Town Creek Indian Mound

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Friday Oct 14, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, North Carolina, Travel

We had a great field trip to Town Creek Indian Mount in Mount Gilead. We started on in the visitor center with a movie that gives a good overview of the site. The kids then had a few minutes exploring the exhibits. There is a traveling one that is interactive and quite good. We then went to the classroom where they learned about clothing and tools of the native people. By the way, I love outdoor classrooms. The kids got to see and learn about lots of different artifacts.

We then took a tour of site. The site has three reconstructed building- a ceremonial building, a burial hut, and a family house. We learned more about how the tribe would have lived in each building. It was a great tour and very informative. We had a picnic lunch and then headed back to the classroom. The kids were then shown how to make pinch pots and go to make their how pinch pot. If you go I highly recommend adding on the programs to make the drive worth it. The entire program was $6 for the kids and $3 for adults.

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We spent the whole day at the warehouse and most of it in clothing. We had to take off plastic, remove hanger, fold and box. We went through boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes of clothes. We had a great time talking with the people and learning more about the ministry of GAIN.  The kids loved the job of getting into the huge boxes and packing down the plastic and hangers. The final step (pictured above) is praying over the boxes.

Mission teams take the supplies that are packed this week and distribute them all over the world. This week they were packing clothes, school supplies, food, blankets and more.

One of the best things about this ministry is that EVERYONE can help. There were infants to the elderly at the warehouse that day.  A very small child can make a difference. I think it is important to start early teaching your children about helping others and pray GAIN will continue to allow children to participate even though they are small.


Jan, the innkeeper at The Artist Inn, recommended we try out the Turkey Hill Experience. After our day at the warehouse we headed to Columbia.  We had a great time. They have cow’s you can milk, a milk truck to drive and bad bacteria to zap.  It has a ball pit, a slide and lot of interactive exhibits.

You get to create your own ice cream flavor, make your own package and then film the commercial for it. I was worried the kids would be disappointed because they don’t actually make the ice cream like you make your chocolate bar but they LOVED it! Cobey loved making the commercial and made my commercial also!  (pictured below) At the end you get to taste ice cream and beverages made by Turkey Hill. The kids agreed it was much better than Ben and Jerry’s tour and just as good as Chocolate World.  I only wish they would  have a booklet like The Hershey Story. They rushed thru the museum and I think missed some of the educational pieces. I would also have liked to heard more about the story of the Turkey Hill family. I hear it is a good one! We would go back for sure it was a fun evening!

We ended the evening with dinner at Prudhomme’s Lost Cajun Kitchen. We loved the atmosphere and the food was excellent. The bill was cheaper than Shady Maples and I did not even have to wait it line once.  Two great recommendations by Jan – another reason we love staying there.

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You would think after the Chocolate World ride, Create Your Own Chocolate Bar and the trolley ride, we would have heard enough about Mr. Hershey and had enough sweet, but we decided to head for The Hershey Story museum. It had been a long time since I had been and it had mixed reviews so I was a little unsure.  I decided I love the story of Mr. Hershey and reinforcement of the story would not be so bad.

If you have kids, spend the extra three dollars per kid and do the Apprentice Program. They have to find things and answer questions and they get stamps and punches along the way. The staff was AWESOME and helpful. The kids got way more out of the museum then they would have otherwise. At the end they get their photo and name put into a newspaper article and printed. They loved it! Also while we were there we also did the Chocolate Lab, where we made chocolate cobwebs and learned about how chocolate was made. The class was interesting and kept the kids attention.

If I had to choose between Chocolate World and The Hershey Story it would be a hard choice. People who say it is the same thing are wrong. Chocolate World is more entertaining while The Hershey Story is more educational.  There is some overlapping but hearing something twice is not a bad thing. However, I would do the Create Your Own Chocolate Bar at Chocolate World not The Hershey Story. It is more expensive but totally different experience. Chocolate Lab was the best for teaching them about how chocolate is made though. Cobey’s favorite thing was Create Your Own Chocolate Bar and Claire could not pick because she loved it all.  And for once I agree with Claire- I can’t choose.



We spent the rest of the afternoon at GAIN Warehouse in Mt Joy.  Claire was VERY disappointed to find out that Richard (the friend she made last time) was not their this time. We brought in four boxes of clothes we had collected from our COOP and hundreds of bracelets that the AHG girls made. It took Claire a long time to put in all the quarters and coins she had collected. I was proud of her!  We spent the rest of the time packing care packages and boxing up new clothes. It was my favorite part of the day.

On the way home, The Artist Inn is like our second home, we had dinner at Shady Maple. When we drove into the parking lot it was like driving up to an amusement park. I have never seen so many cars at a restaurant. I am not sure why I thought this was a good idea since I have never liked buffets. This is a buffet on steroids. You stand in line to pay first. It was $35 for the three of us no bad but not great. You then stand in line to be seated. After you are seated, you have to navigate through lots of people to several different lines. This is not easy when you have to do it times three. People where eating in the lines, there was spilled food everywhere and did I mention people everywhere. It was not relaxing at all. The kids liked the huge variety of food but it was not for me and I will not be back.

We finally made it to The Artist Inn where Jan had decorated the house with lots of pumpkins just for us!! 🙂  It was nice to be able to clean out the car, have plenty of room to spread out and relax. I love that place!



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Museum of Industry and Chocolate World

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Oct 9, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

We started the day at the Museum of Industry in Baltimore. I thought it would only take an hour to go thru so we did not rush to get there. We spent over an hour and could have stayed longer but had to get  Bruce to the airport. They have a guided tour which you can join at any time. I highly recommend the tour because the staff shows how the machines work and gives great information about the exhibits.  You even get to help operate one of the machines. We did not get to hear the entire tour but we hope to return soon. There is a transportation section, printing section, cannery, blacksmithing, sewing factory and more.  It is one of our free museums with our Historic Ship Membership. They also have homeschool days four times a year. It is definitely worth checking out!

We dropped off Bruce at the airport and headed for Hershey. Claire was first to see the Hershey Kiss light post. She was so excited. She said she wanted to live here. We went to Chocolate World where we first went on the free ride that tells you how chocolate is made. The kids enjoyed it so we of course had to ride again. Claire liked the talking cows.

The next activity was the Create Your Own Bar. I was a little skeptical because of the price but it turned out really neat. You enter and receive your disposal apron and hairnets which the kids kept as souvenirs. You then go to a computer where you pick the ingredients that you want in your bar. Then you go to a room where you get to watch your bar go down the line and be mad.  Then you go to another computer area where you get to design your wrapper. Lastly, you get to pick up your bar.

The last activity of the day was a trolley ride. I really wanted the kids to do this because I wanted the kids to hear the story of Milton Hershey. He has a great story. He went bankrupt four times, had a ticket on the Titanic and left a legacy for disadvantage kids. His story has lots of great life lessons. They gave us lots of chocolate during the hour tour which thrilled Claire. The trip to Hershey has even turned Cobey into liking chocolate.  It was a great day and the kids are begging to come back.

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AHG at Great Wolf Lodge

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Wednesday Oct 5, 2011 Under American Heritage Girls, Claire, Homeschool, Travel

Our American Heritage Girls troop went on Sunday and Monday to Great Wolf Lodge in Concord. This was our families fourth trip to this one. On the way down, I was thinking this may be our last trip but the experience changed my mind.

The problem was arranging a group visit. The way it was set up was not easy for our group to deal with. It took multiple phone calls over the last few months. I would not set up a group again and do not recommend it. The last three times we went was with Homeschool Days which was a better price and less hassle.

When we arrived, we got a free upgrade because of our previous stays. I let Claire pick the room and she picked the KidCabin. The cabin has a bunk bed  and a single bed. Then the room has a bed and a pull-out couch. The kids loved the room but Majestic Bear is may favorite.

The water park is clean and the lifeguards do an awesome job watching out for the kids. The kids had hours and hours of fun and I could relax in a chair. They also had hours of fun doing Magiquest.  All the parents sat in the lobby and socialized while the kids played the game for hours. I know it is an extra charge but for the hours of fun it is worth it.

Claire spent several hours in the Cub Club making crafts. She loves making the lotion and body gel. We also do the Wolf  Walk this time. It was cute but not something we would do every time but passed the time while waiting for the water park to open.

I promised Cobey he could pick the room the next time so I guess we will be watching for Homeschool Days.

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Highland Games and Horn in the West

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Jul 10, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Good Eats/Not So Good Eats, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Travel

I had heard about the the Highland Games while I was at school at ASU but never attended. They are held at Grandfather Mountain each year. We got there shortly after lunch and spent a few hours there. The tickets for adults are a little pricey I think at $30; but, the kids are only $5 so that helps. You also have to pay $5 each for the shuttle up to the event.

It really is hard to review the games because we got an inside view with the MacMillan Clan. They have tents surrounding the main field for each of the clans. Our tent even had great food which the kids loved.  There are all kinds of different sports to watch on the field. Claire loved watching the dancing and the sheep herding but did not care for the bag pipes. Cobey was fascinated with the whole thing and wanted to look up to see if we were in clan. We are still trying to figure it all that out. We are worried we may have been part of the clan that joined the Tories in the Revolutionary War. There is a lot to see, do and eat!  It reminded me of a huge family reunion with great entrainment.  I think we will now have to add a family history to our studies next year.

That evening we went to Horn in West. We got there 30 minutes early to purchase our tickets which worked out great. They have a living museum there with frontier home, blacksmith, tavern, and store. They have costumed interpreters to tell you more about the structures and items in them. We went through each of the buildings and then found our seats.

The show was outstanding. It starts with the Battle of Alamance and ends with the Battle at Kings Mountain. The kids had been to the site of the Battle of Alamance and learned about Kings Mountain. I think this made the play even more meaningful to the kids. But even if your kids do not have the background mine did,  the action will keep them interesting and the story line gives them an insight to the people during this period.  If you have an upper elementary or older student you should add it to your must do list.  When you do, rent the 50 cent cushion- the seats are hard and bring bug spray.

We had two great meals at Shatley Springs outside of Jefferson. If you are in the area and would like a great home cooked meal then check them out. We also ate at the Mountain House in Boone. I still don’t believe it is as good as the good ole days. The menu has shifted way from the country cooking and has more steaks and fish. The food and service were good not great.


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We headed for the mountains this weekend to visit some good friends. On the way up, we stopped at Guildford Courthouse National Park. After all the parks we have been to that have been so good, I don’t know why they continue to surprise me. This park is much bigger and better than I expected. I highly recommend it to anyone learning about Revolutionary War, colonial times, or NC History.

We started in the museum with a thirty minute movie that gave a good overview of the battle.  We then walked through the museum which is not huge but has some good exhibits and different from other parks. We then watched the map presentation which shows in detail the moves of the forces. The kids finished their junior ranger program and then we saw a musket demonstration.

We decided to do an audio tour instead of the ranger tour. The audio tour gave information about each stop. I was glad we did it because we would have probably missed the first stop which was great.  Not far down the road is the Colonial Heritage Center. Here they focus more on colonial life using the Hoskins Farmstead as the back drop. There is a map display that I think is better than the one in the visitor display. They have a separate junior ranger program that is very good. They get to know what life would be like for  two of the Hoskin’s children for Hannah and Joseph.  There are  different pages for girls and boys.

We went through the museum first that showed life on the farm and included clothes they wore, how a mill worked, different trades, and a life size cabin. The children answered most of the questions of the Junior Ranger program in the museum. We then had a guided tour of the building outside- home, kitchen and barn. We had an awesome guide. She was so great at engaging the children and asking them questions. She even stumped Cobey with a few questions.

After we completed the junior ranger badges, we finished the audio tour. We did not get out at every stop but around three our four. We were at park for over four hours and the kids loved it and wanted to go back.

On the way back from the mountains, we stopped at the Winston-Salem Children’s Museum. This was our second visit and the kids had a great time. Cobey loved the beanstalk that you climb to get to the second floor. On the second floor, the kids loved the Krispie Kreme shop. Cobey spent most of his time there where it was his store and he ran the business. Claire also enjoyed the grocery store and the storybook area. There was a special puppet show there based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. I was excited about that because we are going to start Shakespeare this year and this was an excellent introduction.

After the museum, we had dinner at Frontline Brewery a few blocks away. The service was excellent and food was delicious. Tuesdays is half off the children’s menu so give it a try.



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Fort Lee and Home

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Friday Jul 1, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Military Museums, Travel

On the way home, I wanted to make one stop. I had been wanting to see my friend- Sherry Womack’s picture at the Women’s Museum at Fort Lee. I did  not know it was a wonderful painting. It is a great piece of art called Have Stethoscope will Travel by Stewart Wavell-Smith. The photo to left its not great. It is such a tender side of war. She was the first female physician’s assistant to accompany special forces into a combat zone.  I love the piece!! I hate that the dvd was broken so I did not get to see her movie.

The other surprise was how great this little museum was. The kids loved dressing up in uniforms and carrying around the guns. They have exhibits that do a great job of telling you the history of women in the military.

We also went next door to the Quartermaster Museum. This is another great museum with some fun exhibits.  They have a program like junior rangers where you answer the questions and get a surprise. We did not have time to complete it but it looked great. Both of these museums are worth your time!

Last night we stayed downtown Baltimore at a Home 2 Suites by Hilton. It is the newest chain by Hilton. The check-in, check-out and valet staff were friendly and helpful. They were some of the best on our trip. The hotel is decorated very modern and hip. It was a nice change of scenery. Your room includes full fridge, microwave and dishes. There is no parking so you have to find a place on street or valet park. Valet is $25 a night standard for a city. The breakfast is not outstanding. We got down to breakfast about ten minutes before the end and there was not much left. There was no fresh fruit which is strange for continental. There were only three cereals to choose from, a muffin with eggs you toast, some breads, instant grits and yogurt. The strangest part was we had to go to the front desk to get milk for Claire’s  cereal. I felt they were rationing the milk out. The rest of the stay was great and I would try it again.

We have been in twelve states, eleven National Parks, ten hotels and two bed and breakfast in eighteen days. I learned I need more cash for tolls, New Jersey has crazy drivers, Massachusetts does not believe in marked lanes and Maine and Vermont are beautiful. It has been an awesome journey but I am glad to be home.

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I really am being to love New England. I was having a great trip but I have really loved the past two days. Maine is so beautiful with the rocky coast and the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont are breathtaking. We just happen to go past the longest covered bridge this morning. I had to stop for a photo.

Our first stop was at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. I gave them some choices and Claire wanted to go learn about the sculptor. This national park is excellent and in a beautiful setting. We started with the movie and Claire was excited to see that Saint-Gaudens had done the Shaw Monument that we had seen in Boston. I love when they make the connections.

The volunteer was not very positive about us finishing the Junior Ranger and although it was a longer one it was not impossible. The program is very well put together. It trains them to pay attention to detail.  There is also lot of sketching of things that they see. The kids would not have gotten near as much out of it without the program. If you are going, take the time and do the program so they can get something out of it and they get a cool patch at the end.

There is lots to see and do here. You can have a tour of his house and an art tour which we did not do. There are Horse Stables, Gardens, a studio, gallery, a working studio, and trails. I think we ended up spending three hours there without any tours. The kids sketched a lot and we did do a short trail which is beautiful!


After we finished there, we headed for Vermont. I could not believe how beautiful the drive was. I kept telling the kids to look out the window. Claire said she wanted to come in the fall and so do I. I can’t describe it but they are different than our mountains. Maybe I have been away from ours too long. I really loved the ride.

We stopped at Ben and Jerry’s Factory to take a tour. I could not believe how many people where there. It was like going to an amusement park. The tour is three parts- a movie, description of what is happening on the factory floor and a free sample. The kids enjoyed it but I was not that impressed. I really don’t even like the ice cream. (I hope the Ben and Jerry’s mafia does not come after me for that.) I got the kids more ice cream outside and myself a smoothie. The smoothie was pretty good. We walked up to the Ben & Jerry’s graveyard for retired flavors. The kids loved seeing that because they had seen it on the website. After that we took the long way to Burlington on purpose. I wanted to see more of the beautiful mountains.

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A Day of Boats in Boston

Posted by Carmen Ledford on Sunday Jun 26, 2011 Under Claire, Cobey, Homeschool, Kid's Corner, Revolutionary War Sites, Travel

We had a wonderful day in Boston. I enjoyed Boston more today than the first. I think it was combination of slightly better weather, knowing our way around,  and less traffic.  I realized on the drive to Maine that it was the day on boats – no wonder I liked it.

We started the day with what Claire wanted to do which was the Swan Boats. When we made the hike from the harbor to the Public Garden, we realized the swans where not what we expected. In our Boston Go Card book, it looked like you pedaled individual boats. As you can see it was a much larger boat and someone did the work for you. Claire decided that was still okay and we had a beautiful relaxing ride in a small pond. It was her favorite activity of the day.  The boats have been operated by the same family for 130 years . It is also the cheapest admission in Boston so don’t miss out. We walked around the park for a little while and it is quite beautiful much better than the commons. There are some beautiful flowers and some nice statues one is in honor of                                                                  the book Make Way for Ducklings which is set in Boston.

Our next stop was the Old State House where we looked at some exhibits and went on a tour. We did not do the audio tour that is included with admission. They have John Hancock’s red velvet coat on display and some other interesting artifacts. They have three small areas hands on activities for kids. Claire enjoyed where you get to be the bird in a cuckoo clock. The tour was an overview of the history of the State House and government in Boston. I thought it was good but the kids did not like it much. I don’t think it had enough revolutionary history for them. They liked the tickets the best because each one had a different person on it. Bruce was a British spy which they thought that was cool. The tour ended with an interesting story about a cane on display. We had lunch at the hotdog stand outside- again. Great hotdogs!


After a quick shopping trip for Cobey, we got on the  45 min. Harbor Cruise Tour that makes a stop at the USS Constitution. This tour is free with most of the trolley tours and I highly recommend getting out in the harbor on some sort of boat. The narration was only okay when I could understand and hear it. It was THIS view from the ferry when I first really appreciated the beauty of the Boston skyline. Unfortunately, we did not have time to get off at the stop but it was a nice ride.


We hopped off the ferry boat and got on a tall ship. We had booked the Boston Tea Party cruise with Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships. The kids helped hoist the sails and steer the boat. There was a costumed patriot on board that led the reenactment of the town meeting and the tea party. He also told a great  ghost story about a fort we passed. I would have enjoyed just a sailing without the extra but it made it very exciting for the kids. They loved it. It is only $5 more dollars than the other cruises. You have to pay $10 more if you have a Boston Go Card. Don’t ask me why. This was one of my favorite things we did. I think this, the Duck Tours and the Walking Tour are my top three picks for Boston.


Bruce headed for the airport by water taxi and we headed for a very quick stop at the Aquarium. It is not the best aquarium I have been to but it is good. It has a large penguin exhibit. It has a two different touch tanks. It also had some very nice tanks with some fish and sea creatures I had not seen before. There is a cool exhibit where you have to listen to find the hidden fish- teaching the kids about echolocation. You could easily do the aquarium in two hours. We only had an hour and were a little rushed.




I would have liked to have seen the USS Constitution and Museum and the Art Museum but I feel like we saw a lot in two days. The Boston Go Cards ended up saving us money. I saved $186 on my admissions, the kids saved $62 each of theirs, and Bruce saved $56 for a total savings of $366. Bruce had a 3-day card and we had 7-day. We purchased them at a discount price. There were a few things we may not have done if we did not have the card but I still think we would have come out way ahead.

If I was planning my first trip to the area again, I would have 3 days in Boston, 1 in Salem, 1 in Lowell, and 2 in Lexington/Concord. If I get a chance to come back, I will do a day in Salem, Boston and Lexington/Concord.

We spent the last four nights at a Homewood Suites in Andover. The hotel was in great condition and decorated nicely. The staff was very friendly and helpful. It took us almost an  hour to get to Boston on Friday and about half that on Sunday. It is closer to Lowell and Lexington/Concord. The really  nice thing about Homewood Suites is they serve dinner for free during the week. They serve a hot breakfast each morning but not cooked to order. It was less than half  the price of the hotels in Downtown Boston so you can consider it a great option if in the area.

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