Autumn in Amish Country

Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-16

In October 2012 my husband and I decided that before we have to spend the next 13 years of our lives planning our vacations around public school breaks that we were going to take a Last Hoorah Anniversary trip together.   When I was pregnant with Garrett in 2007 I toured New England in the Fall with my mother, and then in 2010 traveled to Vermont and New York with my husband, so for this trip I wanted something different, but still craved that New England in the fall experience.  In true Beth fashion I am once again a whole year late in posting about this vacation, but now that autumn is in the air again my mind keeps drifting back to the beauty that we witnessed on that trip, and I know it’s time to get a post up about it.  I’m planning this vacation as a blog series this week, so each day I’ll be highlighting different parts of the trip. 

We began our five day long adventure with a trip along the back roads of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania soaking in Amish Country and ended our journey in The Hamptons on Long Island.  Talk about a polar opposites on the tourist destination scale, huh?    The Amish part was my idea.  The Hamptons were his.  Over the next few days on the blog I’m going to show you my favorite spots of both places.  To give you a bit of background, I became inexplicably enamored with all things Amish after watching Mose Gingerich’s tv show Amish: Out of Order.  (Not to be confused with the disgustingly fake and degrading TLC freakshows that are Breaking Amish or Amish Mafia.)  If you’re not familiar with Mose’s show, it took an honest look at ex-Amish teens trying to make it in the outside world. I could relate a bit to Mose’s story after growing up in an extremely strict religion with a lot of rules and Old Testament laws, then facing the guilt of leaving it all behind in my adult years.  I’m not saying my life was anything like Mose’s life, but there were a few striking similarities that drew me to his story.  And so began my Amish infatuation.  I needed to see it for myself, so off we went to Intercourse, PA, for the first few days of our vacation.

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I did a whole bunch of research on the best places to stay in Intercourse, PA and finally settled on The Inn at Kitchen Kettle Village.  This turned out to be a wonderful decision! 

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I was able to book the Strawberry Street Guest Quarters for us, which had a private entrance just steps away from the Kling House restaurant. 

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We arrived on a Saturday along with busloads of tourists and an extremely full parking lot, but on Sunday the entire place is closed.   When I booked the room this concerned me because I was worried there would be nothing for us to do, but it turned out to be an excellent decision.  We were able to shop on Monday morning after the crowds had cleared out, but on Sunday it was completely quiet and empty.  One of the stand-out moments of the trip for me was waking up early Sunday morning and walking around the empty streets of the village all alone, with nothing but the sound of the birds chirping and the clippity-clop of the Amish buggies driving past on their way to church.  I walked around with my giant camera, which I came to realize was like an Amish repellant, snapping photos of the village.

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The entire village is just beautiful. The little shops lining the cobble stone streets sell everything from cookies to pottery to leather belts and more.  Lots of handmade stuff, but plenty of Made in China trinkety commercialism, too.  

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It’s definitely a tourist trap, but I am not one to shy away from a good fudge shop, so it was right up my alley.

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And the view from the parking lot is amazing.  The green fields spread out and I watched the sunrise over the Amish farms and silos that dot the landscape.  This is pretty much the view from every direction in the town of Intercourse.  Rolling hills, fields, farms and silos.   It is GORGEOUS.

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Even their ditches were nice! 

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I attempted to make friends with this baby goat who stared at me with indignation and bleated at me repeatedly.  Even he didn’t like my dSLR pointed in his direction.

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We arrived on October 13th, and the leaves were just beginning to change. That is the tricky part of planning a leaf-peeping vacation. Trying to time it perfectly is nearly impossible, so we just have to book a vacation and hope for the best. Most years we’ve gotten lucky but when you miss the peak fall color and arrive in time to see nothing but sticks it can be a little depressing.  I am so happy that we got to see some spectacular fall color on this trip, though.  Trees blazing with color is one of my most favorite parts of fall.  Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-38

To avoid the tour bus crowds at the Kitchen Kettle Village on Saturday we drove around to the neighboring towns and explored some of the junk stores that were calling my name.  I am a huge sucker for a weathered, rustic looking building full of junk, and there was a PLETHORA of them in Amish country.   Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-10

And lemme tell ya… the picking opportunities were abundant.  This is just one aisle in the basement of ONE of the stores.  There was more awesome stuff than I’ve ever seen crammed into one tiny room.   It reminded me of the storeroom from the Store Stump where the mice of Brambly Hedge fritter away all of their belongings.  Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-4

I really, really, REALLY wanted to bring home this long strap of sleigh bells, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay what they were asking for something I would only pull out at Christmastime.

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I settled on a photo of them and kept moving.  It is probably a very good thing that I took an airplane to go on this trip, because I could have easily filled two U-Hauls with all the things I wanted to buy on this trip.  Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-3

The Vermontophile in me loved The Old Village Hardware store and the Village Antique Market with their barn red paint and pumpkins scattered all over.  I felt like I was right back in Weston, VT at the Vermont General StoreIntercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-14Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-15

Inside there were acres of amazing things to be found. A shelf full of Coleman lantern parts caught my eye, along with the obligatory honeybees behind glass photo that I have to take any time I am lucky enough to find a honey bee hive on display.  Whoopie Pies were sold EVERYwhere in Amish Country.  I bought one but I cannot say that I loved it. My Krispie Kreme loving taste buds thought they needed more sugar.

Amish store stuff

The town names around Pennsylvania Dutch country are certainly interesting.  With names like Intercourse, Bird-in-Hand, Peach Bottom and Fertility, it’s no wonder those Amish folks are having so many kids! We can tell what was on their mind when the founding Fathers got their towns on the map.  And after they finished naming all those innuendoed towns they must have headed over to Smoketown to unwind.

Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-6

That is one thing the Amish do love is a good smoke.  I believe there was tobacco hanging from nearly every rafter in town. I had to explain what it was to a group of Jerseylicious tourists where were shopping with me in one of the antique stores.  A perplexed bunch of ladies were arguing over what this weird looking stuff was hanging everywhere, and my Kentucky roots started showing when I explained it was tobacco. Cotton and tobacco are two crops any good Southerner can spot from a mile away.  The Jersey girls had never seen it before in their lives.

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There were barns full of drying tobacco.   I’m tell ya, it was everywhere.  Those CDC anti-smoking campaigns have obviously not made their way into the Amish communities yet.  I guess it’s hard to advertise to the Amish folk, though.

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Amish country certainly left an impression on me.  This store display in one of the few true “retail” type stores I found around town inspired me to create the galvanized metal bunting that is featured in this month’s issue of Celebrating Everyday Life magazine.  MetalBunting

And then there were the pretzels.  Oh man.  Those Amish pretzels.   I bought them by the bagful at the Amish market and inhaled them faster than Uncle Si at a hot doughnut stand.  They were delicious, so as soon as I got home from this trip I tried to make them myself.  My recipe for homemade soft pretzels turned out ok, but they were nothing like the ones straight from the source where they have years of practice flipping and pitching those soft pretzel-y delights.   I could have watched that girl spinning that dough all day long.  Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-25

Get Immergut, pretzels.  I could eat them day and night.

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But the most memorable part of this trip was the sound of those Amish buggies coming down the streets at all hours of the night.  As I laid in the bed at midnight on Sunday night the sound of horse shoes on asphalt kept me awake.  It was SO awesome.   They were up LATE, y’all!   you’d think without electricity they would want to get home earlier, but I kept hearing them trotting past our Inn well past 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning.  

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The sight (and smell) of so many horse drawn carriages running up and down the roads was something I’ll never forget.  Since we were in town on a Saturday through Monday, we got to experience Sunday in Amish country.  When we arrived on Saturday every farm had a long clothesline filled with colorful clothing in all shapes and sizes.  When we left on Monday, every clothesline was filled with solid black clothing, because the Amish dress in black from head to toe to go to church. Women, men, kids, babies… all in black.  You’ll notice that I have not posted any images of the Amish people.  I respect their feelings about being photographed so I will not be putting any photos of Amish folks here on my blog.  Here is why. We spent some time Sunday morning driving around the back roads just watching all the families headed to church.  I kept looking for the actual church, but never could find one anywhere.  Where were all these people going??  Finally we passed one house that had 50-60 horses and buggies parked in the field, so we finally realized they meet for church in people’s houses or barns.  I was sooooooooo tempted to try to get a photograph of all the buggies lined up together that I actually made my husband stop the car in someone’s driveway so I could take a picture.  But right before I started to snap a photo of all the buggies a young Amish girl walked around the side of the barn unexpectedly and looked right at me through the lens of my big black Canon camera.   The look of horror and fear that I saw on her face in that moment made me quickly lower my camera and run back to the car in shame.  I said a little prayer of repentance for ruining her perfectly good holy day and vowed to not make any more Amish people feel objectified like a circus side show while they were just trying to go about their daily lives.    So, no, I don’t have any pictures of the Amish people to share. HOWEVER, I didn’t hear anything said about not taking photos of their horses and buggies, so I was a like an Amish pony paparazzi whenever the drivers were out of my line of sight!

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And while they were all away at church I felt like I had a free pass to snap, snap, snap photos of their sprawling homes and barns.   Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-47

This was just one homestead out of MANY beautiful ones that we saw on this trip.  I could have spent hours taking pictures of their barns. They were simply incredible.  Every farm had a big rambling barn with multiple outbuildings and silos.  I cannot even begin to imagine how much work it takes to run a household of this size without any electricity. 

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At night we spent more time driving around the back roads just looking at the inky blackness of the countryside in amazement.  The giant farmhouses would be lit by a single Kerosene lantern in a central part of the house.  Another unique thing we noticed about the residences of Lancaster County was the non-Amish homes had electric candles in their windows.  I am not sure WHY they all had electric candles in their windows in the middle of October (because they were not Christmas decorations).  If anyone can answer this mystery I would love to know!

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Here is another sight that I’ve never seen before—this is an Amish phone booth!  I had gotten out of the car to take more pretty pictures when I walked past this ramshackle shed on the side of the road.  I didn’t even realize what this was until my husband pointed out that there were telephone lines running to the back of it!Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-52

Sure enough, when I took a quick peek inside, I saw a telephone, notepads, a calculator and a bunch of pens just sitting there out in the middle of nowhere.  Here is a terrible blurry photo I snapped quickly since I felt like an intruder and didn’t want to offend anyone.

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According to Wikipedia the Amish don’t have telephones inside their homes, but they are allowed to use these phone shanties on the side of the road to order supplies or conduct business transactions.  Having a phone booth down the road keeps the telephone out of their house and makes it inconvenient enough that Amish folks won’t be gabbing it up on the telephone all day and night.  And they can forget about texting and driving.

Outside of the stores and public places there were places to tie up their horses.  This one was located outside the library.  The signs say “Please clean up after your horses.”  Shovels, brooms and trash cans are provided.  Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-53

I fell completely in love with Amish country.  It was unlike any other place I have ever visited.  The sound of horse hooves prancing by our bedroom window late into the night and early in the morning was melodic.  Some of the horses wore sleigh bells that jingled past and felt I was transported to another era.  I loved it all, right down to the smell of horse manure that littered the side of the road.   It reminded me of my childhood spent in 4-H club and cattle barns.  

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The sprawling farms being plowed by Amish men behind mule teams were scenes I have never experienced before.  I loved every minute of our time spent in Lancaster County and Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  It is a peaceful, picturesque kind of place that everyone should add to their bucket list!

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Ok, so I know I said I wasn’t going to include any pictures of any Amish people, but I can’t resist this one shot!  Besides, according to the Lancaster County  tourist website this is ok to post because his face is unrecognizable.  Hopefully I’m not breaking any rules with this shot! 

If you’d like to come along on a tour of our 2012 Pennsylvania Dutch Country Vacation, you can click any of the posts or photos below:

Autumn in Amish Country Part 1
Intercourse, PA Amish Country at Kitchen Kettle Village-50

Amish Country Vacation Part 2 (Ephrata Cloister):
Ephrata Cloister and Pioneer Days-3

Amish Country Vacation: Part 3 (Landis Valley and Hershey, PA)
Ephrata Cloister and Pioneer Days-18

Homemade Amish Soft Pretzel Recipe

Amish soft pretzel recipe

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Comments

  1. Beth, my family is from Ohio so our visits home always include a trip to Amish country. One year, we were buying fabric with my Grandma in an Amish store and a sweet little girl whispered to her mother, “Momma, that lady is wearing pants!!” So sweet. Your pictures are beautiful and makes me want a trip in the Fall to Amish country!

  2. When I was in high school, my mom used to take us to Lancaster during spring break, when all we really wanted to do was go to Myrtle Beach with everyone else. In retrospect, I like to think that it was preparing me for my husband, though, as he grew up near Lancaster. Maybe we passed each other along the way!

  3. Beautiful photography, wonderful descriptions, and your commitment to respect another’s simple way of life struck a resonant chord within me. What a wonderful way to begin my morning!

  4. I can’t believe I grew up in PA and never went there! But you had me at fudge and giant pretzels! Gorgeous pics – and I never knew about the phone booths! Glad you had fun (my anniversary is Oct 13)!!
    Kelly

  5. Ooh yes, Amish pretzels are THE best! Gorgeous photos, it looks like you guys had a great time!

    • Note that ‘Immergut’ means ‘ always good’, pronounced ‘immah goot’. I haven’t been Amish in 61 years but some things you never forget. 🙂

      • Thanks for that info, Elva! They certainly chose the perfect name for that pretzel shop. Thanks so much for all of your input on my blog. I’m honored to have an ex-Amish person reading and commenting on this post. 🙂 I saw this morning that you also commented on Mose’s blog (I think that was you?) I would love to hear more about your experiences inside the community, if you’re ever willing to share. Feel free to email me anytime.

    • Thanks Jessi!

  6. Beth,
    I live in Lancaster, and just this past weekend as I was out walking I thought I should write a blog post about the beautiful place I live and the surrounding Amish country and city life. But then I realized I don’t have many pictures to share as it is just everyday life for me….I’m going to try to get some taken during Fall to share from a local perspective.

    I don’t know the reasoning of the window candles, but it is a very popular lighting accent around here.

    I really enjoyed your post. It’s nice to read from a vacationers perspective about our county. Thanks for sharing!

    Leslie

  7. I am new to your site and just love your decorating advice! That said, while Amish country is quaint and charming, and they have wonderful breads and pretzels….they treat their animals as property and are horrible to their horses. Also, they lead the country in puppy mills. There is nothing about these people that is God fearing and good. And, almost all of them have cell phones.

    • Your brush is too broad, Amy. My dad was a horse trainer- and we ALWAYS treated horses well. And there are many Amish people who good. That said, the puppy mills are unforgivable. As always, to my mind it is their ignorance that is to blame- when a people allows itself to be ignorant and unaware, bad things happen.

    • Amy, I cannot speak for any Amish person as to how they treat their horses since I’ve never lived inside an Amish community, but I cannot imagine that they would abuse the animals that provide their family’s livelihood. Every horse I saw trotting up the road or working hard in the field looked extremely healthy and well taken care of. They depend on their working animals to put food on their table on a daily basis, which has been the way of the world since the beginning of time up until just a few generations ago. I would argue that we are some of the first generations in history to think of animals in any other way except “Property”. I have to agree with Elva on this.

      • Incidentally, the horses you heard late at night belonged to young men and boys who were courting. On Sunday nights, after the ‘young folks’ singing’, young men take the girls home. In a rather charming tradition, the first time the boy doesn’t ask the girl directly, he has his sister or close friend ask the girl if he might take her home that evening. If she agrees, a romance may be up and running. If she says no, no one has lost face.

        On Wednesday and Saturday nights most of those horses and buggies going by belong to young men in an established relationship.

  8. Your sight is really, really lovely and I am so sorry for the previous comment! It’s just something I believe strongly in and needed to comment:)

  9. *site

  10. Oh Beth these pictures are gorgeous!!! What an A-MAZING trip this must have been.. I now want to visit there.

  11. Beautiful! love the pics – everything looks prettier in the fall!

  12. beautiful pictures Beth, I’ve never been up there, loved reading about your trip!

  13. Hi Beth
    Thanks for the beautiful tour. As always you have great photo’s. My still all time favorite is your son in front of the Christmas trees with the awesome lights. I can’t remember the term but I am sure you know which one 🙂 Have a blessed week.

  14. Gorgeous photos, Beth! Thanks so much for sharing them with us. They make me want to follow in your footsteps and take a “leaf peeking” trip to that part of the country to see all the glorious Fall color.

  15. There were so many things I loved about this post. What I was most impressed with is that you wrote “Intercourse, PA” and made it all the way through without one remark. Kudos to you, Beth. I couldn’t have done it!

    I am so relieved to know I am not the only one who thinks those Amish shows are fake. Who are they fooling? Amish people are pacifists- so they call in a mob when there’s a problem? geez.

    Anyhoo. Now you’ve got me all curious on your mysterious upbringing. Legalism and “keeping the Law” are a far cry from the Freedom that only comes through Christ. Why do people have to go replacing the relationship with religion?

    • Ha! Jenny, you skimmed the part where I talked about all those town names on the signs! And I will admit that I wrote, “I heart Intercourse” on my facebook page but then I thought better of it and deleted it. 😉

      I’ll PM ya about my “mysterious upbringing”.

  16. It was wonderful to see and r wad about your trip to Lancaster. Living in southern NJ my girlfriends and I visit often. Haven’t been to the Cloister … Will definitely find it. Here is an excerpt about the tradition of candles in windows all year. It’s a popular thing here.
    “The Tradition of placing a Candle in the Window goes back to the Colonial times in the United States and back much further in time for other cultures. It is a Tradition practiced throughout the year. It symbolizes the warmth and security of the Family hearth and signals loyalty to Family members and loved ones who are not present in the home. At Christmas Time it follows the tradition of The Colonial Williamsburg Christmas.”

    • PAM! Were you in the group of Jersey girls who asked me about the tobacco?? LOL! I definitely saw lots of groups of girlfriends walking around town. It makes for a great girls getaway trip. I wish I lived closer so I could go visit more often. Thanks for that info about the candles! Very interesting. I’ve never seen that practice anywhere before.

  17. Hi Beth,

    I live in PA about 45 minutes from Lancaster and it is my favorite place to go when I have a free Saturday. I head out early morning to watch the sunrise over the beautiful farm land and get some shopping done before all the tourists arrive. On the way home I always pick a road that I have not been on before and see what new things I might discover.

    It has been a while since I stopped at Kitchen Kettle Village and your pictures make me want to visit this fall.

  18. Loved this post. We spent a week in Intercourse and rented a house that was surrounded by Amish farms. Hearing the horse and buggies all day long in front of the house was so relaxing. It felt like we were in another world. It was one of the best vacations we’ve ever had.
    The house we rented had the electric candles in the front windows. They were all nicely wired on the windowsill and were even set on timers. Here is a little info about that tradition.

    http://www.amishnews.com/featurearticles/candles.htm

  19. Your photos are absolutely stunning. I wish it was only a short drive to Amish country – I am ready to o now.

  20. Smoketown to unwind… bahahahhaha, that made me spit my coffee a bit! I read every word, thanks so much for this awesome little “vacation” I needed that! That really is an unfortunate name though, I read it and re-read it, then googled it, just because I did not believe it. The way you addressed it though, brilliant! Smoketown to unwind… bahahahahaha

  21. Karen@NourishWithKaren says:

    Beautiful post about a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing it and the amazing pictures. I will have to put this on my bucket list!

  22. Beautiful pictures, Beth! It makes me want to go visit and you know what?? I live in Lancaster County! My friend’s husband is the general manager of Kitchen Kettle Village and I still have never been there! It is a gorgeous area and sometimes when I’m driving around, it almost takes my breath away! (and, yes, we have some funny town names! You missed Blue Ball and Paradise…)

  23. Hi Beth, I loved reading about your trip. I live in the UK and I’m planning a big trip to America with my husband and children for my big 4-0 in a couple of years. The list of places to visit is gets a little longer each time I read articles or blogs about the incredible places and diversity in culture and lifestyle you have in your country. Along with some of the more obvious choices for our such as Grand Canyon, DC and NY, Amish country is definitely making an entry too. The landscapes seem so vast and strikingly beautiful. You seem to have captured the tranquility of the place so wonderfully. Whilst I’m not wishing the intervening couple of years away, I cant wait to start my family’s big adventure to a very big country.

  24. Absolutely breathtaking!! I want to hop a plane right now and go!! I may settle for a drive to watch a local Mennonite family make sorghum instead!

  25. I have lived around the Lancaster area my whole life, so I had always been surprised why people would choose to spend their vacations here. These pictures are just stunning! They truly make me appreciate the beauty of the lands I have always known. Thank you!

  26. really gorgeous place ^^ you are so kind person who knows how to present all of it for us. 😉 nice to know you. have a nice day! we’ll wait for the next 😉

  27. It’s hard to find knowledgeable people about this subject, however,
    you sound like you know what you’re talking about!
    Thanks

  28. I loved reading this and looking at your photos! We just moved to Ephrata from the beach area in NJ and it’s gorgeous here and I love it! I cannot wait for warmer weather so I can enjoy it with my family!

  29. Samantha says:

    Hi Beth, I love your post & gorgeous photos. I visited Amish country every summer growing up in north-west NJ. Lancaster county with the beautiful Amish farms & lovely Amish folk always made me feel as tho’ deep in my heart I was home. I hope that can be a reality one day. The town name, Intercourse is actually an old term for CROSSROADS. The town name Fertility was meant to mean “FARM LANDS HERE WILL PRODUCE ABUNDANT CROPS.” The candle in the window, as I understand it, was, since Colonial Times & in Europe, meant for the traveling family member to see they were welcomed home, in the window of an Inn or Tavern the candle in the window meant “still open for business.” I hope to read more of your posts. Sincerely, Samantha

  30. i loved this post. I live in Delaware (the state lol) and we have a large Amish community. I take for granted all that you described. The horse and buggies I see everyday. The farms and barns and church Sunday’s at someone’s home. Thank you for sharing and reminding me to be thankful for such a great place to live.

  31. What an amazing blog post! I loved every single bit of it. Amish Country has such a unique charm and beauty and your photos are absolutely amazing. The way you described the places and the people took me on a short mental trip to that wonderland. Absolutely beautiful! Off to read about the rest of your trip.

  32. D.Kemigisa says:

    I so love this place! Very nice pictures.

  33. Hi there, just became alert to your blog throygh Google, and foundd that it’s really informative.

    I am onna waatch out foor brussels. I’ll appreciate if you continue this in future.
    Lots of people wll be benefited from ypur writing. Cheers!

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  1. […] I realize that this post series is not for everyone who reads this little blog of mine, so if I’m boring you with all my vacation photos please feel free to skip out on these posts until I get back to my regularly scheduled DIYing.  But, if you’re like me and you love seeing the world from other’s points of view, then read on and hear all about the middle of our 2012 trip to Pennsylvania Dutch country and the Hamptons.  You can find Part One of the trip here:  Autumn in Amish Country […]

  2. […] Because nothing says Christmas like a big shiny ball that says “I Heart Intercourse“. […]

  3. […] since we visited Pennsylvania Dutch country last October, I have been jonesin’ for a recipe for soft Amish pretzels. While we were there, I watched an […]

  4. […] See that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in the center? That was from our trip to Hershey, PA and Amish country.  I have ornaments from all over the place, and every year when I pull them out we remember the […]

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