The Keystone of a Nation*

We have been very excited to have the opportunity to housesit/petsit for a family in the Philadelphia, PA area.  The kids are LOVING having pets to love on and take care of.  Character Queen has become an expert on taking the dog out for potty breaks and walking her, and has even developed a love for cleaning out the kitty litter!


Here are some other things we’ve been up to this week.



How much of a dork does it make me to say that it is a lifelong dream come true for me to go to Hershey, PA?  Well, really, however a big of a dork that makes me, I’m perfectly okay with it.  I was like a preschooler first arriving to DisneyWorld!  Oh, I just loved it all so much!  I mean, seriously, in the ride where you’re experiencing how Hershey kisses are made, you’re pretty much riding in a giant chocolate bar.  A. maz. ing.

Chocolate World has the free tour that we did, plus several paid attractions like designing your own candy bar, chocolate tastings, etc.  We just stuck with the free tour.

Then we headed down the street to The Hershey Story museum.  This is a whole museum where you can learn about Milton Hershey himself.  Maybe it was just the museum glossying up his high points, but he sounded like a pretty great guy.  One thing I learned is that he really valued his employees and encouraged them all to be creative and think of ways to make it a better factory.  Because of that, it was one of his employees who came up with the idea for a machine that could wrap Hershey kisses.  Before then, they were each wrapped by hand.  Also, he and his wife donated pretty their entire portion of the company to a boys’ school for orphans, which he had started about a decade before.


What a tasty greeting!


Even the streetlights are kisses!


The Hershey Story was actually better than I thought it would be. I was glad we went.


We learned all about cocoa nibs.


The Franklin Institute

One thing I’ve learned since being in Philadelphia is that pretty much the sun revolves around Benjamin Franklin here.  Here is example A: The Franklin Institute.  This is a great science museum with focus areas such as electricity (shocking!), aircraft, trains, and space.  We spent most of our time in the heart area, where you can see and hear hearts of a wide variety of animals – showing differences in size and rhythm, and learn many qualities of a heart and what makes up a heart.  A highlight was walking through the giant heart, which would be the appropriate size for a person the size of the Statue of Liberty.  Another of the kids’ favorite was climbing through brain neurons.  One nice thing about this museum is that the planetarium shows are included with your ticket.

Oh, this museum also has an airbike, similar to the high-wire unicycle Drama Queen loves so much at COSI, although we didn’t make it up to it on our visit.


chilln with Ben


preparing to enter the heart


like blood cells through a ventricle…


brain neurons


Philadelphia Museum of Art

So, you know that scene in Rocky where he runs up all those stairs?  That’s the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  I did not run up all those stairs.  In fact, we didn’t even use that entrance because we parked in the parking garage and came in the back.  But I drove right by those stairs somewhat lost a few times during the week, so I have now seen them multiple times!

I really wasn’t sure if it was worth going to an art museum again when we had just gone to one the week before in Columbus, Ohio, but we were so glad we went!  When we stopped at the ticket desk, the guy pointed us immediately toward an exhibit on the top floor: Arms and Armor.  It was an amazing collection of weapons and suits of armor from the middle ages!  We were amazed by the intricate designs on many of them!

We didn’t try to see the entire museum, but saw a lot of amazing art.



We spent a long time studying each representation of biblical accounts represented in this piece, and now I’m regretting not getting a photo of the name and artist of it!


I love this Monet: “Morning At Antibes”


“Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen” I was interested to learn that this is the only sculpture Edgar Degas exhibited during his lifetime – and he exhibited it as a wax sculpture with the cloth accents (tulle tutu and silk ribbon).  It was a few years after his death that it was cast in bronze.


Cunningham Piano Factory

This was a super cool tour!  This company refurbishes old grand pianos.  It was really neat to see pianos in different stages of the refurbishing process!  One piano spends about six months in the shop being restored, and they complete about 50 pianos per year.



Mr. Bang is playing a piano which is on sale for $180,000. It’s so cheap because it is used. :-O



Underground Railroad Museum at Belmont Mansion

I won’t call this one a dud, but I will say it wasn’t what I was expecting.  We were the only guests there, so clearly this is a small, not super-popular place.  We started by watching a couple videos (one a cartoon of Harriet Tubman’s childhood, and one about the Underground Railroad.)  Then a guy led us to the mansion and left us on our own.  We weren’t able to go into any spaces where runaway slaves would have been hiding, but we did learn about their tunnel to the river and such.  Despite being a mansion, it wasn’t that large of a house – it felt smaller than my house, although it was much fancier.  The house mainly displayed info and artifacts from the prominent family who lived there, but also displayed some items representing the runaway slaves as well.  My favorite were the quilts that were used to pass on messages.


The back of the mansion and cottage


the view of the Philadelphia skyline is beautiful



This told fugitive slaves that they had arrived at a safe house.


This is a sampler that shows many different quilted secret messages to runaway slaves.



*I kept wondering why roads and lottery tickets and all the various Pennsylvania things had a shape that was decidedly not the shape of the state.  Then our carriage driver taught us that it’s a capstone because Pennsylvania was the capstone of the 13 colonies – it was in the geographic center and was a central figure in uniting all the colonies, like a capstone in an arch.


5 thoughts on “The Keystone of a Nation*

  1. I love the giant heart! How neat!!

    Seth and I learned about cocoa nibs when we did a chocolate shop “tour” last summer. It was pretty interesting! We actually got to try some of them. I was surprised that chocolate from different regions actually tastes very different!


    • I remember Brian teaching us about the different flavors from different regions when we did that chocolate tasting in C-ville. I’m pretty sure you guys were part of that. They explained in the Hershey tour, though, that they blend together beans from different regions to get that one uniform taste. And I must admit, I really love that Hershey flavor, much more than gourmet chocolates!


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