Categories
family fun travel

Road Trip Diaries: Hershey, PA

epicroadtrip

After driving through Ohio and New York and spending a week in Massachusetts, most people would consider that an awesome family vacation. We would call that JUST THE BEGINNING. Having seen most of our friends and family and eaten at all of the places that make it feel like home, we packed up and left for Hershey, Pennsylvania at the bright and absurdly early time of 4AM.

Things we learned:

  • Caravaning for long distances is hard work. Families travel at different speeds and require different bathroom breaks, etc. Texting between passenger seats is a useful way to keep in touch when you lose each other and a fun addition to a long drive.
  • My daughter is not a morning person (the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree). Between waking up too early and possibly not hydrating enough, I was a bit nauseous and she was downright miserable. This was literally (and luckily) our only bout of carsickness on the trip. So, early morning travel is probably not going to be a big thing in our family.
  • Hootie and the Blowfish / Counting Crows – I can’t tell them apart and my husband tells me that I’m insane and that they sound vastly different. Anyone else agree with me that the difference is actually quite subtle?

Eventually we got to Pennsylvania and found ourselves at the Hershey Hotel’s Woodside Cottages AKA the swankiest, most luxurious hotel I’ve ever stayed in. My amazing in laws booked a cottage for all of us so that we could have our own hotel rooms but all be together and have the added bonus of privacy and pampering. These cottages are amazing and probably every trip to Hershey from here on out is going to be slightly disappointing in comparison.

So how was Hershey?

Both amazing and less than amazing depending on the minute. On the one hand, the kids got to go on a lot of rides, my husband had a nostalgic-filled week sharing the fun of Hershey with his parents, siblings and the three of us. We got to see everything, including spending a day in a rented cabana where we could enjoy the water park and / or relax depending on our preferences. We played ski-ball which always makes me happy. I took a bunch of pictures of the kids posed with things or riding rides. I walked a LOT which meant lots of extra exercise to counteract all the calories consumed in the Land of Chocolate.

Less than stellar things which occasionally made me grumpy:

  • It rained like constantly. Actually, if I had to describe our vacation in one word, RAIN would probably be the best descriptor. Apparently July is Thunderstorm season basically everywhere and one storm or another seemed to chase us the entire month.
  • Trying to match the pace of all those long legged in laws was exhausting. I probably should have slowed down and gone at my own pace but I was so eager to not miss anything and probably also trying too hard to be easy going and likable that I often sacrificed my own happiness or energy level in the name of fitting in. Basically I acted like a ridiculous teenager a few times and I’m not proud of it.
  • Did I mention the rain? Like when our cabanas were evacuated TWICE because of freakishly large thunderstorms or the time we were driving to Panera Bread and the rain was falling so hard that the visibility was like -5 feet.
  • Super skeevy laundromats.
  • Our GPS being super weird and taking us on the strangest routes to get places.

Stellar things that more than made up for the grumpiness:

  • In between being overly anxious about being fun and care free, I actually had some fun and carefree moments. Like going out for drinks with in laws, laughing uproariously with my mother-in-law about how weirdly similar Dan and his brother and father are, especially when they somehow manage to perfectly match each other’s pace while they’re walking and start to resemble tin soldiers marching in a line.
  • Turn down service at the hotel – soft fluffy robes and chocolates on our pillows every night.
  • All the rides at Hershey with the kids – seeing my brave littles take on rides that were intimidating and watching the grandparents and aunts and uncles spending precious time with them. Feeling like a kid again.
  • Being able to take the shuttle into the park which meant not dealing with parking basically at all.

Things Learned:

  1. Despite my best efforts, I’m not a go with the flow girl. I try my best, but I’m not good at it.
  2. I care too much what other people think of me and doubt myself too often.
  3. BB is much braver than MM when it comes to potentially scary rides. She is a risk taker at heart and he’s a cautious kid, much like his mother.
  4. Reeses Martinis are delicious.
  5. There should always be soft, fluffy robes.
hershey
1 – MM was in the Hershey Bar height range for rides | 2. Checking their height at Hershey Park’s Zoo | 3. Riding the carousel with papa | 4. MM on the Frog Hopper | 5. Posing with Hershey KISS!! | 6. BB LOVED the Frog Hopper | 7. Riding on the little kid version of that crazy swing ride | 8. BB and MM truck driving – MM was such a sweet and patient big brother that day | 9. BB was at the Hershey Kiss Height Level which tickled her absolutely pink.

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Categories
contests & giveaways

Stalking The Mailman Chronicles: Chocolate Cometh

Look what my mailman brought me today:

My big old pile of chocolate from Carol @ Siswick Construction Zone came today!

I was a bit surprised because these candy bars are HUMONGOUS, like way bigger than I expected from the post she wrote which had a picture of these teeny tiny cute little candy bars. Yeah, that isn’t what I got. I got Ginormous Candy bars and also some Galaxy candy bars, too. I’ve never heard of Galaxy but I bet they are delicious. Probably some awesome chocolate that you can only buy in England or something. Which must make it good for me according to my messed up logic. Anyway, thanks Carol! I especially loved the “You are a winner!” note:

I might have to hang that on my mirror or something, as it seriously brought a big old smile to my face.

Categories
cooking & recipes op ed

CHOCOLATE: Things You Should Know

chocolate - photo by Darwin Bell

It’s no secret that I love chocolate. I practically breathe the stuff or at least I would if given the chance. So if chocolate is that important to me, I aught to notice things like the whole Fair Trade issue. Sure I’ve read about it, but I apparently never bothered to READ about it because I never knew any of the following things until Jen @ Daily Mish Mash posted about it. Leave it to Jen to put it in words I can understand, right? Words like:

  • Two thirds of the world’s cocoa bean production comes from Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, etc.)
  • More than 109,000 children in Africa work in the cocoa industry.
  • As many as 10,000 are victims of human trafficking or enslavement.
  • Many of these children are lured into slavery by promises of living wages, only to be beaten, forced to work for no pay, and confined to prevent escape.
  • Others come from impoverished communities where they are removed from school because their help is needed on family farms.
  • Enslaved children typically work over 12 hours a day harvesting cocoa beans and have no idea what chocolate tastes like.

Why is this happening?

Cocoa farmers are not paid living wages for their crops. Companies such as Mars, Hershey’s, Nestle, and Cadbury purchase the cocoa cheap, take enormous profits, and sell it for less than its real market value around the world.

After reading that I started looking online to see where some of my other favorite chocolate indulgences come from. Lindt for instance gets the majority of their chocolate from Western Africa. i.e. Guilty, according to this handy dandy map of Africa:

Ghana, The Ivory Coast and Nigeria all hug the Western Border of Africa.

Godiva Chocolate claims to be made from high quality premium ingredients, but I’m not sure where exactly the ingredients like their cocoa beans come from since their website isn’t telling us, so far as I can find.

Now, I know that these chocolates aren’t MADE in Africa, but since Lindt gets their cocoa from Africa, who knows where Godiva gets it, am I right? I know though, that I’m not the smartest girl out there and I might be misunderstanding all of this, so I can tell this might be a long search.

I’ve emptied my cupboards of all the chocolate I own (frostings, cake mixes, candy bars, sprinkles, hot chocolate galore) and I’ll probably spend MM’s naptime googling, but the easiest solution in my mind (for my conscience) is to finish what I own and then try to only buy things which STATE that they were made with fair trade cocoa beans. I think shopping at Trader Joes should make that easy. Things like frosting and chocolate sauce, if I can’t buy fair trade, I will just buy chocolate bars, etc. and make my own. It’ll taste better anyway.

Point is, if I’m going to wreck my diet and indulge, I should ease at least half my guilt by making it fair trade. If you want a quick leg up on starting your fair trade chocolate diet, head over to Daily Mish Mash for more information and a chance to enter her giveaway for one Endangered Species Chocolate bar that is both fair trade and “donates 10% of their net profits to environmental organizations that work to help endangered species and their habitats.” All you have to do is leave a comment on her post.

Thanks Jen for kicking me into Do Gooder High Gear. While I was pulling all the chocolate out of my cupboards to research I also pulled out some canned goods and the like to donate to my local food pantry and organized the cupboards so I could take inventory of what I’ve got in preperation for my month long menu plan for November.

What are you feeling passionate about right now? How are you planning to make a difference and set an example for your brood? Will you be buying Fair Trade Chocolate for Halloween this weekend? Or forever?