Friday, December 31, 2010

Lord Mayor

The Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society is celebrating its 10th anniversary by reprising the pantomime that started it all: "Dick Whittington and his Cat," written by KATS co-founder Gary Smith. Performances will be in the Kennett High School Auditorium, Friday, Jan. 14, at 7:30 pm, and Saturday, Jan. 15, at 2 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. For ticket information visit Get ready to boo heartily at the evil Snib!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lost Canon

Local true-crime author Bruce Mowday was a crime victim himself on Dec. 28: he was mugged while vacationing in Montevideo, Uruguay. A man in his 20s came up behind him, cut the strap of his camera and ran off with it. Bruce gave chase but lost the thug after several blocks (the exact number of blocks the chase lasted seems to be increasing each time Bruce re-tells the story; it started at 2 and now it's up to 35). Thank goodness, he wasn't hurt.
You've probably heard of Bruce: a former courthouse reporter for the "Daily Local News," he covered the murder and mayhem wreaked by the Johnston family around here in the 1970s and last year wrote the fascinating book "Jailing the Johnston Gang."


The Whip's zoning hearing was rescheduled from Dec. 27 to Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. at the West Marlborough Township building in Doe Run. The zoning appeal was filed by a group of neighbors who have longstanding concerns about the popular tavern/restaurant in Springdell, including parking and noise, and believe it is operating in violation of several township zoning regulations.
Some background documents about the disagreement are available on The Whip's website at

Three and out

Lois Herr, the Lancaster County Democrat who tried -- but failed -- three times to unseat Congressman Joe Pitts, has bought a house in Mt. Gretna, Lebanon County, and will be moving there early in 2011. Mt. Gretna is in the 17th U.S. Congressional District, not the 16th, so she won't be challenging Joe again. As far as politics go in the 17th district, Tim Holden, a Democrat, has been in Congress since 1993.

Social ease

Please "friend" Tilda Tally-ho on Facebook! And I'd love to hear any news tips or story ideas from readers. The Kennett Paper also has a frequently updated page that you can "like."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I got a first-hand account of the meteor that was visible in the western part of the county the evening of Dec. 28. My friend Amy was skating on her pond outside Oxford at about 7 p.m. when she saw blue flashes on the part of the pond covered with snow, as if someone was taking photographs. She then looked up and saw the meteor streaking across the sky. It was so bright, she said, there were actually shadows cast on the ice. The meteor, which was visible in Pomeroy as well, apparently burned up before it hit the Earth.


One of the most-cited search terms that leads people to my blog is "Peter Fabulian," the Kennett Square physician who in December pleaded guilty to charges that he had inappropriate physical contact with two female patients. He is awaiting sentencing, and the sign is gone from what used to be his office on Marshall Street in Kennett. His medical license was suspended when the charges were filed in June 2010.
What's curious to me is that there are still former patients who are standing by him. He was a specialist in Lyme disease, a malady that plagues so many people around here, and some of his patients still swear by both his treatment and his integrity. Their comments on any of the newspaper stories that have been written about him make for interesting reading.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another reason I love the Y

In the lobby of the Y is a bookcase where you can swap books. The other day, in addition to the standard best-sellers by John Grisham and Anne Rivers Siddons were some surprises: Goethe's "Faust" and James Joyce's "Dubliners." I brought the latter home with me. Also at the Y I've also found the fairly obscure Lord Peter Wimsey mystery "Unnatural Death" and -- in a pretty binding -- E. M. Delafield's "The Provincial Lady in London."


I just ate my last egg of the season from Over the Top Farm in Newlin Township. In the shorter days of winter, egg production drops so drastically that my friends the chicken-keepers barely have enough eggs for themselves. Even though they hooked up a solar-powered light to give the hens more hours of daylight, "the girls" weren't fooled one bit.
So sadly I'll have to rely on store-bought eggs, with their thin shells and pallid yolks, until spring. Store-bought flowers, too, even though I was cutting monkshood and mums from the garden well into October.
I still have some of my delicious home-grown potatoes (perfect for roasting), but they're going to be gone soon, too. Good thing I'm not a pioneer-woman.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's all dark

Congratulations to my friend and gym-buddy Kevin Witman of Cochranville, whose magnificent photos of the lunar eclipse were featured on MSNBC. Kevin called the eclipse "the perfect Christmas gift from Mother Nature."


Guest Chef Jim always cooks our Christmas feast, and this year he outdid himself with broiled lobster tails and a tender filet of beef. The meat was topped with piles of succulent sauteed mushrooms that had been picked that very morning at Marlboro Mushrooms in West Marlborough. Jim, who lives in the Pittsburgh area (non-mushroom country), raved about their freshness, appearance, flavor and aroma. Thank you to the kind and generous folks at Marlboro for enhancing our meal!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Windsors

My friends in England are astonished at the interest some of us Americans are showing in Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton. My college friend George, who lives near Portsmouth, sees the engagement as an attempt to divert attention from England's economic woes. Although he'll have April 29 off from work as a national holiday, he says he'll refuse to watch the wedding and instead will treat himself to a special lunch at his local "carvery."
If Prince Charles abdicates in favor of his son, don't you think he and Camilla would be perfectly happy having a country place in Unionville? It looks a lot like rural England here. They'd have their choice of excellent hunts and polo teams to join. They could plant an organic garden. Paparazzi and protesting students wouldn't make the trek all the way out here, and goodness knows we locals would keep our mouths shut about their comings and goings. (After all, if Chadds Ford can keep mum about having Martha Stewart as a neighbor, so can we.)


This is the time of year when nonprofit groups' nominating committees are scurrying around trying to sweet-talk (or strong-arm) people into serving as officers for the coming year. Who's the best candidate for president? Do we need to change the by-laws to allow the treasurer an additional term? What arguments are most likely to be most convincing -- or will a nice lunch do the trick?
But mostly it comes down to one critical question: Who will say "yes"?
(And, of course, conversely: How do we discourage potential loose cannons from throwing their hat into the ring? Answer: Emphasize the thankless, contentious, time-consuming, stress-inducing nature of the position.)
A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes on before you read that happy press release in the paper about, "XYZ Community Group is looking forward to another great year serving our wonderful town with its new officers."


I am in awe of the clever person who invented this little gadget for fastening those tiny bracelet clasps. It's a six-inch-long wooden dowel with an alligator clip fastened to one end. The clip holds one end of the clasp steady, leaving your dominant hand free to fasten the bracelet.
(I searched online for the maker, TKO Technology out of Clearwater, Florida, but couldn't find a listing. You could probably make your own without too much problem.)

Your government at work

Last week, while doing some paperwork, I was asked to show my Social Security card. This card has been resting on the bottom of the Brandywine since a 1983 canoeing mishap, and I've never needed it until now. So I went to the Social Security website (, printed out a simple, one-page form for a replacement card and took it to the closest Social Security office (for me, 1101 West Chester Pike, which is in the shopping center east of Five Points Road, across from the Golf Club Apartments).
I walked in on a Thursday afternoon, was called to the desk almost immediately, showed my driver's license to the friendly employee --  and that was that. She printed me a temporary form, and I should get my card in early January.
I was out of there in 10 minutes. Could not have been easier.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Book Sale

The gigantic annual Used Book Sale sponsored by the Unionville High School PTO will be held at the high school gym Friday, Feb. 25, from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 26, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with the $8-a-bag discount to follow from 3 to 5 p.m.
Neighborhood book collection will be at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, and books can be dropped off at any district school starting Jan. 31. "Books that are moldy or smelly, have torn covers or missing pages, or have been nibbled on by the family pet cannot be sold,"  notes the website,
Right now the volunteers are looking for "bags with handles to aid in book collection"; bags can be left in the marked boxes at any of the district elementary schools.
Also, student and adult volunteers can register on the website for a 2-hour work shift.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Country mouse

This is a little embarrassing. I had to take my car into the dealership, again, because the "check engine" light kept coming on. I gave them a mildly hard time for failing to locate and fix the problem.
Well, it turns out that the problem was, as the service guy put it, "rodents." Field mice in the garage had built a bowl-size nest in one of the wheel wells, chewed through a vapor recovery line and nestled comfortably into the back-seat upholstery. The repair guys spent most of the day removing the back seat and the fuel tank to get rid of all the mouse debris (which included half of a dog biscuit!). They thoughtfully saved everything in a plastic bag, in case the insurance claims people need to see it.
I drive my car almost every day, so these are some industrious rodents, fashioning a nest overnight. But, as my amused insurance agent wondered, why didn't they make their nest near the warm engine?
I mentioned this rodent issue at a party, sparking a lively discussion: two men said they had had the exact same problem. Mice, it seems, like to chew on plastic.
So what to use as a deterrent? We have busy mousetraps in the garage, but apparently that's not enough. I've started storing the dog biscuits in a jar. I've also heard that mothballs are a deterrent.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Here are a couple of belated stories from the first snowfall of the season, two weeks ago.
Late afternoon on Dec. 16 a car spun out at Embreeville Road and Brandywine Creek Road in Newlin Township and slid into a house. According to the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company's website, "the impact left a large hole in the foundation of the house."
The next day, Po-Mar-Lin got a call that a horse had walked out onto a frozen pond at 540 Bartram Road in West Marlborough -- and then had fallen through the ice. When the rescue crew arrived, the horse was being pulled out of the water.
Speaking of firefighters: send your local fire company a generous check if you can possibly manage it. These good men and women go out at all hours and in all weather conditions (see above) to accidents and fires, as well as spending hours of their own time doing training, fund-raising and other company activities throughout the year -- all without pay.

Loogie oogie oogie

I'm reading a book about how brain networks produce emotions in response to perceptions, and the author uses "disgust" as an example of a primary emotion that "may have evolved as a mechanism to assess whether something in the environment is edible or noxious."
I thought of this today when I saw a man park his silver Audi on State Street in the center of Kennett, get out, lock his car doors -- and then proceed to spit on the sidewalk.
I'm not a terribly squeamish person -- scat of many types holds no horrors for me -- but I've gotta say, that's pretty disgusting. Not to mention unhygienic, disrespectful and just plain gross.
Got phlegm? Spit it into a tissue, for goodness' sake! I'll give you one, I promise.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bubble and squeak

The popular Springdell restaurant/tavern The Whip will be the subject of a zoning hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 27, at the West Marlborough Township building in Doe Run. In the latest chapter of an ongoing dispute, a group of Springdell neighbors are arguing that the Whip is operating in violation of numerous township zoning regulations. Two additional zoning hearings are set for January.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Out of left field

At a dinner party Friday night, we (unwisely) were talking about a local personality. Opinions of this woman, let's call her Margaret Fox, varied dramatically around the table, and the discussion was getting so heated that Nancy, the woman next to me, said, jokingly, "So, how 'bout them Phils?"
Any other week of the year, people would have laughed at this blatant attempt to change the topic and gone right back to the debate.
Not tonight. Everyone launched into an excited, lengthy conversation about the Phillies' new pitcher, Cliff Lee, and how the Phils are shoe-ins for the World Series.
Nancy, not a baseball fan, looked at me despairingly.
"How 'bout that Margaret Fox?" she said.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Keep off the grass

Yes, sure it's cold, walking from the Visitors' Center at Longwood Gardens up to the Conservatory in 23-degree weather with strong winds. But you still ought to walk on the path, not across the lawn, as my mother saw some visitors doing the other day (she reports that they appeared to be young and not infirm in any way). Maybe they didn't realize that the colder you get, the more fun it is to walk into the tropical, eyeglasses-steaming warmth of the Conservatory.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Music man

Every kid should have a music teacher as funny and enthusiastic as Mr. Leo Zumpetta at Hillendale Elementary. I just watched him in action, conducting the school's Winter Concert, and to say he gets into his job is an understatement. He acts out the words of the songs, waltzing, skating, spinning or leaping as needed, and he makes both the children and the audience giggle. Each grade performed three songs, and the third-graders not only sang two songs but also played "Good King Wenceslas" on their recorders.
And as a nice seasonal touch, during the show it started to snow.


I saw a woman on the Kennett Holiday House Tour wearing this clever button.

(Thanks to for the image.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Here's hoping that your Christmas is a peaceful one and you are blessed with health and surrounded by family, friends, pets, and loving memories of those who are here only in spirit. Too often the Grinches in the world get all the press, but guess what: the joyous and loving Whos here in Whoville, from the tall to the small, far outnumber them.
(Attention, DJs: These songs should be played year-round: "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," the jazz tunes from "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "Feliz Navidad" and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You.")

A small pond

At a Christmas luncheon the other day I spotted a woman wearing the exact wool shawl that is a staple of my winter wardrobe. She had it arranged far more artfully than I ever do; I just bundle myself up in it.
I told her how much I liked mine. She chuckled wryly and then told me that she owns the very same red fringe-y sweater that I was wearing. 

Store story

The folks who run the Kennett Giant are re-organizing the store, temporarily confusing regular shoppers who are used to finding certain foodstuffs in certain spots. I discovered this on Monday morning when I wheeled my cart into what used to be the organic food aisle and saw breakfast cereal instead. The expanded health-food section is now closer to the middle of the store.
The cheerful dairy department manager was doing her absolute best for the home team, assuring one especially irritated customer that once the renovation was done, the finished product would be well worth the inconvenience.
I asked two clerks where I could find applesauce. "Aisle 1," said one of them. "No, aisle 3," said the other. "Yeah, on the left side," agreed the first one.
It was in aisle 3, on the right side, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt: maybe he usually approaches that aisle from the other direction.

Word problems

For family discussion/debate/argument:
1. You are at the Unionville Post Office. You have to be at a memorial service in Paoli in 45 minutes. GPS and MapQuest are suggesting different routes. What is the quickest route? And coming home, what is the most scenic route? Would your choices differ based on weather or time of day?
2. Do you find it easier to parallel park on the left or the right side of the street? For instance, if you are on State Street in Kennett, and spots are open in front of the Half-Moon and Burton's Barber Shop, would you have a preference?
3. Without looking it up: Is Hadfield's Seafood on Concord Pike in Pennsylvania or Delaware?

Sound advice

An e-mail from a local elementary school:
"With the cold weather upon us, please be sure your child is dressed appropriately. Shorts should no longer be worn to school and your child should have a winter jacket, hats & gloves."

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Otto's BMW dealership took over the Brandywine River Museum the evening of Dec. 11 for a private unveiling of BMW's redesigned X3 model. As current X3 owners, two members of my family were invited, so the next day I got a full report: the food and drink (on all three floors!) were magnificent, the tour with Victoria Wyeth was fascinating, and the train display and the "critters" on the Christmas trees were delightful.
Oh, and the new black X3 displayed in the courtyard was very nice, with some nifty new features. (The location of cupholders is a special priority for my family.)
But what most impressed -- and surprised -- my informant was the total absence of sales pressure.
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "Nobody was there with a clipboard taking my name, or asking me for a down payment....Otto's made big points, and I think those points are going to pay off in terms of sales."

For the birds

Making your own suet cakes is easy and fun.
In a two-cup measuring cup, mix 1 cup of lard and 1 cup of peanut butter (crunchy or non) and melt in the microwave until it's liquid (1 minute 30 seconds in mine). Add to 2 cups quick oats, 2 cups cornmeal, 1 cup flour and 1/3 cup sugar. Pour into plastic molds; I use the plastic dishes that cut-up fresh fruit comes in.
Store in the freezer until needed, then pop them out of their plastic containers and hang on a tree, in a net or in a metal suet-holder. It might take a few days for the birds to notice it, but then it'll be gone quickly.

I'm still here

A favorite blogger of mine recently celebrated the fact that her year-old son was sickness-free for an entire week. I intend to do the same if my home is ever stink bug-free for a week. I'm still finding about 10 every single day, hiding in the coat closet, curtains and even my stationery drawer. I pulled out my heavy winter coat and found two of the little horrors on the lapel and one clinging to the hanger.
What do they eat? How do they survive? And why do they seem to be most prolific in Unionville?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Maybe it'll be on Groundhog Day

Fraudulent investment advisor Tony Young's sentencing date has been postponed yet again, this time until February 2011. It was set for Dec. 2, but his attorneys asked for and received a 60-day delay. In July Mr. Young pleaded guilty to money laundering and mail fraud after ripping off millions of dollars from Unionville residents to support his high-flying lifestyle.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

3 E-Z ways to irritate Tilda

1. "Formally known as" instead of "formerly known as."
2. "Brutal murder."
3. "Free gift."

Foreign aid

Patrick Barron of West Chester, who writes an occasional economics column for "The Kennett Paper," had a letter to the editor published in a paper with a somewhat larger audience: the Dec. 4/5 edition of the "Wall Street Journal." In response to articles by Bill Gates and Matt Ridley about how best to encourage growth in Africa, Mr. Barron wrote in part:
"Africa needs capitalism. Mr. Gates can help most by building Microsoft plants and offices there, employing Africans in the digital economy and training them in the methods of successful business."
You can read more of Mr. Barron's thoughts on economics at his blog,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Whenever I see this abbreviation I vividly remember my second-grade teacher, Miss Hale, who told us in a horrified tone that substituting "X" for "Christ" was disrespectful.
But as it turns out, X isn't some Grinch-y 20th-century abbreviation designed to "take Christ out of Christmas": it has actually been used for centuries as a perfectly acceptable symbol for Christ. Take a look at the Wikipedia entry on "Xmas."
The same Wikipedia article also tells us that "X" is used as shorthand among florists: they abbreviate "chrysanthemum" as "Xant." Now that Miss Hale would have approved of: I once asked her how to spell "chrysanthemum," and she had to go look it up. True story.

Mushroom Cap

In one quick visit to The Mushroom Cap, I just about wrapped up my Christmas shopping. This wonderful little store at 114 W. State St. in Kennett Square has great local stuff, and all very tasteful (and/or tasty)! I wish I could tell you more, but lots of the people on my gift list read this column and I don't want to ruin the surprise. See for yourself at:

Springdell update

One skirmish between West Marlborough and billionaire Urban Outfitters founder Richard Hayne appears to be resolved to the township's satisfaction. You may recall that the township fined Mr. Hayne $500 a day for doing development work on his Springdell property without permits, and Mr. Hayne's attorney objected. The two parties worked out an agreement: Mr. Hayne will pay about $8,800 to cover the township's costs for the entire proceedings.
But fear not, this is just the first chapter in what promises to be a lengthy and entertaining saga. Mr. Hayne now wants to tear down Tony Young's mansion and replace it with a fitness center for himself and his wife, for which he will also need permission from the township. And a recent article in "The Hunt" magazine claims that Mr. Hayne eventually wants to open a farm market at the site. This is exactly what some skeptical neighbors have predicted all along: that the new cheese production facility and massive greenhouses could not possibly be for Mr. Hayne's personal use only.
The Hayne story is attracting attention even outside Unionville: a reporter from "The Philadelphia Inquirer" attended the December township meeting where this was discussed!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mr. Truitt

I found out tonight that Hale Truitt of Doe Run died recently. An old-school gentleman, a WWII veteran and a cheerful presence at township meetings, he was known fondly as "The Mayor." My condolences to his family, and may he rest in peace.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Over the weekend I had to call 911 for an injured person, and I was impressed with how quickly the ambulance (Avondale) showed up. But I had to wonder about one question that the 911 operator asked me: What township was I in? I happened to know the answer, just because I'm pretty good about Chester County geography, and it was also close to my home. But I wonder what the percentage yield is on that question. I doubt that most people are aware of township boundaries, particularly in an emergency situation.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Maybe this time

Tilda's column would be incomplete without the mention of any local restaurant, so here goes. There's a new banner up at the long-vacant Kennett Cafe, 120 E. State St., announcing that a restaurant will be opening there next spring. The brains behind the venture is well-known local restaurateur Jack McFadden, who developed The Gables at Chadds Ford and the (late and lamented) Bar & Restaurant in West Chester. However, I've heard rumors of an "imminent" opening here for at least three years, so I suppose we'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Work in progress

Here's a view of the progress at the new Bancroft Elementary School at Bancroft and Pemberton Roads. Workers were even there on a recent chilly Saturday morning. According to the Kennett Consolidated School District's website, work is ahead of schedule:
"The building is shaping up - most of the exterior walls are complete or underway, and flooring is started in the lower levels. Geothermal piping has been run to the mechanical room area, and the spray insulation is being added. The goal is to have the building "under roof" before the end of December to allow interior work to continue through the more severe winter weather."


Unionville native Gillian Grassie will be performing at the Tin Angel, 20 S. Second St., Philadelphia at 7 p.m. on Boxing Day, Dec. 26. Gillian, a 24-year-old singer, songwriter and harpist, promises a "special, non-cheesy" concert and will be playing her own songs as well as some 1940s "covers." For concert details or to listen to her music, visit her website at

Friday, December 3, 2010


It seemed to be a fairly quiet deer-hunting season. The first morning there was gunfire echoing over the hills at the break of dawn, and all week I've seen hunters' trucks parked off the road. For safety's sake I don my fluorescent orange pinney whenever I'm outside, no matter how silly it looks, but I've seen a lot of riders, joggers, bicyclists and dog-walkers in just their usual warm clothes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sales pitches

Does anybody else get WAY too much mail from Verizon each week?
Don't get me wrong: I absolutely love their super-fast Fios Internet service. I had it installed as soon as it was available, and no exaggeration, it changed my life compared to my old dial-up server.
And I have Verizon's wireless service, which is miles better than my previous cellular carrier.
But I don't want Verizon's TV service (or any other TV service, for that matter), and no amount of mailings, no discount bundle package, no special pricing (for the first few months, that is) will make me change my mind. I'm sure it's a fine service, but I simply don't watch TV. So please, just stop!


At the intersection of Newark and Upland Roads, I saw a neighbor and waved to her. She flashed me a peace sign. Whether this is a new trend or a holiday practice I haven't heard of, I think I'll do my part to spread it around town. (Kind of like the way that eating a Snickers bar with a knife and fork "went viral" on "Seinfeld.")

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Graveyard shift

A group calling itself "Concerned Lot Owners of Unionville Cemetery" is trying to get in touch with all the cemetery plot owners. In a flier left for cemetery visitors to pick up, the group says it is worried that the cemetery's board will vote to merge with Union Hill Cemetery in Kennett, which means the Unionville graveyard would "lose its identity" and lot owners would no longer have a say in management.
A board vote could come early in 2011, so the group is asking lot owners, family members and heirs to send their contact information to Unionville Cemetery Grounds Committee, 122 Cedarcroft Road, Kennett Square, PA 19348, or call Gail Diem at 610-444-1376.
According to the East Marlborough Historic Commission's website, the non-denominational Unionville Cemetery was established in 1855, and the iron fence that surrounds it was donated by Annie Seal in 1860 (her father, Thomas Seal, was Unionville’s first doctor).


For those of you buying Christmas stamps and mailing Christmas cards and packages, just a reminder that the Unionville Post Office window hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with a lunch break from 1 to 1:30 p.m. Saturday the post office is open 10 a.m. to noon.


A friend reports that her local dentist's office is equipped with video screens for the patients. Unfortunately, the only DVDs that the dentist plays are those that reflect his political views, which he then proceeds to discuss with great animation. My friend, who is on the other side of the political spectrum from him, said she tried repeatedly to turn the conversation from his theories on global warming back to her teeth, but to no avail. She is going to be finding herself a new dentist.
This guy's dental practice must be doing very well for him to risk alienating a significant portion of his patients.


Brett Lunger of Wilmington and Nathan Hayward, the head of the board of trustees at Longwood Gardens, were mentioned in a Nov. 27/28 "Wall Street Journal" story about the recent sale of Wilmington Trust, "How Loyalty to Customers Led to Storied Bank's Fall." Mr. Lunger said he was "disappointed and disheartened" by the sale; Mr. Hayward expressed his reaction as "shock and anger and dismay all wrapped together." M&T Bank Corp. purchased Wilmington Trust in what the Journal described as a "fire-sale deal" for "about $350 million - just about half of the ailing bank's stock-market value."
The story includes a photo of Mr. Lunger working on a laptop with his wife, Caroline, in the background.
In other bank news, the National Penn branch at Route 796 and Old Baltimore Pike in Jennersville was robbed on Nov. 29. Between that and the well-publicized efforts to preserve the vacant Red Rose Inn, that intersection has certainly been in the news a lot recently.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Marlborough Carol Sing

The historic Marlborough Friends Meeting, at the intersection of Marlboro and Marlboro Springs Roads, opens its doors each December for a Christmas Carol Sing. This year it will start at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 19.

The Carol Sing includes a few minutes of Quaker silent worship and some short Bible readings, "but at the heart of the experience is a community joined together in song," according to a member of the Meeting. "Holiday treats follow the carols. Christmas Spirit and fellowship are present each year."

Everyone from the community is welcome to attend. It's a peaceful, old-fashioned antidote to the commercialism and busy-ness that so many of us can fall prey to this time of year.
More information about the Meeting is at

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A-hunting we will go

Lucy Glitters (great pen name!) has started writing an entertaining blog about the local Cheshire Hunt, vividly recounting the action at each meet. You can read it at; click on "News" and then "Full Cry."
Lucy also includes hunting trivia like this: "Did you know that hunt staff wear the ribbons on their caps down so that the rain will run over their collar and members wear them up as they can go in if they are wet."
And another local blog,, features beautiful photos of the Hunt in action, as well as other equestrian activities.
While you're online, read Max Hastings' very, very funny article about the importance of foxhunting in British culture in "The Guardian": I laughed out loud at the anecdote he says is his favorite hunting story.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Scene from an Italian restaurant

Overheard at Floga Bistro the day after Thanksgiving: The chef came out to greet some customers, who asked about his Thanksgiving. He told them he had gotten up at 5 a.m. and spent the day in Philadelphia, cooking Thanksgiving dinner for homeless people. (What a really nice thing to do!)
When he returned home, he said, his wife asked if he wanted turkey. No, he told her, he had spent the whole day serving turkey; what he really wanted was a nice plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

Brake lights and headlights, too

Just a reminder that Longwood Gardens' extremely popular Christmas lights display is up and running, so plan your late-afternoon/evening trips along Route 1 accordingly. Traffic has been known to back up all the way to Chadds Ford.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


My hipness quotient peaked 30 years ago (at a below-average level even then) and has fallen ever since. Even my father knew what the rap lyrics "fly like a G6" meant. (A G6, it seems, is a Gulfstream G650, a luxury private jet.) I thought a G6 was an international summit meeting and puzzled over how to reconcile this with the song's chorus: "Popping bottles in the ice, like a blizzard, When we drink we do it right."
But hey, at least I'm on top of one trend: that ubiquitous Justin Bieber-inspired haircut is on its way out. I was getting my hair done the other day when a teenage boy sporting the brushed-forward style came in for his appointment.
"So what are we doing today?" his stylist asked him.
He showed her a photo of a drastically shorter haircut.
The stylist looked thrilled at the prospect of creating a different look.
"Cool!" she said, nodding vigorously with approval. "Yeah, we can do that."

Coffee break on the Internet

This "helmet-cam" video of the cross-country competition at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington is just amazing.


In one of my favorite Agatha Christie mysteries, "A Murder is Announced," a Chipping Cleghorn resident informs a policeman that it's the village custom to drop off knitting patterns and vegetables at each others' houses, whether or not the recipient is home.
"I just brought up some of my quinces," explained Mrs. Swettenham. "Miss Blacklock wants to make quince jelly and she hasn't got a quince tree here. I left them in the dining room."
Sergeant Fletcher is not at all happy to hear this, as it will greatly complicate his investigation into the murder at Little Paddocks.
Unionville has a very neighborly barter system very similar to that in Chipping Cleghorn. I love to bake, and people seem to like the results (especially my ginger snaps). So, in just the past few weeks, I've swapped my home-made baked goods for a friend's home-raised eggs (they won a Best of Show ribbon at the Unionville Fair, how cool is that!), home-made strawberry jam, just-harvested mushrooms, and even greeting cards made by a photographer friend. I don't like white meat turkey and a friend does, so I exchanged the remains of my Thanksgiving bird for her egg salad with dill and mustard.
When friends ask me to do proofreading or editing work, it just doesn't feel right to charge them, so I'll barter for a nice lunch instead. Both parties in the transaction seem happy.
I learned the power of barter way back in high school when I noticed that if I brought goodies to the attendance ladies (could even be Entenmann's) they'd be much more likely to overlook certain self-initiated alternative educational experiences. A useful life lesson.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Perhaps the only upside of this autumn's stink bug invasion was that I got rid of a LOT of old clothes. To dislodge the reclusive little critters, I had to remove each item from the closet and shake it violently. As I was doing so, I realized I had clothes that I hadn't worn in literally years; I simply don't wear suits and other office clothes anymore (thank goodness!). Yes, the pink suede skirt was fun for a while, but it also required expensive and frequent leather cleaning. And that turquoise frock with the tag still on it? If I haven't found a place to wear it in three summers, odds are really good I'm not going to.
I was ruthless, not letting original cost or sentimental value get in the way. And soon I had an enormous pile of clothes to give away to charity. (I wanted to donate to a group that provides professional outfits for women trying to get back on their feet, but alas they needed only plus-size clothes.)
So now I have a lot less stuff, no stink bugs, and a lot more space in my closets, all of which is very satisfying.


The middle of December is just about the latest you can plant bulbs around here, which is why the few remaining bulbs left at garden centers are deeply discounted. What I've always heard is that you should get bulbs in six weeks before the ground freezes so they have a chance to form roots.

Some of the allium bulbs my mother was planting were so small that she couldn't tell which was the top and which was the bottom. So she compromised: she planted them sideways and then exhorted them, out loud, to sprout the correct way. And they'd better.
(The spectacular flowers pictured here are my parrot tulips, which I grow every year. I buy my bulbs from White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut.)


On Nov. 22 I took this photograph along White Horse Road, south of Route 41, at PECO's Daleville Substation in Londonderry Township. I posted a blog entry fretting that it was only going to get worse over the winter.
By Nov. 24 it was fixed -- completely level and smooth.
Whether it was just a coincidence or speedy service by the road crew, I for one am very grateful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

eBay entrepreneur

I wouldn't be surprised if Jared Mizrahi, Unionville class of 2006, went really far.
While still a student at Patton Middle School, he started his own eBay business, selling golf balls that he collected from the fairways of a golf course near his house. He received stellar feedback, became one of eBay's elite sites, and branched out into selling other items, expanding his business while going through high school and college (Millersville 2010). Now, in addition to teaching math at J.P. McCaskey High School in Lancaster, he has launched
Jared is one impressive and multi-tasking young man.
For two years he taught classes on online selling at Chester County Adult Night School, and now he teaches them at Harrisburg Area Community College's York and Lancaster campuses. He's an education specialist trained by eBay, and also a Pennsylvania-licensed and bonded eBay Trading Assistant ("this is the fancy way of saying that I am certified to go to client's houses, research items, take those that will sell for $30 or more on eBay, list them, ship them and send the clients a check").
A few years back I gave Jared a few items to sell. He photographed them, provided accurate online descriptions, priced them competitively and took care of the shipping and collections. After the sale, he promptly sent me a check and a detailed, accurate summary of the transactions.
Good luck to him!

A Purist

Overheard Nov. 20: Customer, after completing his transaction at the Giant's pharmacy counter: "Happy Thanksgiving! I refuse to call it `Turkey Day.' "

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Penn State 4-H Creating Community Networks held its annual "Be a Sweetheart" fundraiser on a recent Tuesday evening at the Kennett Flash, and I don't think I've seen so many goodies since the Hershey's baking contest at the Unionville Community Fair. The wonderful desserts and drinks were all donated by local restaurants, caterers and businesses, and after eating, the sugared-up guests had the chance to "sponsor" various health, welfare and enrichment programs that the group runs for underserved children in our area -- things like reading, crafts, yoga, dance, riding, nutrition, and computer skills. (I donated money toward books for the literacy program.)
Committee members Connie Carter, Laurie Szoke and Harold Brosius did a great job explaining the group's services, using the metaphor of "a one-room schoolhouse on wheels" that travels to bring programs to those in need.

Thanks from Tilda

This being Thanksgiving (and what a wonderful holiday it is!), I want to say thank you to my readers for all the kind comments I've received about my little column since it started in September:
  • "It's like an old-fashioned hometown paper, the way newspapers used to be."
  • "It's the first thing I read in the paper."
  • "I wish we had one in my town!"
  • "We absolutely love it. It's so local."
  • "How do you find out all that stuff?"
Quite frankly, I was surprised when the editor of this paper told me he had fallen in love with my blog and asked if he could run it as a weekly column. But apparently he knows his audience: I think people want a change from the ugly, nasty, snark-filled name-calling that passes for discourse these days, and they seem to adore reading about the "little" news, with no "spin" added, that's going on in their backyard.
Especially when it's such a colorful backyard as Unionville.

Friday, November 19, 2010

100 Artists

My friend and former newspaper colleague Catherine Quillman's wonderful new book "100 Artists of the Brandywine Valley" has finally arrived from the printer, just in time for Christmas (apparently it literally took a slow boat from China). I had the pleasure of editing the introduction, so I can tell you that Cathy profiles not only the "old favorites" but also fascinating newer artists working in all sorts of media.
According to her website: "The book focuses on 100 contemporary painters, photographers, and sculptors. However, it also includes illustrated sections describing 18th and 19th century painters as well as the early photographers of the Brandywine Valley. There are also several contemporary photographers who work in either traditional (large format cameras) or experimental forms."
Like the good marketer that she is, Cathy will be holding several local book signings in December; the schedule is at

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Infrastructure issue

Brinton's Bridge Road in Pennsbury Township has been closed for the past few weeks due to a crumbling bridge between Chaddwyck Lane and Pocopson Road, forcing residents to take a lengthy detour. Neighbors say that what's especially aggravating is that the same bridge, which crosses a tiny stream, was completely rebuilt only a few years back.

Year of the Locked Door

This afternoon I walked past the King's Island Chinese restaurant in the Longwood Village shopping center, which has been closed since a kitchen fire this spring, and was thrilled to see active signs of repair work going on inside! The lights were on, and I saw a ladder, extension cords and some new recessed lights. I hope they manage to reopen in time for their wonderful annual Chinese New Year buffet. For the past five years, three friends and I have made that a much-anticipated winter ritual, and we would really miss the delicious food. (And I'm sure John and the rest of the staff would miss us taking up a table for three hours.)
In contrast, still dark, vacant and up for rent is the former Acme supermarket in New Garden. The grocery store moved to Avondale in February 2008.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coffee Schopenhauer

The past few weeks, I've become a fixture at the Starbucks at Jennersville. I've been proofreading a 1,200-page philosophy textbook on hard copy, and this required more spreading-out space than I could find at home. The tables at Starbucks are exactly the right size and height, so I could work for literally hours without slouching or getting a crick in my neck.
(You may ask: Why not Longwood Starbucks, or the Bayard Taylor library, or Cafe Lindo? Answer: I'd see too many people I know and would get no work done.)
Apparently a lot of folks besides me use Starbucks as their office or a daily stopping-off spot, and the extraordinarily friendly and dedicated staff greeted regulars by name and knew exactly what drink they'd want.
Because a lot of my work was pretty mechanical, I could amuse myself by people-watching. One day at the table next to me I overheard a woman give a sales pitch, complete with little flip charts, for her jewelry "home party" business. I wouldn't say she was exactly pushy, but she obviously had plenty of experience overcoming objections. When this one demurred, she asked her to set a date when she might be ready to reconsider. "Go home, talk to your husband," she advised. "He can call my husband if he wants."
Then there's the music Starbucks plays. I never knew what to expect: the Beatles, Bob Dylan, "Saturday Night Fever," reggae, squawky progressive jazz. It was surreal, proofreading Marx's "Communist Manifesto" while listening to a swingin' Frank Sinatra medley.
So now I'm finished, all the way from ancient Greece to Martin Luther King Jr.'s amazing Washington D.C. speech. And I think it'll be quite a few days before I have another Tall Iced Non-Fat Caramel Macchiato.

Not just for horses

In the words of Dave Barry, "I am not making this up."  According to an article in the "Wall Street Journal," "a growing number of top kitchens...are harnessing hay's comforting, pastoral quality in their dishes." The article gives example of how chefs at six trendy restaurants use hay's "grassy, autumnal, haute-barnyard goodness" and includes a recipe for hay-charred scallops with horseradish mayo. (The link to the article is too long, so just do a search for "hay-charred.")

Formerly known as Sestrich's

Catherine's Restaurant in downtown Unionville is now open for breakfast and lunch, and my friend Susan and I enjoyed a terrific lunch there. It's as if it's a different restaurant in the daytime -- at night it's very dimly lit. Our waitress was very friendly and the food was just delicious -- I had a crabcake sandwich and Susan had chicken salad, and we split a dessert (lemon pound cake with black raspberry ice cream). Even on a chilly, bleak day, they were several other folks lunching there, so I hope business is good.
Menus and hours (they're closed Mondays) are at

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bricks and mortar

A woman named Tracy Culgan has organized a fundraising group to try to preserve the historic but now-abandoned Red Rose Inn in Jennersville. The website is, and she has a Facebook page by the same name. "Any rich ghost hunters or historical benefactors, get in touch with me," she suggests.


The Fourth Continental Light Dragoons had a beautiful sunny weekend for their encampment at Primitive Hall, and the Hillendale Cub Scouts and lots of other history buffs, local folks, children and photographers stopped by to watch and gain a new appreciation for our Revolutionary War soldiers.
It was so amusing watching the kids practice drilling with wooden pretend muskets under the direction of the Dragoon's commander, Bill Ochester. And when the soldiers were firing their muskets and demonstrating how they would've operated in battle, even the high-energy Cub Scouts stopped racing around and watched with rapt attention.

"No, we don't use real bullets," deadpanned Ochester. "There would be a lot fewer re-enactors if we did."
A few women accompanied the soldiers, and they were busy sewing and roasting a turkey on a spit over a campfire. The turkey was blackened on one side; the cook said ruefully that it caught on fire early in the proceedings.
The officers held a mock court-martial for one soldier who provided alcoholic beverages to the troops, above and beyond their ration. The unfortunate soldier, who hammed it up to the hilt, was found guilty after a brief, no-nonsense trial inside the Hall. His sentence was to run the gantlet, being smacked by each of his comrades, then undergo 12 lashes, and then -- dreadful! -- be demoted to the infantry. "Which is a fate worse than death," the commander informed him matter-of-factly.
His parting words as he was hauled off: "Could I have some rum?"
(Photo courtesy of Tilda's sister-in-law.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thank you!

It was as if Christmas had arrived early when I saw that PennDOT had erected two additional stop signs at the intersection of Routes 841 and 926, making it into a four-way stop. Those of us who frequent this intersection have become accustomed to seeing both near-misses and the aftermath of non-misses. Motorists on 926 seem to be getting used to stopping, but I'm still going to be really cautious for a while before assuming that they will.
I've come in for some gentle teasing about this by an urban sophisticate friend (he lives in downtown West Chester), but it really does improve my life and the lives of other locals, judging by the downright joyous comments on Facebook. Next on my wish list: a similar four-way stop at the intersection of Routes 841 and 842.
Other thank you's, in addition to PennDOT and the local officials who made the stop signs possible:
  • The guys at Unionville Feed and Pet, for always knowing exactly I'm looking for 
  • Charlie at the Unionville Post Office, for always being so cheerful
  • Paula at Perkins, for remembering how I like my eggs and ensuring we always get perfectly cooked pancakes
  • Cintra and Judy at Willowdale Country Store, for helping me choose a scarf
  • John at Sterling Optical, for fixing my eyeglasses so quickly
  • Jen and the rest of the staff, front and back of house, at the Farmhouse Restaurant, for making a recent family celebration a beautiful and memorable event.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The other Las Vegas

As always, books are playing a vital part in Joe Lordi's life. Joe, who retired after 30 years as director of the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, has just finished writing another book. After doing three books about Kennett and one about Oxford, Joe went a little further afield this time: his latest is a 144-page postcard book about Las Vegas, New Mexico. Joe, who lives in Kennett, visits the Southwest often and became fascinated by this colorful little town. Over a period of a few years, he collected stories and postcards, talked to residents, did research, and took photographs of Las Vegas as it is today.
It's an entertaining and thoroughly researched story about the history, schools, churches, businesses, architecture, fraternal groups, houses and people of the town. Joe's book is at the printer, DavCo in Kinzers, and should be ready for purchase by the end of the year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Yes, I know, she could well have been packing heat. I don't care. I'm sick of people who selfishly risk accidents by flouting traffic signs.
The busy parking lot at the Y has clearly marked one-way routes through the lot. There are arrows indicating which direction you're supposed to drive. But the other morning, no sooner did I pull into a space than a woman in a leviathan black vehicle drove into the lot the wrong way, against the arrows, and parked.
I went up to her and pointed out how dangerous that was.
Rather glibly, I thought, she said that she was "cognizant" of the traffic and would never have done it at a busy time.
I felt like saying, Oh, really? Did you look into every single car and make sure no one was about to back out? In order to save herself a couple of seconds, and to get a space closer to the Y WHERE SHE WAS GOING FOR EXERCISE (!!), she was willing to risk wrecking somebody's vehicle -- and greatly complicating someone's day.
The definition of selfish.


If you feel like throwing up your hands in dismay with everything that's wrong with the world, here's some advice: Attend an elementary school program. You will see the world in a new and rosier light.
I went to Hillendale Elementary's Veterans Day assembly and cannot imagine a more heart-warming event. Relatives of the Hillendale students and staff who are veterans were invited to the program and were given seats of honor. The kids recited the Pledge of Allegience (yes, they still say "under God") and sang the National Anthem, and then Principal Steve Dissinger, wearing an American-flag tie, read the names of the veterans, their branch of the service, and when they served. There were veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam (one man fought there in the 101st Airborne, the "Screaming Eagles").
I was moved to tears watching these quiet heroes, now mostly in their 70s and 80s, stand proudly and wave at their beloved grandkids in the audience.
And then a sweet little girl got up and sang "America the Beautiful" in front of the whole school -- imagine the guts!
It was a beautiful event, and I'm so glad I got to be there. Mr. D, you know how to put on a great assembly. And maybe the world would be a more peaceful place if everyone everywhere would take to heart the slogans around the school gym about safety, teamwork, cooperation, fitness and making good choices.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pain and Love

It's really hard to get any sympathy for an ache or pain when you're around serious horse people. Just try mentioning that your back is out of whack and you can't bend over. They'll launch into a story about how they "came off" their horse, lacerated their liver, suffered a concussion, underwent hours of surgery -- and then were back in the saddle within a week, strictly against doctor's orders.
As if that's perfectly normal. Broken ribs are scarcely worth a mention unless they puncture something. Get more than one rider together, and believe me, the litany of injury stories you will hear will be downright gruesome.
I was told recently that I had a high pain threshold. It was a nice thought, but obviously the person had no other Unionville clients.
All kidding aside, though, sometimes catastrophic accidents do happen. Local amateur steeplechase jockey Jake Chalfin, age 32, was severely hurt in a Sept. 18 accident at the Blue Ridge Fall Races in Berryville, Va. "Stealin' the Start," a fundraiser to help with his expenses, is planned for Dec. 4 at The Stone Barn in West Marlborough. Details are on


1. Sign on the gas pump at a local convenience store: "Gas Prices You Can Trust." I'm not sure how "trust" comes into it. I choose where to buy gas based on where I am when I'm running low, plain and simple.
2. In a drugstore circular: "Get a FREE Eagles T-shirt with $30 purchase." Seems to me the Eagles, and any other commercial enterprise, should be the ones paying us to wear their logo-emblazoned clothes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Game Set Match

My tennis partners and I finally decided to pack it in for the year: It's just gotten too cold and windy to have fun. It was a terrific season, despite the kamikaze vole that raced across the court at game point and that marathon game-that-wouldn't-end in the rain (it must've gone to 12 deuces). And though we had a few spectacular falls and some mid-season dental surgery, there weren't any career-ending injuries.
It must be amusing to watch us getting ready for a match, coddling our aging joints with various braces and wraps, anointing ourselves with SPF100 sunblock per doctor's orders, and making sure there are plenty of ice packs ready for the drive home.
A young member of my family has been taking lessons from Tony DeFelice of Tony's Tennis Camp, and I'm so glad to see the kids having fun learning the sport. He's a terrific instructor.
(Pay-to-play FYI: the district cost per participant at Unionville High School is $184 for the boys' tennis team and $243 for the girls' tennis team. That's less than basketball, cheerleading, field hockey, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, sottball, track and field, volleyball, and wrestling.)

Sentence structure

Ponzi schemer Tony Young will learn his fate in two weeks. Sentencing is set for 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2, before the Honorable Juan R. Sanchez. Mr. Young pleaded guilty in July to wire fraud and money laundering.

Monday, November 8, 2010

From the past

Just a reminder that the Revolutionary War re-enactors from the Fourth Continental Light Dragoons will be camping out at Primitive Hall this weekend, and you are welcome to visit the encampment, free of charge, and talk to the soldiers from noon to 4 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 13. At 1 p.m. there will be a mock court-martial for an unruly soldier. At 2 p.m. there will be a "Children's Muster," where the soldiers will teach kids how to drill using wooden muskets. Then at 3 p.m. "the infantry and cavalry will perform a joint drill to demonstrate how a combined legion of troops operated in the 18th century."
Primitive Hall is on Route 841, between Route 926 and Route 842, near the village of Chatham (830 North Chatham Road).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Over timber

It was a beautiful, sunny, bracing afternoon for the 76th running of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup on Sunday. My friends and I had the best (and possibly warmest) vantage point on the entire gorgeous course, and we had heaps of fantastic food (from Hood's) and drinks. It was great to see so many friends and neighbors and dogs, and the races were dramatic. It's especially exciting when you know some of the jockeys who are galloping by.
Many of the spectators were so wrapped up in jackets, blankets, scarves and sunglasses that it was sometimes hard to recognize folks walking by. But we saw one unfortunate woman in a short skirt walking in stocking feet toward the parking area, carrying her high-heeled shoes. It looked painful.
At one point the wind died down, we were standing there looking over this beautiful vista and somebody waxed philosophical and said, "We are so lucky." Yes, indeed.
One particularly merry group of Unionville tailgaters set up their lavish buffet table under a large white banner featuring a brown stink bug emblazoned with the red letters SBP.
What does that stand for, a curious passerby asked.
"Stink Bug Party!" they chorused, going on to explain that their party's platform consisted of flatness, persistence and sheer strength in numbers.
(I will spare you my own stink bug experience this week. Suffice it to say that they really, really like my scarf drawer.)

Friday, November 5, 2010


Congratulations to my friend Joel, who on Election Day bagged an eight-point buck with a crossbow near his home in Cochranville. It was his first-ever success with a crossbow. The buck is already at the butcher's, and I have dibs on some of his wife's delicious venison lasagna.

A new restaurant to try

Two friends and I had an excellent dinner at the Taste of Puebla, a new Mexican restaurant in West Grove. The food was terrific and the service was quick and friendly. We devoured the chips with salsa verde, and then I had marvelous chicken fajitas. It was a perfect meal for a chilly, rainy evening. And we will definitely go back, because there were lots of other dishes we wanted to try.
You can see their menu at The restaurant is in a little strip shopping center at 304 E. Baltimore Pike.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Talkin' trash

I took my recycling over to the landfill today, a task I always enjoy. I can trace this back to my childhood summer vacations spent at a cabin on Lake Florence in the Poconos. It was a wholesome couple of weeks: swimming out to the float, catching sunfish and catfish, sailing and canoeing, hiking through the woods, outwitting the ancient soda machine under Cabin #9 and debating whether the giant snapping turtle was still alive. If it rained there were jigsaw puzzles and crosswords to do and books to read, but there was no television reception. (We were at the cabin when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and we still berate my father because we didn't get to watch this historic event.)
But the highlight was the weekly trip to the garbage dump in old Mr. Treat's ramshackle pickup. We kids would jump in the back, along with the trash from all the families around the lake, and head up the unpaved, rutted driveway out to the main road. If you were on one side of the truck you could catch a glimpse of the mysterious little spring-fed pool where Mr. Treat raised bait.
Such a adventure probably broke all kinds of safety rules and would never be permitted nowadays (get the helmets and hand sanitizer!), but we had a great time bouncing around as the truck hit potholes and lurched around corners.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

To die for

It goes completely against the grain for me to lecture people about their choices in life. You can drive a Prius or a Hummer, plant your bulbs in rows or clumps, support the Eagles or the Steelers: that's up to you; I'm not going to get in your face about it. The sole exception is this: cigarette smoking.
The American Cancer Society is sponsoring its annual Great American Smokeout on Nov. 18, and if you smoke, I beg you, I implore you, to try quitting. The Cancer Society's website ( offers a lot of resources to make it easier.
Tobacco causes almost 90% of all cases of lung cancer. If people didn't smoke, lung cancer would be rare, as opposed to being the leading cause of cancer death in Americans, both men and women. More people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
Why am I so vehement about this? Because a dear friend of mine was a smoker, and he died of lung cancer in 2005 at the age of 52. And a lot of people remember him and miss him.

Garden blues

Perhaps in the past few weeks you've noticed the striking tall blue flowers at Fairthorn on North Union Street in Kennett. Their Latin name is Aconitum napellus, but they are most commonly called monkshood (after the shape of each flower). As lovely as it is -- and as useful in the late autumn garden -- it also contains a toxic alkaloid called aconitine.
The plant is also known as wolfsbane, as Harry Potter fans with sharp memories may recall. In "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," Potions master Severus Snape uses the plant to brew a concoction that Defense Against the Dark Arts master Remus Lupin takes the week before he transforms into a werewolf during each full moon. By drinking the potion, Professor Lupin explains, "I keep my mind when I transform...I am able to curl up in my office, a harmless wolf, and wait for the moon to wane again."

As part of their witness

Whether you agree or disagree with their politics, the folks who live in our local Quaker retirement communities deserve a round of applause: they always turn out in droves for every election. Turnout on Nov. 2 was 74% both in Pennsbury's north-1 precinct (the polling place was at Crosslands) and in Kennett Township's precinct 3 (Kendal at Longwood). County-wide, the turnout was 52%, which is much higher than for the usual mid-term elections.

Deep pockets in Doe Run

Urban Outfitters founder Richard Hayne is continuing to build his elaborate greenhouse complex on what used to be Tony Young's property near Springdell. However, it seems that he started the work before getting all the necessary permits. West Marlborough Township zoning officials served him with a cease-and-desist order on Sept. 28 and fined him $500 for each day of work that was done before the permits were finally issued on Oct. 13.
Mr. Hayne's attorney is appealing the fines, claiming that the order was invalid because it was addressed to Mr. Hayne rather than the property's legal owner, Doe Run L.P.
For the record, Mr. Hayne ranks #773 on Forbes magazine's 2010 list of the world's billionaires, with net assets of $1.250 billion.

Monday, November 1, 2010


If the nastiness and incessant "spin" of the recent election left you yearning for intelligent and civil discourse, London Grove Friends Meeting is offering what promises to be an interesting evening on Saturday, Nov. 20: a discussion entitled "If War is not the Answer, What Is?" ("Victory," according to a bumper sticker I saw recently.)
Mark Bowden, the Oxford author who wrote "Black Hawk Down" and "Guests of the Ayatollah," will be joining Dan Seeger, general secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, and Matt Southworth, campaigns program assistant for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, to wrestle with the question of whether traditional Quaker peace testimony is relevant today.
The program starts at 7:30 p.m. The meetinghouse is at Route 926 and Newark Road.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Our stink bug invasion seems to have abated over the past few weeks; now it's just a matter of finding their hiding places. I've found dozens of them huddled on the backs of mirrors and pictures, and I've taken to shaking out my clothes and shoes before donning them. A particular low point was when I opened the medicine cabinet to get a Band-Aid -- and there were two stink bugs inside the metal Band-Aid box. Yuck.

Friday, October 29, 2010


As part of the preparations for the Plantation Field Starter Horse Trials on Oct. 30, a series of directional signs were posted along Apple Grove Road between Route 82 and the site. It's a beautiful drive of only a little over a mile, but apparently the organizers felt the participants needed some words of encouragement en route. The next-to-last sign read: "You're almost there!"
The dozens of spectators, riders, trucks and trailers could've been a useful clue, too.

Spectacular spectroscopist

If you're not running late, detours can be fascinating. How else would I have found out about the astronomer Charlotte Emma Moore Sitterly, who was born near Ercildoun in 1898?
I spotted the historical marker at 640 Buck Run Road in East Fallowfield and stopped to note down her name. When I got home, I did an Internet search and found the following on "Astronomy Abstracts" (
"Following her graduation from Swarthmore College in 1920, she accepted a position at Princeton University as an assistant to Henry Norris Russell. In 1925 she started a study of the solar spectrum. She could then not know that she would devote much of her scientific career to gathering basic atomic data that are invaluable to the scientific community, even today.
"In 1931 she obtained a PhD degree at U. California, Berkeley, and returned to Princeton as a staff member of the Princeton University Observatory. In 1945 she moved to the National Bureau of Science (NBS), to supervise preparation of the widely used tables of atomic energy levels. Following the successful launching (1946) of a V2 rocket to obtain the ultraviolet spectrum of the sun, Moore started working with Richard Tousey and his group at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). Ultimately, they extended the solar spectrum down to 2200 angstroms. She continued her affiliations with NBS and NRL until her death in 1990.
"Charlotte Moore was a rare scientist who devoted her career to obtaining accurate numbers, thus enabling the scientific community to open her tables and know that the data are accurate."
High praise indeed. AND a historical marker to boot!

Gold star

As a stickler for correct spelling, I was delighted to see that the Newlin Township supervisors fixed the street sign that formerly read "Indian Hanna Road." Her name was Indian Hannah.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Justice delayed

Former Unionville resident Tony Young's eagerly awaited sentencing has been postponed. The probation office requested and received an extra 30 days to prepare the presentence report. A new date hasn’t been set yet. Mr. Young, who pleaded guilty in July to mail fraud and money laundering, is now included in Wikipedia's entry for "List of Ponzi schemes."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Manners, part I

Polite social behavior is just as valuable for kids to master today as it was when "coming out" meant a teenage girl's formal introduction to society.
The 2011 Kennett Square Junior Cotillion will be held on Sundays (Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27 and March 6) at the Kennett Square Golf and Country Club, from 5:30 to 6:45 PM for third through fifth graders and from 7 to 8:15 PM for sixth and seventh graders. The Cotillion ends with a a formal dinner/dance and tea dance on March 12 and 13.
Every kid I've known who has been involved in this, boy or girl, has absolutely loved it.
Here's the description I received via e-mail: "Our program is a great opportunity to meet new friends, learn valuable life lessons and dance with professionally trained dance instructors. Each session begins with an opening reception on the terrace. Children begin by learning social etiquette and appropriate party manners. Each week is a lesson on social etiquette such as table manners, proper techniques using a knife and fork, common etiquette mistakes and napkin folding. The children will then be paired with a partner for the dance instruction. This year we hope to offer a fun hip/hop week of dance instruction as well."
The cost is $125. To receive an invitation (engraved in a tasteful font, we hope), e-mail Jill Hunt at

Pay to play

In my experience, focus groups are often held simply to supply evidence supporting whatever the organizers wanted to do in the first place.
So congratulations to the Unionville-Chadds Ford administration for holding a series of such groups that were genuine -- and fascinating -- conversations. The school district, like all others, is facing budget problems and is considering whether instituting user/activity fees is the way to go so that parents and participants shoulder more of the burden.
How important are athletics and other extracurricular activities to the community? Who should pay for them? Is it the role of the school district to provide them? What would a fair fee be? What about families with financial problems?
These are a lot of profound questions, and the administrators did an excellent job explaining some of the practical and legal implications.
The district has provided a wealth of information (, including a spreadsheet that shows how much each high-school and middle-school activity costs per participant, as well as how much funding is already provided by parents and booster groups. Some of the numbers astonished me; take a look for yourself.
I predict this topic is going to become a political football, and the district leaders are smart to do their homework.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Manners, part II

Congratulations to young Chase and his doting owners, Susan and Phil Hoffman of Newlin Township: Chase recently earned his "Basic Manners Level 1" certificate from the Chester County Dog Training Club. Proud mama Susan reports that Chase was the only Corgi in the class "and certainly the cutest doggie adolescent of the bunch." Chase is undoubtedly bragging about his scholastic achievements to his canine companions Kevin and Corky -- and everyone else on the farm.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Trowel in hand

This past Saturday was simply a picture-perfect autumn day for yard work. I spent the afternoon cleaning up the vegetable garden, pulling up the dead zinnias, salvia, sunflowers and gomphrena. I'm always astonished to think how tiny they were when I planted them. A few snapdragons are still in bloom, and I harvested them -- that is, once I found the garden shears that had slipped out of my jacket pocket and hidden under some leaves.
Then I finished planting tulip bulbs (100 this year) and carefully dug up the Peruvian daffodil (Hymenocallis) bulbs pictured here. I didn't know what to expect when Leo and Helen Daiuta kindly gave me a few of these last fall, but they turned out to be a marvelous addition to the garden: spectacular white, fragrant flowers on tall, leafless green stalks. I'll let the bulbs dry a bit, and then they'll spend the winter in the dark laundry room, along with the basket of gladiolus corms I lifted a few weeks back.


What is the dividing line between saying "subs" versus "hoagies"?
I think it's probably West Chester. The closer you get to Philadelphia, everyone says "hoagies," but by the time you hit Cochranville it's pretty much all "subs."
And what about the Pennsylvania Dutch usage "it needs done" (e.g., "the kitchen needs cleaned")? You rarely hear that in Unionville or east, but west of Coatesville, and of course into Lancaster County, it's common.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Health care

I went for a routine scan at Jennersville Regional Hospital first thing this morning, and my visit was an impressive one for a lot of reasons.
On my way in, I saw a confused-looking man staring at a directory of physicians posted on the corridor wall. A member of the housekeeping staff took the time to stop her cleaning cart and asked if she could help. Then she patiently gave him directions to the office he wanted.

In the registration office -- no waiting! -- the clerk fastened an ID band around my wrist. On my way to the radiology department, I noticed that although the name on the band was correct (imagine! two Tilda's), I was certainly not born in 1977 and I had never heard of the doctor whose name was listed. I pointed this out to the radiology tech, imagining that nightmarish paperwork complications were going to ensue.
Not at all.
"We know," she said, removing the band. "We're all over it." She said she'd immediately spotted the inconsistency with my paperwork and had already notified the registration office.
She did my scan painlessly and efficiently and I was out the door and on my way to Starbucks by 8:20 a.m.
Well done.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

BYOB: Bring your own baccalaureate!

This is a little depressing. A well-known, top-of-the-line local catering firm is looking for waitstaff, bartenders and the like, and its ad reads, "Recent college graduates welcome." That must warm the hearts of destitute parents and loan-saddled students everywhere. Imagine slogging through (and paying for) four years of college only to spend your evenings asking party guests if they'd like freshly ground cracked pepper on their food.

Unionville is an island, part XVI

I received a local candidate's political mailing this afternoon (sent at his own expense, not ours, I was pleased to note) and at a glance I could identify the two people posing as "average, everyday citizens" listening attentively to the candidate -- even though only the backs of their heads were shown.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I know, it's not on a par with seeing, say, Hugh Grant's limo at the Whip, but I just saw a pest-management van parked in front of the long-vacant Red Rose Inn. And a man in work clothes and a clipboard seemed to be poking around on the north side of the historic but increasingly dilapidated brick structure. Maybe something's happening?
(By the way, Hugh Grant has never visited the Whip, to my knowledge. But there's always hope.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


A scientist friend sent me this amazing photograph of the Horsehead Nebula ( ), providing evidence that, as he put it, "Clearly the horse came first, then the universe followed."

Bearable lightness

We've all been warned that electric rates are going to go up next year, so I went to PECO's website to see if there were any changes I could make to reduce my electric usage.
Naturally, they urge us to replace standard incandescent bulbs with those new curly "compact fluorescent light bulbs" (CFLs), but I was startled to read that you're not supposed to turn them on and off too often:
"Turning a CFL on and off frequently can shorten its life. To take full advantage of the energy savings and long life of ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs, it is best to use them in light fixtures you use the most and leave on for at least 15 minutes at a time. Good locations include outdoor light fixtures, indoor fixtures in the living room, family room, kitchen, bedroom, recreation room, etc. This is not to say you should leave your lights on all day if you use ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs. It is still a good habit to turn the lights off when you leave the room for an extended period."  
Wow, this is not how I was brought up. I can remember my father constantly telling us to turn the lights off every single time we left a room -- and conversely, to turn the lights on when we were reading. "Put some light on the subject," he'd quip, reaching over to turn on a lamp.
Of course, with today's CFLs, it would take a minute to warm up ("slow starting," they call it). Kind of like the TV set we had back then!

Shelf possessed

While collecting bittersweet on one of my favorite gravel roads I came across this really cool shelf fungus.
At least, I hope it's a shelf fungus. I know there are a lot of expert mycologists out there just waiting to correct me if it's not.

You Send Me

Did you know that return addresses are required on packages?
I was at the Unionville post office today mailing a package and was told that for security reasons they couldn't accept it unless I wrote my return address on it. Apparently this rule has been in place since after Sept. 11, 2001.
Here are the USPS rules:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"A (musical) comedy tonight"

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Chester County is presenting the witty operetta "Iolanthe; or the Peer and the Peri" at West Chester University Nov. 18 though 21. I first saw this group perform years ago at the Brandywine Valley Association, and they are so talented and so silly. Tickets are available at; ordering, the Society assures us, is "so easy, even a Peer could do it!"

Heads up

A dear friend of mine got a major haircut the other day. It looks great, but she realized that with all the missing volume, now her riding helmet is going to be too loose. She's going to have to stuff foam into it.

Country hours

I realized this weekend just how "country" I am when George Mutter, a well-traveled, cosmopolitan friend from Boston, was in Media to visit his folks. We arranged to meet for dinner, and he e-mailed me that he had made reservations for us at the Rose Tree Inn in Media.
For 8 p.m. Yikes!
By the time we finished our wonderful meal (a crusted tuna appetizer and amazing duck glazed with cherries), it was 10:30 p.m. and they were closing the restaurant. I didn't get home til after midnight.
Thank goodness for strong coffee, and for his riveting conversation about the discoveries his pathology lab  is making.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Here there be Dragoons

Revolutionary War re-enactors from the Fourth Continental Light Dragoons are going to be camping out at Primitive Hall Nov. 12 through 14, complete with tents and horses.
The camp will be open to the public from noon til 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13, and the re-enactors welcome curious civilians, both children and adults. At 1 p.m. they will be holding an authentic court-martial for one unfortunate soldier who got a little rowdy the previous evening. At 2 p.m. there will be a "Children's Muster," where the soldiers will teach kids how to drill using wooden muskets. Then at 3 p.m. "the infantry and cavalry will perform a joint drill to demonstrate how a combined legion of troops operated in the 18th century."
I've met several of these re-enactors, and they are fascinating and absolutely dedicated to historical authenticity. This is the third year in a row they have camped at the 18th-century Primitive Hall, which they love because it provides such an authentic backdrop.
Primitive Hall is on Route 841, between Route 926 and Route 842, near the village of Chatham (830 North Chatham Road). You can see photos of a previous encampment at and for more details on the Dragoons, visit

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Huan ying (Welcome!)

Xuan Yang, a visiting scholar from Wuhan, China, is bringing Chinese culture, language, art, games and music to the elementary school pupils in the Unionville-Chadds Ford district. Miss Yang spent the first six weeks of the school year at Unionville Elementary and is now at Hillendale Elementary. According to an e-mail from Hillendale's principal, Steve Dissinger, Miss Yang "is one of approximately 20 delegates sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Education who are spending the 2010-2011 school year visiting and teaching
in American public schools."

Things we do for love

A hapless young fellow appeared at a hearing last week asking West Marlborough to bend its zoning rules. He is getting married soon, he explained, and his fiancee wants to bring her two horses along when she moves in. But the township code requires one acre per horse, and he was proposing to keep two horses in a now-wooded area measuring only 3/4 of an acre. The board members, most of whom had long experience with livestock, gently explained to him why this was not a good idea: the animals would quickly eat all the grass that could be coaxed to grow, the bare pasture would erode and the dirt would run into a neighboring stream.
The landowner admitted that he knew little about horses and had never owned any.
"You're a lucky man," quipped one board member dryly, who knew how horses become a priority for their owners.
Friends in Newlin lost water for the better part of a day last week (some mechanical problem), and I was struck by how their sole concern was making sure their horses had enough water. Toilets, drinking water and showers for themselves? Completely secondary and unimportant issues.

Not just desserts

They're clever, those 4-H Creating Community Networks folks. They've scheduled their annual "Be a Sweetheart" fundraiser for a weekday night -- Tuesday, November 9, to be exact. I went last year and I'm going again. It pulls together a diverse group of folks, the desserts are excellent, there's a minimum of speeches -- and most importantly it raises money for really useful and creative youth programs. Instead of just writing a check to the general fund, you get to pick a project to "adopt"; last year I sponsored a journal-writing program for kids. The event is held at the Kennett Flash, which is always a fun venue. It's from 7 to 9 p.m. and tickets ($30) are available at the door.

Stink bug roundup

(1) People are coming up with some medieval-sounding concoctions to ward them off. I've heard of brews containing bleach, cayenne pepper (boiled in a coffee filter), WD-40 and Dawn dish soap.
(2) My little Oreck vacuum died. This past month it has done an absolute yeoman's duty of sucking up stink bugs, and I blame them for its demise; it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that I've had it since the millennium. When I bought a new one, the sales guy asked if I wanted some charcoal-lined odor-fighting bags. I said yes without even asking the price.
(3) I remarked to a visitor, with great relief, that the stink bug population seems to be lessening inside my house. He gave me a quizzical look and wordlessly pointed to a few crawling on the ceiling and the windowsills and the doorjamb. "But that's nothing," I said. What does he know? He lives in a tight, modern, non-Unionville house; to him, this was an infestation.

Lenape Park

Lenape Park (now the Brandywine Picnic Park) was a magical place when I was a kid in the 1960s. We'd go as a family, and while we were heading down Route 52 I remember straining to catch the first glimpse of the wooden roller coaster over the trees. I went on the roller coaster, only once, with my Dad, and was terrified. I much preferred the big swings and the way your stomach would drop at the top of the arc, and the wonderful carousel, where you really could grab a brass ring (if you were taller than me, that is). My favorite attraction, though, was the "Fun House," with its cackling monsters and freaky mirror and the trick slide that propelled you out at the end.
I'm not sure such a park exists anymore. Nothing was "monetized"; there weren't tie-ins with fast-food restaurants or TV or movie characters. You didn't get a discount if you brought a certain number of soda labels. The only music came from the carousel, punctuated by the screams of the roller-coaster riders.
And on the way home we'd stop at Baldwin's Book Barn. Back then they had glass jars of penny candy (and it really was penny candy), and each of us kids would leave with our own little brown bag of nonpareils, orange slices and multicolored sugar "dots" stuck to white paper.
There are some memory-inducing photos of Lenape Park at (thanks to Jim Dugan for the link).