Friday, December 3, 2010

Great Christmas Places to Shop in Lancaster County, (Sixth in a Series)

Take a trip with me. We’ll travel just around the corner from The Artist’s Inn...down the hill and around the bend...past two one-room schoolhouses where children are playing softball, past Eby’s store where you can buy your fishing license, your groceries and collect your mail, past the farm where our cupolas were made. By now we’ve seen several Amish and Mennonite buggies. Today I saw one with the number “6” marked on the window – clearly they had been to an event (it is still wedding season in Lancaster County), and this is how they mark their buggies for easy finding in a field filled with them.

We’ll travel a little further along the creek, stopping when the wild pheasants cross the road in front of us....deep in the heart of Northern Lancaster County...and discover a thriving nursery business called Frysville Farms.

Just after Thanksgiving, customers arrive by the carload to purchase greens, roping, wreaths, Christmas trees (yes, they have white pine – my favorite), ornaments, decorated trees, and kissing balls. The orchids, amaryllis and cactus are blooming.

And they have poinsettias.

80,000 of them!

All grown right here in Lancaster County.

It’s a feast for the eyes. Look closely as you may see some varieties that will surprise you.

So if you are thinking of purchasing poinsettias, why not go to the source – you’ll be glad you did. The hardest part is deciding which ones to leave behind.


These should brighten up any room.

Poinsettia Tree in the Waterfall Garden

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving – The Last Pure and Simple Holiday in America

Just before every Thanksgiving we decide on the menu, call relatives and friends and plan a day around sharing – food, laughter and, memories. Not counting the elaborate meal plans, it’s a fairly simple day spent in the company of people that we love.

Oh, there are a few brave souls who decorate for the holiday with horns of plenty and the occasional pilgrim, but compared to its two neighbors on the calendar, (Halloween and Christmas), Thanksgiving is fairly quiet in the consumer-driven market of ghouls, glitz, and over-the-top commercialism.

Maybe it’s because I’m growing older. Or perhaps it’s because I’m just getting tired of lugging decorations down two stories, but I have a growing fondness for this holiday that gets lost at the end of November. In most houses, the day starts out rather nicely watching a parade and enjoying the smells wafting through the house. Then sometime halfway through dinner most folks have decided that there’s too little time left for Christmas shopping--so they’d better start that night and everyone shifts into Christmas warp speed.

But before the Christmas train comes screaming into the station, I’d like to take a moment and ponder just why I like this holiday so much. It’s pure and simple – the way it was so many years ago. And it delivers a gift of thankfulness and a deliberate reason to slow down – even if it is just for one day.

It’s a day that “the English” in Lancaster County spend much the same way as their Amish neighbors - giving thanks and being grateful.

In the past, I’ve made lists of the things for which I was thankful. But I think the bigger picture is the lesson of being grateful in and of itself. And that’s the part of Thanksgiving that we need to carry with us throughout the year.

To be able to count our good fortune is a gift in itself. And perhaps the lesson is that there is always a reason to be thankful. We are so blessed to live in a country where we can control our own destiny, where we have the climate to be able to grow our own food, share with others, give back when we can, to be able to truly care for others and be cared for, and to celebrate that love every day.

So, this Thanksgiving, I hope you take a moment by yourself to sit and enjoy the warmth of the fire or glance out the window and appreciate the beauty of a falling leaf as it floats to the ground and be glad for both – and for the time to slow down and savor not only the tastes of the day, but the sights and sounds as well.

From all of us at The Artist’s Inn, may yours truly be a happy and grateful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Great Places to Shop in Lancaster County (Fifth in a Series)

If you are looking for unique gifts, I suggest you visit this weekend. It’s the start of the bazaar season in Lancaster County. You’ll be able to find locally-made crafts, home-baked goodies, art, jewelry, doll clothes, and great food. But be warned...most folks have to hustle to take them all in. And the locals are up and out early – some of the bazaars open at 7:30.

No need to hit the mall or the outlets. Local folks find the best gifts just around the corner from The Artist’s Inn – you can walk to several of these bazaars that are held in local churches or homes.

Most of all, it’s a great way to support the local community as many of the bazaars help non-profits. So get up early and go – you'll be able to find lots of coffee, hot tea and good eats.

Here’s a partial list of the events. When in doubt of where to go, just follow the signs!

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church – (105 West Main Street in Terre Hill) Offering 15 different kinds of homemade chocolate and great food, including soup “to go” to enjoy later.

Real McCoys Christmas Bazaar – (Held at the home of Doris Weidner, 128 Center Avenue in Terre Hill) – Holiday gift baskets, old-fashioned woolen Christmas stockings, natural ornaments and even dog treats.

Berean Church Bazaar – (407 West Main Street, Terre Hill) – My favorite local Jeweler will be at this one.

Weaverland Auction – On Precast Lane, just outside of Terre Hill. Lots of great crafts, including QUILTS. They usually go for low prices.

Bangor Church - Route 23, Churchtown – This is worth a stop just to take a peek inside this wonderful historic church.

Bergstrasse Evangelical Lutheran Church (9 Hahnstown Rd. in Ephrata) – Their Fair-Trade Fair will feature handmade crafts by artisans from 35 different countries.

Mount Culman Evangelical Congregatoinal Church (1885 Turkey Hill Rd, East Earl) – (just north of Terre Hill on Route 625) – Features local crafts and hot lunches.

The Happy Chapmans – Featuring Folk Art on the Farm – (Route 897 just north of Terre Hill) – Hand-painted signs, especially Christmas items. To read more about the Chapmans, see our previous blog:

Liberty Auxiliary Fire Company – (330 East Main Street, New Holland) – You’ll find candles, Chirstmas ornaments, and handmade baby items and much more.

Annunication Orthodox Church of Lancaster – (64 Hershey Ave. in Lancaster) Greek Food Bazaar – Imported items from Greece, pottery and, best of all.....stuffed grape leaves and other Greek Foods.

Did all that shopping make you hungry? St. Paul’s UCC Church in Bowmansville (just north of Terre Hill at 133 Church St.) will be holding a Corn Pie Supper starting at 3:00 p.m.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lancaster County – The Land of Pumpkins!

It’s pumpkin time! Whether they grow them for fun or food, Lancaster County’s farmers sure know pumpkins. I never realized there were so many varieties before moving to Terre Hill.  Of course, you have your typical “face” pumpkins – great for carving on Halloween.  They are at every farm stand this time of year.

See how many of these others that you know.  Some of the names are as interesting as the varieties - Jack-be-Littles (tiny orange ones) and Little Octobers are shown with Baby Boo's (the tiny white ones pictured above).

The New Moon is white-ish and small and sit in front of the wagon. The big white rounded ones are called Full Moons.

In the back right of this picture, you'll see one of my favorites.  French Fairytales are elegant and very proud - with a lovely blend of green and orange and deep ridges.

It’s easy to see why the SuperFreaks get their name.

These light green, small pumpkins are called Jarrahdales and are terrific for baking.

Cinderellas are beautifully bright orange and squat - as though someone sat on them.  They too are among my favorites.  They are a unique French heirloom whose correct name is "Rouge vif D'Etampes". Some say they resemble the pumpkin that Cinderella's fairy godmother transformed into a carriage. And they were also served at the Pilgrim's second Thanksgiving dinner.

The peanut pumpkins are not to be confused with the Red Warty things.

Another one of my favorites – and a little hard to find – is the One Too Many. So pretty.

Pumpkins are great for decorating, no matter how you stack them – all the way up to Thanksgiving.

The Autumn Cups are small and dark green.

The Turk’s Turban is easy to remember..

As are the beehive - or maybe they are winter squash.  To tell you the truth, sometimes I have a hard time telling the squash from the pumpkins, but they are so much fun to decorate with, who cares? 

Perhaps the best part of pumpkin growing is catching a glimpse of orange in the fields as you drive along the back roads.  Slow down and you'll see them!

So if you just can't live without a pumpkin, or two, or twenty, head to Lancaster County and support our local farmers.  We'll be happy to share a list of the best pumpkin patches near The Artist's Inn.  But be warned - once you buy one, you'll want more.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

There’s No Place Like Home in Lancaster County

I recently took a wonderful trip with friends – we cruised the Caribbean, saw beautiful sights, ate delicious food, and laughed the week away. It’s funny how you take the time to study the clouds, look at the stars and listen to the wind on vacation, but we so rarely take the time while we are at home. Our daily lives seem so rushed that there’s barely a chance to catch our breath at the end of the day. But I’m sure that if we took the time, we’d find some fascinating clouds, stars and breezes in our own backyard.

And maybe it’s necessary to vacation once in a while to appreciate time together, away from the responsibilities and pressures of life. Perhaps it helps you look at your world with fresh eyes and be grateful anew.

While I loved learning about other cultures, exploring new places and meeting new friends in a “summer” climate, when I returned to Lancaster County, fall had started. Change was in the air – there were a few red leaves on my burning bush, the corn was being harvested, and the morning sunlight in the dining room shone in at a different angle. When you live in Pennsylvania the seasons present themselves patiently, as though standing on your porch for a while – subtle changes that you barely notice at first. But those small alterations keep adding up until even the most distracted among us notice them knocking at our door.

Would I trade the seasonal changes for anywhere else? Nope! The smell of fresh mowed lawn in the spring, the song of the birds in summer,
the crunch of the leaves underfoot in the fall, and
the blue of the winter sky against fresh snow...

these are the seasons of life, each one bearing its own surprises for us and giving us a new appreciation of the world in which we live.

And maybe that’s what getting away is all about.

Lancaster County is a place like nowhere else. And it is our privilege to share it at The Artist’s Inn, no matter what the season.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Great Places to Shop in Lancaster County (Fourth in a Series)

Unlike my other blogs about places to shop, this post is not about one particular store. But it does describe one of the best things about living in Lancaster County: our local farm stands.
They carry a wide variety of fruit and produce so freshly picked that they sometimes still holds the warmth of the sun. To be able to get fresh asparagus in the spring, dozens of ears of corn in the summer, and pumpkins by the wagon load in the fall is pure joy to anyone who likes to cook, eat, or decorate!
Harvest time makes for a very special time to visit - as crops burst from every roadside stand and market.

To know that your purchases help support local farmers makes the shopping experience so much richer. We are grateful to have at least eight stands within two miles of The Artist’s Inn. Thank you to the farmers who work such long hours to bring us the best food around. And especially the ones who grow unusual crops – sugar plums, heirloom tomatoes, white peaches, chestnuts, ten different kinds of squash – you just never know what you’ll find!
One thing is almost guaranteed: you will find a money box; for these purchases are made on the honor system as most farmers are too busy to tend the stand. This is a tradition that is common to the locals, but surprises my guests, who are often from suburban areas.

So, if you can’t visit, I hope you enjoy this little blog journey today – a feast for not only our taste buds, but our eyes as well.