Sunday, December 17, 2017

GARDENING: A great calendar

Landscape architect and gardener Carol A. Krawczyk of Kennett Square has published a beautiful wall calendar, "The Garden Calendar for Southeastern Pennsylvania 2018."
Carol describes the calendar as "filled with monthly gardening tips, full color photos of plants in bloom during each month, and gardening suggestions in the actual calendar. The actual calendar part includes red letter days (deadlines), green planting/harvesting dates, and blue to-do chores in the garden."
You can buy a copy at RP Nurseries in Willowdale; the State & Union shop in Kennett Square; the Gateway Garden Center in Hockessin; and online at eBay. Carol has also created a Facebook page for the calendar if you want more information.

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Just deserts

We were loading our groceries into the Jeep at the megalomart on Saturday evening when the guy across from us climbed up into his giant pickup truck, started the engine and revved it up loudly a couple of times, pumping out noxious-smelling exhaust. He then pulled out from his parking space abruptly and sped through the lot, probably not the most considerate move given the place was full of little kids and distracted shoppers pushing carts overflowing with Christmas stuff.
Just a few minutes later, we came across his broken-down truck with its four-way flashers on, sitting there blocking a lane of traffic. I was ashamed at the sense of satisfaction I felt at the guy's misfortune.

PETS: The squeaky cat toy

The other day the mischievous Clarence swatted one of his squeaky cat toys into his water dish, causing the mouse's internal squeaker speaker to chirp without ceasing. Thinking that perhaps it just needed to be dried out, I tossed it in the dryer for 20 minutes. It was dry, but it still squeaked.
I stuck it in the fridge, then the pantry, just to get it out of earshot. No luck: I could still hear its high-pitched chirps.
I put it outside, but then it started to rain, which I feared would be counterproductive.
Finally I stashed it in the freezer overnight. The next day, mercifully, it was back to normal, chirping only when Clarence batted it around.
Pretty sturdy technology for a cat toy!

NEW GARDEN: Primo's Hoagies is coming

Fans of Primo's hoagies are in luck: there's a franchise opening on Baltimore Pike in Toughkenamon, on the east side of the Jenkins & McMahon plumbing supply house. The sub shop is set back a bit, so it's difficult to see when you're coming from the west.
And speaking of Toughkenamon, every time I've driven past the Brown Derby restaurant for the past few weeks, there have been no signs of life inside. Out of curiosity I peered inside and saw only the word "closed" written on a piece of white paper taped inside the front door.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

MEDITATION: The pain cave

Twice a week I take part in a high-intensity exercise class at the Y that's challenging not only physically but mentally. Let me illustrate: at one point the other night we were doing crab-walks back and forth across the room, for four minutes straight, while the "Sponge Bob Square Pants" anthem was blaring. You look ridiculous, you're panting for breath and your muscles are screaming (it helps that the instructors are funny, loud and motivating).
So I was describing the class to friends the other day, trying to get some new recruits, and one woman commented, "It sounds like meditation."
Say what?! To me meditation means sitting quietly with your eyes closed, letting your distracting thoughts drift away, with perhaps some incense smoldering and a gong chiming. (More often than not, I nod off.)
But my perceptive friend was absolutely right. Talk about focus: in the midst of this class all you can think about is the next 30 seconds (that's how long a set lasts) and how you're going to get through it. You can't think about the hassles of your day, or the problems of the world, or your skyrocketing health insurance premium. There's no room for ego or "spin."
Plus it absolutely torches calories. A win-win situation.

ENCORE: A store with a history

Apparently I am very late to the game in discovering the Encore consignment shop on Route 1 in Hamorton. I've been donating a lot of my late mother's household things to charity, but some things are just too "good" to give away. A few friends suggested that I try consigning them at the Encore, an upscale shop that benefits the Chester County Hospital.
So I did some online research to get ballpark prices, read through the shop's detailed and sensible rules, collected several "good" items (some artwork and silver) and headed over there on Monday morning. The consignment process operates on a number system, like at a bakery, and I waited in my car for about 15 minutes before my number was posted on their bulletin board.
The volunteers went through my stuff to see if it met their quality standards (all but an unexciting silverplate dish did), and we agreed how they should be priced. I found the volunteers to be friendly, organized and knowledgeable, and I'll be eager to see what prices I get (the shop, of course, keeps a certain percentage).
An interesting historical footnote, courtesy of my friend Joan: in the 19th century the Encore building housed a store that sold only "free" goods (those produced by free labor rather than by slaves). From R.C. Smedley's 1883 "History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania":
"Hamorton's activity against slavery included more than building a school and hall, and listening to speeches. The village also supported a long-running "free store" operated by Sarah Harvey Pearson. Pearson first opened a store which boycotted goods produced by slave labor in a stone house on the north side of Baltimore Pike. In 1844 she built a new store of brick on a lot across the road which she had recently purchased. The store originally was kept in the north room but was moved to a frame addition built by her husband George on the south. George Pearson also was an ardent abolitionist and active in the Free Soil Movement. Pearson operated her business as a free store through 1858."

GOOGLE: Twenty questions

One of the side effects of keeping the "location" function of my phone activated at all times is that it allows Google to keep track of my movements. Their algorithm even tries to predict my next destination and it's often spot on (not too tricky when it involves my fairly regular gym schedule). 
Supposedly to provide helpful information to other users, Google often asks me a litany of questions about the places I've visited. When I have time, I answer them. Most of them are straightforward, asking about parking, takeout food, and wheelchair access, but others are judgment calls: How are my inquisitors defining "expensive"? What do they consider a "good" place for vegetarians? What does it take for a venue to be easily noticed from the street "in normal traffic"?
Other questions are just plain bizarre, like the one asking whether the Kennett Walmart sells borax.
I've bought some strange things in my day, but never borax. What is borax? What aisle would it be in? (Back in the day, wasn't there a cleaning product called 40 Mule Team borax?) 
Perhaps they're just trick questions to make sure you don't answer "yes" to everything indiscriminately.