In an effort to finish up our vacation tales, I continue on with the rest of our Pennsylvania adventures. After Gettysburg, we set up base camp at the home of...strangers! Okay, not really strangers - very beloved friends we just hadn't met in person yet.
Annette (writer of Net's Notes and Live, Love, Learn) and I met through a blog Summer Swap (August '09), in which our daughters were (pen-pal type) partners who exchanged gifts. I wrote about that here. We stayed in touch, and we came to think of each other as friends. I already wrote about the fun and educational part of our visit to Herr's potato chip and pretzel factory here.
The only thing I was surprised, upon meeting their family, was how tiny Annette is. At 5'3", I RARELY ever feel tall next to anyone. Her cute little size had not translated through her blog. Other than that, she was just as kind and wonderful as I expected her to be. Clearly, I have good instincts, and I didn't have to worry about them killing us in our sleep. Her husband seemed like a great man, too (and funnily enough, Annette both remarked that our husbands could pass as brothers), and the kids jumped right into playing with 4 year old Meghan and 2 year old Evan (and all of their fun toys).
When we first walked into their beautiful house (located amidst Amish farm country - we passed a horse drawn buggy coming down their road on the first night), it was slightly like the feeling you get when you see a celebrity in real life. I'm sure they love knowing that, ha! You know - when you've only seen someone in pictures and on video, it's a little surreal when you're face to face with them.
Besides looking forward to meeting one another, we were super thrilled about introducing Meghan and Sissy. They knew exactly who each other was, and anytime "Pennsylvania" had ever been mentioned in conversation, Sissy was quick to remind us, "That's where my friend lives."
They were excited about having a "slumber party." One of the times we checked on the girls the first night, Meghan's recognition that she was getting close to a friend who would soon be leaving was heard in her sincere, heart-felt sobs, "We're going to be apart...FOREVER!" So sweet!
They live in southeastern Pennsylvania, which is minutes away from, like 10 states (okay, maybe not that many), so we were interested in experiencing as many states as possible during our vacation extravaganza. (We also got to drive through a corner of Delaware later on.) They took us over to Elk Neck State Park, which is located in Maryland. There is an almost mile-long hike out to a lighthouse.
It was a very nice little hike, despite the overcast weather. It was perfect for my two boys, to get out and RUN after spending so much time in our car the past few days.
our first glimpse of Turkey Point Lighthouse
the kids in front of the lighthouse
Derek and Evan, 100 ft. high bluff at the tip of Elk Neck peninsula
my family, enjoying the views of the Chesapeake Bay
We wanted a little of an "Amish" experience, so Derek stayed with her kids during their naptime, and Annette joined us on a drive around the area. I had plenty of fun just passing farmhouses and quickly deciphering whether one was an Amish or modern farm. We stopped at a covered bridge to look around and enjoy the view.
She took us to a neighboring town for a little shopping at the cute Good's Store, which is described on their website as being a "genuine Pennsylvania Dutch shopping experience complete with friendly service, low prices, and unique merchandise...where Lancaster County PA's Mennonite, Amish, and Dutch communities and locals have been shopping for over 50 years."
Ryan and Dash took notice of the actual "horse tie" area at the end of the parking lot.
There was also time to just hang out and enjoy their home. The kids didn't let the wet, dreary weather stop them from having fun on the "playground" that Derek built.
I don't know what it is about little girls jumping on top of Tornado. My niece does the same thing to him. I think they sense that he is cuddly and won't fight back.
This was one of my favorite moments. Sissy and Meghan snuggled up with Annette for Meghan to read the book that Sissy and I had made for her during the swap. (It's all about Sissy's life in Arkansas.) A and M had read it so many times together that M could recite every page, almost word for word. It was sooo precious.
Annette blogged about our visit here, here, here, and here, if you want to see more pictures of our visit! She was such a wonderful hostess (accomodating 5 vegetarians), and I'm quite sure we'll take advantage of her hospitality again one of these days. :) We definitely became fans of their family of four, as well as Pennsylvania as a whole. There are many other places we'd like to go back and visit when we have more time. Ryan even commented out of the blue a few days ago about how "nice" Annette was and how glad he was that we "did that."
A few of the books that we read before and after our PA trip:
Geography/History link-up at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn