourself in Lancaster, PA, click on the titles and check these places out!

The Lancaster Sweet Shoppe

Lancaster Central Market

Beiler’s Doughnuts