When I was in Asia, there was one food related thing on my bucket list, and that was to get a crazy shaped fun cotton candy. Cotton candy in the US is simply not as exciting or shapely as it is in Asia.
I found a cute cotton candy stand in the Venice Piazza Grand Canal Mall while in the Philippines, and had to check it out!
The cotton candy met my expectations. It was cute and fluffy, but once I walked outside to cross the street to get to the office, it deflated really quickly!
How did it taste?
Unfortunately, not as tasty as it looked! I don’t know how to explain the flavor but it wasn’t sweet or similar tasting to traditional cotton candy here in the US. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the facial features being made of seaweed, which I definitely didn’t want to eat.
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I also spotted some massive volcano cloud like cotton candy treats while in Harajuku in Toyko!
This past weekend my mom and I visited Amish Country in Lancaster, Pa. I’ve always been fascinated by different cultures, particularly the Amish because it’s so amazing that they can keep their lifestyle as it is, when they are surrounded by so much technology and modern culture. For a time, I even considered majoring in a field that would let me study different cultures and people, Anthropology, after I took a class at Mount Holyoke College during my senior year of high school, but I opted for Broadcast Journalism and Political Science instead.
My mom had planned to visit Amish Country back in the day when she was pregnant with me, but her doctor suggested she skip the trip, so you could say this trip has been 27 years in the making.
Here’s my list of go to places and must dos
Where to stay: DoubleTree Resort Lancaster
There aren’t a ton of hotels in the region, so if you’re looking to stay at a place that isn’t a Bed and Breakfast, you’re options are limited, but the DoubleTree suited us just fine!
If you go to Amish country you absolutely have to take an Amish horse and buggy ride. As we drove into Lancaster, we ended up on some middle of the nowhere roads, even our maps app lost us, but the neat thing was we got to see so many people riding in their buggies. This was the number one activity my mom and I had on our list of must dos.
There’s a number of buggy riding companies, but there’s only one that is worth visiting, and that’s Abe’s Buggy Rides. This is the real deal! You’ll be taken on your ride with a real Amish person, unlike the other tours in town that are not run by the Amish and are extremely touristy and unauthentic. If you want an authentic experience, going through real Amish neighborhoods, you have to go to Abe’s.
We opted for the hour long ride ($45 a person). The best part of the tour was that it was just for us. At Abe’s you get a private tour, no sitting with strangers! On our ride we got to see an Amish school house, and school was getting out when we drove by, which was cute. We also got to stop at a bakeshop were we picked up a lot of yummy goodies.
Our driver, Sam, even allowed me to drive the buggy twice, which who can say they’ve actually driven a real horse and buggy!? It was so much fun.
If you’re interested in doing something focusing on food, there’s a few spots you should take a pit stop at nearby.
The first is Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in Lititz, PA. It’s not too far away, around a 20-30 minute drive from Lancaster. The bakery is the first commercial pretzel bakery in the country. Here you can take a cute 20 minute tour for $3.50 a person. You’ll get to see how pretzels were made back in the day, hear some tales about the Sturgis family, and even get to roll out a “pretzel.” I put pretzel in quotes because I don’t believe it’s real pretzel dough and you don’t actually get to cook/eat it, but it’s a fun activity especially on a rainy day.
This factory chocolate store is only a couple blocks away from the pretzel bakery, and it smells heavenly. In the back of the store they have a couple tins of Wilbur Buds, a small chocolate they are known for, that you can sample. Pretty tasty! They also have a little section with windows where you can see some of the workers making chocolate.
Shopping If you’re looking for some shopping (not necessarily Amish ran businesses), you should check out Kitchen Kettle Village. They have a lot of fun shops here where you can buy everything from candles, soaps, fudge, decorations, and so on. The best shop here is The Jam and Relish Kitchen. So many tasty treats await you, plus tons of samples! In the back there’s also a canning kitchen where we were able to see a bunch of Amish women canning pickles that day.
Bird in Hand Farmer’s Market is another must visit shopping spot. You’ll find tons of sweet treats, meats, canned items, and more here. There’s also a number of craft shops to puruse as well.
Overall, Amish Country was a lot of fun. I’d recommend 1-2 days there depending on what you want to hit up. It’s amazing to see how different the Amish culture is, and you can’t go wrong with their cooking and baking!
Who doesn’t love driving in the countryside, leaf peeping, and picking up some of Fall’s best products, pumpkins and apples on a lovely Fall day?
This past weekend we found ourselves with the Fall activity itch, and since it was the first good weekend of October, we wanted to take a drive in the countryside and see what we could find. We happened upon Riamede Farm in Chester, NJ.
Riamede is a cute farm for picking up pumpkins, apples, and yummy goodies, so we did just that! The farm claims they have trees that were planted half a century ago and that they were first “pick-your-own apple orchard in New Jersey.” Who wouldn’t want to give their apples a try with a claim like that?
There’s a ton of different apple varieties at Riamede, and plenty of apples to go around.
It was a beautiful day on the farm, the air was crisp and full of the smell of apples.
We walked away with Red Delicious and Baldwin Apples. If you want massive apples, bigger than you’ll ever find in store, Riamede Farm is the place to go. I couldn’t believe how big the apples were that we found.
With our apples, we decided to make an apple crisp! Luckily the store had an apple crisp mix so we picked one up, especially since this was my first time ever baking one! Since the apples were so huge, we only needed 2 apples for the crisp, which came out delicious if I might say so myself.
If you find yourself free over the next couple of weekends, head over to Riamede Farm in Chester, NJ. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
Things to note:
Admission to the farm costs $2.00 per person on the weekend – free during the weekday
You can buy plastic bags for your apple picking adventure for .50 cents. We had a bag with us, so we just brought that.
Apples are charged by the pound (under $2 a pound), which get weighed at the register
Riamede Farm is cash only. They do have an atm in the little shop if you forget.
Who doesn’t love a vacation? This past weekend my boyfriend surprised me with a trip down to Sunset Key, a private island off of Key West owned by Starwood Hotels and private residents.
The resort, the only one on the island, is called Sunset Key Cottages. The only other people on the island are private home owners. The island is only accessible by shuttle boat to those staying on the island or visiting the restaurant. How cool is that? The boat runs very frequently, every 30 minutes (on the :15 and :45 mark from the docks in Key West, and at the top of every hour and half hour on Sunset Key). One thing I really appreciated about the boat was how timely it was. They arrived and left exactly on time. For someone used to commuting in NYC and NJ this was quite the treat 🙂
While the resort is associated with Westin, who has a traditional hotel on Key West, you check in on Sunset Key itself. From there, the concierge personally walks you to your cottage and gives you the resort rundown (boat schedule, breakfast information, pool and beach info, etc). Each cottage is given a super cute name. Our cottage was called “Easy Dreams,” which is a little ironic considering some of our morning experiences, but I’ll get into that later. The cottage has 2 bedrooms (1 with a king bed, the other with two double beds), 3 bathrooms, a lovely living room/dining area, functional kitchen minus an oven, and a beautiful wrap around porch with rocking chairs. Outside there were also two shower heads on the cottage for rinsing off after a day at the beach or in the pool.
The resort is beautiful, peaceful, and comes with some awesome amenities. One of my favorite touches was that every morning each cottage would receive a breakfast basket on their porch. Included in your basket were muffins, croissants, butter/jam, and a couple pieces of fruit. It was so magical opening the door every morning to find a cute basket full of goodies (all included in your stay).
Each morning the quantity varied. One morning we received 2 muffins, 3 croissants, and two pieces of fruit…a lot of food for two people. Other mornings we received smaller amounts of baked goods. Most mornings we couldn’t tell what type of muffins we received and there was no note saying what you received. On our second to last morning one of the muffins was blueberry, which is what I was craving the whole time. It was absolutely delicious. I only wish we could have requested what we wanted.
Onto the water! The pool was quite nice with an accessible gradual slope, and optional ladders in the deeper ends. There’s also a hot tub or two around the pool area that you can check out as well. You’ll also find a bar that serves food at the pool. We didn’t eat anything there, but probably would have if we could have eaten off the kids menu 🙂 (disclaimer: we didn’t ask if it was allowed or not).
Sunset Key also has a beach available to guests. Apparently vacationers staying in the Westin on Key West are able to use the beach, but I think I only saw one couple take advantage of that the 4 days we were there. The beach itself is small, and at the water’s edge there are a ton of little pebbles and rocks that make it a bit painful to get into the water, but after a few feet things smooth out and you can walk on some patches of sand or some larger non painful rocks in the water.
Two of my favorite things about the beach were that there were minimal waves and the water was the perfect temperature. The only time the beach had any waves was when speed boats or jet skis would pass nearby. I hate waves, so this beach worked out nicely for me. In regards to the temperature of the water, it wasn’t cold at all. I would say it was more refreshing than anything, something that was very welcome with the high humidity on the island.
Sunset Key Pros:
Limited amount of people around – for the most part the only people on the island were cottage guests
Breakfast baskets – too cute for words
Rocking chairs on cottage porches – perfect for reading (and there are ceiling fans on the porch to keep you cool!)
Little treats being left every night after turn down. The first night there were chocolates left by the bedside. We also received Key Lime cookies. However, the coolest treat left was two little boxes of Cupcake Sushi. What’s Cupcake Sushi you ask? Cute bite sized bits of cake (cupcake) surrounded by buttercream frosting, dunked in dark chocolate and decorated with chocolate pearls to look like a little piece of sushi. Delicious!!
Sunset Key Cons:
Sometimes the maintenance starts too early – when we’re on a vacation we sometimes want to sleep in, which wasn’t always a luxury available to us this trip due to being up against the maintenance buildings. We also had the unfortunate experience of having a landscaper decide to dig around the foundation of our cottage our first morning to plant several bushes. I don’t know if he didn’t get the memo that a) it was early and b) that someone was staying in the cottage. The Cottage “Easy Dreams” didn’t always make it so easy to dream 🙂
Not many food options – the resort offers a restaurant but none of the options were super appealing or exciting for us (we’re not into fancy food). Next time I might try ordering kids menu items from room service.
Sunset Keys is an amazing place. I hope I get a chance to go again. Definitely a place I would recommend if you want to check out Key West but want to avoid being around the whole party scene 24/7.
Key West Recommendations:
Favorite Bar for Food: Island Dogs
What to order: Bar Pizza – perfect size to fill you up, super cheesy and delicious. I got pepperoni!
Tour: Ghosts and Gravestones
Summary: Fun evening tour that takes you around in a “spooky” trolley. You’ll get to see interesting historic buildings and learn about their history, and hop off at two stops (a fort and a museum). It’s not scary (unless you disrespect Robert), but is super informative, fun, and something different to try.
Fish and Chips Recommendation: Red Fish Blue Fish
Summary: For me beach towns = fish and chips, but it’s a hard dish to come by in Key West. Red Fish Blue Fish is a great spot to chow down on traditional fish and chips. Plus, they had quick service, an air conditioned dining room (there’s also an outside patio area), and tasty food.