One of the things we've been doing at home a lot more than normal during the stay-at-home order is cooking and baking. Lancaster Cupcake and many other local businesses are offering carry-out and delivery. They even have take-home decorating kits that would be perfect to battle the boredom with kids.
I have a confession to make. I didn't read this book. GASP!! However, both of my daughters did, and they give it glowing reviews. So instead of my input, I'm going to sum up their review of the first book in this middle grade Wendy Mass series. It's a perfect combination for a blog entry about sweets. I debated using Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as it's an absolute old favorite of mine, but ultimately decided to give my kiddos the opportunity to be the book reviewers.
Kid Review Summed Up:
Four kids enter a competition to make their own candy. The winner gets to have their candy creation made for the public. Each of the kids narrates his or her own view of the competition. One kid, Phillip, is really snobby. Daisy is a spy. Logan is the real candymaker's son. Miles is shy and appreciates the way words sound. It's really cool the way it's written because you learn secrets about the characters in each new part. This book is exciting and makes you want to turn the pages quickly.
We're on day five of the COVID-19 quarantine. Knowing that this may be a long, long time being stuck in the house, I was thrilled when my friend mentioned Uncharted Lancaster to me in a text. Uncharted Lancaster is a website that lays out clues to various adventure hikes all around Lancaster County. The hikes teach you some local history, introduce you to new places, and keep you on your toes trying to find treasure boxes. This sounded like the perfect way to adhere to the recommendations regarding social distancing but also allowing us to get some exercise and get out of our house. So far we've done three hikes, and they've captured the girls' attention in ways I'm truly thankful for. We've all been really tense, and the adventure of this special family time helped us take our minds off feeling scared and unsure about the current pandemic for at least a few hours during the day. We made sure to use gloves when opening or touching the boxes, and we wiped down the treasures with Clorox wipes before handling.
The girls read over the list of adventures on the Uncharted Adventures website.
Haunted Indian Gold Adventure
They were immediately drawn to the Haunted Indian Gold Adventure. After reading the background history about the buried gold and other treasures in the Safe Harbor area, the girls decided this would be the best adventure to start with. This has also been our favorite hike so far.
The website rates this hike a 4/5 on the difficulty scale, and I would agree that it's a challenge. It's a little over three miles and includes some steep climbs and declines. The website includes lots of helpful pictures to orient yourself as you continue on the trail.
Romancing the Stone Adventure
The start of this hike is only two minutes from the Pequea Trolley Trail which is why we did it the same day. It's also only a 2/5 on the difficulty scale and is similar in simplicity to the Pequea adventure. While only a mile long, the start of this adventure is a challenge. It's a steep uphill climb followed by a steep downhill trail on a skinny path. It evens out and crosses a rickety bridge following water and little waterfalls for another beautiful scene. This adventure ends up with a single box filled with glittering diamonds. The girls began bickering with each other at this point, and we had to hustle out to avoid the tired afternoon meltdowns. They stopped long enough to admire the waterfalls and climbing rocks, and we thoroughly enjoyed this adventure as well.
Of all the great books out there I've read about unlocking clues to find some kind of fortune or treasure, this one seems to best fit the current vibe with it's sci-fi, dystopian theme. We're all stuck inside our homes waiting out the pandemic while Wade Watts is stuck inside the virtual OASIS trying to unlock the gates that will lead him to Halliday's fortune. Luckily these Uncharted Lancaster experiences gave us the opportunity to treasure hunt outdoors. Check out this book to go down the 80s memory lane and immerse yourself in a virtual adventure.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How did I not read this when it first came out?! Oh that’s right- there are too many good books and not enough time. It’s beyond good and a truly unique dystopian experience. So this guy (Halliday) creates a virtual gaming world (the OASIS) and when he dies, it’s revealed that there are Easter eggs hidden throughout the virtual reality. Whoever finds these keys and unlocks the gates will inherit his vast fortune. This sets off years of people clambering to unlock the secrets of the OASIS. Halliday loved the 80s so the clues all revolve around 80s games, movies and music. A huge corporation wants to take over the OASIS and monetize it, so there is also the conflict of single players who are true lovers of the game vs this greed-filled entity trying to take over. I loved the subtle commentary on human immersion in the technology world, and the nostalgia of 80s references was incredibly entertaining. If you haven’t read this yet, I’d highly recommend it.
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I promised the girls we would go do something special together this weekend, and we settled on glow bowling. I ended up getting a mild stomach virus on Friday and spent the evening curled up in the fetal position on the couch with cramps. I had booked a lane for Saturday evening and knew they would be really disappointed if we didn't go. So I felt mostly better Saturday afternoon and decided to chance it. I packed a trusty box of Immodium and got through the evening feeling relieved that if I crapped my pants, at least the place was dark, and I could slink out of there without anyone knowing. I'm happy to report that I walked out with clean clothes and a memory of a fun night unmarred by the stomach bug's vengeance.
Rocky Springs is located in Lancaster on Millport Road. In addition to bowling lanes, they have laser tag and an arcade. They also have a restaurant and bar called Red Pin Bar & Grill. I had drinks there before with friends but didn't try the food. It's a nice, small restaurant and much nicer than what you would normally expect for a bowling alley.
They have glow bowling every weekend evening from 4pm to close. The girls loved the atmosphere. They have giant TV screens with music videos playing and loud music thumping through the building. My youngest was baffled by the big hair in the 80s music videos. You can have food delivered directly to your lane, but we didn't get anything this time. This place is clean and had a steady stream of people coming in to enjoy a fun night out. This is a perfect family fun night or a different kind of place to hang with friends for some drinks and laughs.
I can't think of anything glowing without immediately thinking of both the historical fiction YA book, Glow, and the nonfiction Radium Girls that follows below. I enjoyed both of these books so much and couldn't stop thinking about the brave women who worked for these companies who cared nothing for their well-being. Company owners were presented with evidence time and time again of the harm that radium was causing their employees, and they choose to do nothing except cover it up and continue to deceive their workers and the public. It's a shameful time in history but one full of lessons and the courageous bravery of so many women who stood up to save those that followed in their footsteps.
Glow by Megan E. Bryant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Glow made me so interested to learn more about the Radium Girls who were exposed to toxic amounts of radium while painting watch dials in a factory. The horrific ways these women died and the disgusting, shameful way the radium companies tried to hide the dangers by blaming the women’s health problems on syphillis is incredibly sad. This historical fiction book did exactly what it set it to do by sucking me in and making me want to learn more. I appreciated the author’s note at the end as well.
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The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The horrifying story of the women who worked in the radium dial factories captivated me from page one. These women were told that everything was safe. They continued painting watch dials with radium paint, twirling the bristles in their mouths, and went home each night with the luminous material shining in their hair and on their clothing and bodies. They were repeatedly lied to and the dangers of radium were concealed as more and more women complained of aches and pains, loose teeth, and rotting jawbones. Even as doctors, dentists, and lawyers began to fight for these women, the radium companies still did not admit their wrongs or ever offer help as a sense of humane obligation. The radium girls lived in constant agony - miscarriages, tumors, amputations, etc. - but still they fought the companies and the radium eating holes in their bones. Many women died with no knowledge of what caused their gruesome suffering, and families were told it was caused by STDs or women's hysteria. Just as a reader, I was endlessly frustrated with the years of litigation and legal technicalities so I can't even begin to imagine what these families suffered as they watched their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters wither away with no one taking responsibility for their poisoning. Highly recommend.
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I've been to a lot of Christmas lights displays, and this is one of my favorites for its simplicity. Christmas Magic is located in York County, PA in the Rocky Ridge County Park and has a lot of cute touches that make it perfect for families looking for a quick holiday experience to share. It's a flat 0.5 mile trail through lights and several enclosed, heated pavilions. It's small but quaint and exactly the low-key thing we were looking for at the time.
Turning Pages: Things to See
This place is entirely reasonable in price. Adults are $10, and kids are $5. You have to purchase timed tickets online. The timed ticket sales cut down on massive hoardes hitting the lights trail all at once and guarantees a nicer night. There's nothing magical about slowly shuffling through a herd of people, dodging heads and bodies to see everything.
Five Heated Pavilions
We visited on a deathly cold night, and the break from the frostbite was huge. One pavilion had a real fireplace to warm up beside, and the atmosphere couldn't have been any more perfect.
There are two different train displays with all sorts of tiny figurines and scenes to spend time looking at.
Kids can climb up into the giant sleigh to sit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. The duo spent time talking to our girls about their hopes and dreams for Christmas, and they allow you to take pictures for free. I can't stomach it when places charge you to take pictures with Santa. This is one of the most egregious holiday sins. You can't put a price on a picture with the big guy, and this Christmas Magic does it right. They also gave the girls little gift bags after their Santa visit which was a really nice surprise. It consisted of some candy and a Turkey Hill ice cream cup and spoon - just adorable.
One of the last pavilions we strolled through had picnic tables and a live band playing holiday hits. We had some snacks, enjoyed the tunes, and prodded the girls to get up and dance to no avail. The York Revolution's baseball mascot, DownTown, made an appearance and shook his butt all over the tables, causing the girls to double over with hilarity.
At first glance, this book appears to be about summer and you're probably wondering how this could possibly be paired with Christmas Magic. The real magic of this story lies in the chapters that cover the winter months of a family in the off-season and the tragedy that has them scattering in all directions through a lonely Fall only to find their way back to each other by Christmas.
Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was magical - the writing, the characters, the family dynamic, the unrequited love stories, and the slow burn of it all wrapped me up so book nerdishly that I finished it in a day. There's a hint of magical realism in this but it skims along the plot instead of driving it. Quinn Sawyer falls in love with her best friend, Dylan, and a horrible tragedy strikes. The entire family loved Dylan in some form or other from her siblings to her Nana, and they all feel his loss in ways that they can't seem to share with one another. The family crumbles, and everyone is an island. I particularly loved Quinn's Nana and her best friend Hana, as they are both kind and loving in the stalwart ways we can all hope for our friends and family members to be. The Sawyer family runs a summer camp and lives on the grounds. Part of the mesmerizing nature of this book is the juxtaposition of the summer chapters from the past with the winter chapters of the present. The writing is beautiful, and it's really just a perfect little YA book.
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Travel All the Pages is inspired by my two loves - travel and reading, a combo I can't resist. Enjoy these little pairings.