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).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Artistic license

A clothing catalogue I received in the mail the other day cracked me up. On one page a wholesome-looking model stood in a well-tended vegetable garden proudly displaying a bunch of carrots. A purple pickup truck was visible behind her, just waiting for her to jump in and head to the local certified organic farmers' market.
Very stylish, certainly, but the sanitized scene bore little relation to the earthy joy of gardening as I know it.
The model's clothes looked more suited to a yoga studio. She wore sandals (dirty toe alert!) and a chiffon scarf with a tattoo-style pattern artfully knotted around her neck. There were no signs of gardening gloves or utensils. The "freshly harvested" carrots were scrubbed clean and perfectly uniform, a food stylist's dream. Even the vintage truck looked spotless.
In contrast, the circular I received from a Lancaster County store for Carhartt work clothes was a whole lot more realistic. The guy depicted wearing Carhartt overalls was holding some kind of a pipe valve, and he actually looked like a working plumber.

As it was

Thank you to Mary Larkin Dugan of Marlborough Village for sending along this link to a fascinating website about Unionville history, full of wonderful old photos and stories. Perhaps it will distract you from your work the way it did for me.

Northward Ho!

My kind neighbor invited me to the opening of "Chilling Reality" (, the fascinating new exhibit at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester. It tells the story of four adventurous county residents -- Isaac I. Hayes, Amos Bonsall, Samuel Entrikin, and Harry Whitney -- who traveled to the wilds of the Arctic in the 19th century. The exhibit runs through June. Don't miss seeing the spoon that Entrikin carried with him throughout his travels and the tiny dog that he carved.
My own trek northward took me to the plant sale at the Downingtown Friends Meeting Fall Festival. Why do Quakers seem to have such wonderful, unusual plant sales? This one was under the supervision of local plant expert David Culp (, who helped me select the Gentiana "True Blue" with the most buds. I also bought an Epimedium "Spine Tingler" (barrenwort) and a Gautheria procumbens (winter berry).

Thanks but no thanks

PennDOT made an offer to the Newlin Township supervisors that they found it easy to refuse.
PennDOT wanted to "give back" to the township the state roads Brandywine Drive and Green Valley Road and offered to pay the township $16,000 per year to pay for upkeep on the roads. The supervisors, however, said no deal: it would cost far more than that to maintain the roads.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Dark (Chocolate) Side

Have you ever noticed the large Easter bunny, made of twigs and vines, that sits year-round along Street Road (Route 926), just opposite Schoolhouse Road? It's now dressed up for Halloween as a Darth Vader bunny.


Sign on Concord Pike, in front of a restaurant or market: "Hunger issues? Consult our steakologist."


Maybe stink bugs are nature's way of making you realize that earwigs are actually kind of cute, with those graceful little pincers...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The simple life

The mansion built by bogus financial advisor Tony Young will be razed if the new owner, Richard Hayne, has his way.
Mr. Hayne's rep, David Ziel, told a West Marlborough township meeting that the house will be replaced by an indoor athletic complex, a timber-framed structure housing an indoor pool, a track, a yoga room and a boccie ball court.
Mr. Ziel said his boss, the billionaire founder of Urban Outfitters, plans to retire to the compound he has amassed near the village of Springdell and make cheese (a barn with cheese caves has been built off Hicks Road) and grow tomatoes and orchids (greenhouses and "potting sheds" are being installed on the former Young property). The artisanal cheese is already being sold at Mr. Hayne's Terrain store in Concordville.
Acres of lavender and sunflowers will be planted, and extensive renovations are being done to the former Thouron home, including the creation of a glass "orangerie" doubling as a dining room.
A small building on the property was renovated as a test project for the renovation crews, said Mr. Ziel; it will be a guest house.
At one point during his presentation Mr. Ziel, who is chief development officer for Urban Outfitters, mentioned the possibility of taking over Thouron Road, which runs through the estate, from the township and making it a private road.
"Forget it," said one audience member, firmly. Mr. Ziel quickly realized this was the prevailing sentiment in the room.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Orange and brown and red all over

Was it just last week that it was in the mid-80s and I was napping in the hammock? This morning my car thermometer read 49 and I've already unearthed my fleece pullovers and my slippers.
Thanks to Facebook, I've been getting autumnal updates from near and far. My friend Doug, a recent transplant from Camden, Maine, to Hawaii, says he finds the lack of seasonal change to be disturbing. Paul is taking his boat out of the water and heading home to Seattle after spending the summer photographing bears in Alaska. And George, on the south coast of England, wants to know just what these "stink bugs" are that all we Yankees seem to be complaining about.

As an aside

Sarah Bean, 15, won the International Junior Rider Championship in the British National Sidesaddle Show in Buckinghamshire, England, this summer.
As her mother, Mary-Anne Ost, MD, tells the story:
"I was thinking of the phrase, `it takes a village' because so many Unionville people have helped her on her quest. Sarah started riding sidesaddle five years ago when Anne Moss brought sidesaddles to a Cheshire Pony Club meeting and gave lessons to the members. Sarah was intrigued and wanted to have more lessons with Anne. Betsy DeMarino, VMD, had an old sidesaddle in her tackroom. She had found it in a dumpster while moving into a new barn. With some repairs, the Whippy fit Sarah's pony, Dixie Chick, perfectly. Joy Carrier was also very supportive with sidesaddles and equipment. In England, Sarah won a first prize for turnout, with an elegant brown habit borrowed from Patti Miller and boots and a black velvet helmet from Betty Lester."
In England Sarah and her mother stayed at Pittern Hill Stables in Kineton, Warwickshire, about 12 miles from Stratford-on-Avon, and Sarah took lessons from Roger Philpot, trainer of over 12 National sidesaddle champions in England. (He has also given many clinics in the United States, including at Vince Dugan's.)
During the three-day show, Sarah competed on Archie and placed in Equitation over fences, team jumping,and dressage, all ridden "aside."
"She met many wonderful people in England and made many new friends," said Dr. Ost, who is an avid sidesaddle and dressage competitor herself.
Well done, Sarah!

Oh, deer

An irritated hunter friend vented the other day about the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which is in charge of setting rules, bag limits and hunting seasons  As he sees it, the ability to decipher the commission's complex regulations is a testament to the intelligence of hunters.
This year's schedule here in Wildlife Management Unit 5C came in for particular criticism: "They closed the deer hunting season for the two weeks before Christmas. Usually that is a big harvest period in our area, the rut is still on and the nasty weather has not yet begun. Fools!"

Super super

I love running into Sharon Parker, the superintendent of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District. Not only is she smart, but she's also enthusiastic and cheerful, as if the event she is attending -- whether an elementary school open house or a cocktail party -- is absolutely the most fascinating event going on anywhere in the universe at that moment. What a good public "face" she is for the district!

Five-card stud

A friend from the gym was telling us about a fundraising poker tournament he attended recently at the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum in New York. One of the celebrities to be present was Australian singer, dancer and actor Hugh Jackman ("Wolverine" in the X-Men series). So when my friend got a call saying that "Hugh" was looking forward to meeting him at the tournament, he was more than a little flattered. Imagine his disappointment when it turned out that one of the fellows organizing the event was also named "Hugh."
My friend did get to meet talk-show host Montel Williams, though.
The tournament raised money for the Wall Street Warfighters Foundation, whose mission is "to identify, develop, and place disabled veterans in long-term professions in the financial services industry following their military service."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Job Well Done

I am sure the Unionville Community Fair has been ably covered elsewhere in these pages, so I will say only this: Thank you to everyone involved in this wonderful event. It must be a giant undertaking to organize such a multifacted, weather-dependent weekend, and everything was done just beautifully. Three hearty moos!