Saturday, December 31, 2011

Birdland


Here’s one for your birding life list!
On Dec. 30 my friends David and Connie Carter reported seeing a very rare albino pileated woodpecker near their home in Pocopson. 
Connie said: "The typical pileated woodpecker is a remarkable 16 – 19 inches high, has black and white feathers, and is the only woodpecker with a flaming red crest. In flight their large wings flash black and white." 
She said the albino pileated they saw on several occasions "is almost pure white, retaining the flaming red crest on the top of its head.  This is a different bird from the “extinct” Ivory-billed woodpecker found in the south."
"One birder from the West Chester Bird Club said he sat at Shaw’s bridge last year after one was seen last January for over 4 hours – excluding the time he went for coffee - and never saw it."

Connie was kind enough to share two photos of this remarkable bird.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Competition

For the past few years the Tally-ho family has played a post-Christmas dinner game called Greedy Santa (I've also heard it called Yankee Trader). Everybody buys and wraps five small inexpensive gifts; I stopped off at Staples and came home with packages of binder clips, rubber bands and sticky notes. All the gifts are piled into the center of the table, and the hostess sets the timer for an hour. The players go around the table rolling a pair of dice. When you get doubles, you get to take a present from the center, and you get to roll again. If you get snake eyes, you get two presents! (The presents stay wrapped until the end of the game.)
When all the presents have been taken, then the fun starts and people's cut-throat natures emerge. You continue rolling the dice, but you get to take presents from each other! A present with a particularly intriguing wrapping will get taken frequently. My sister-in-law kept taking one from me because it was wrapped in a tin she liked; of course, when I rolled doubles, I would immediately take it back from her.
A senior family member attempted to protect his stash of presents by hiding them on the floor; he was quickly found out and denounced and his wealth was systematically redistributed.
My sis-in-law adds a wrinkle to the traditional rules by requiring players who roll doubles to don a silly alligator hat.
At the end of the hour the presents are unwrapped. The large package that attracted such attention was a four-pack of toilet paper. I went home with two packs of (my own) binder clips, a bag of candy, a tin of cookies, a windshield broom and a tablet for writing grocery lists.

Suet

When I woke this morning there was a coating of snow on the ground, which reminded me that it's time to start putting out suet for the birds. I make my own; it's easy and fun, although in the end it's probably less expensive to just buy the pre-made squares.
Here's my recipe: Melt 1 cup of peanut butter and 1 cup of lard. Mix in 2 cups of quick oatmeal, 2 cups of cornmeal, 1 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of sugar. Pour it into whatever small individual plastic containers you have (I just re-use old suet containers) and freeze. It's easy to pop the suet cakes out of their containers and hang them on a tree; I have a little cage for the purpose.
These seem to be a special favorite of  woodpeckers, flickers and nuthatches.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fail

I heard a funny story at a most amusing Boxing Day brunch in Kennett Square. It seems some police officers had arrested a not-too-bright criminal and brought him into the station for questioning. They lifted up the lid of the photocopier, had him put his hand on the glass plate and told him the machine would light up every time he told a falsehood.
He promptly gave a full confession.

Turning of the table

This morning I was doing a postmortem review of the holiday season with a Unionville socialite, and we discussed the perennial plight of getting cornered by a frightful and garrulous bore at a party. How to escape? Of course, at a cocktail party you can look over the bore's shoulder with sudden interest and remark that a fresh plate of hors d'oeuvres is just that instant being brought in and you MUST have one. Or you can resort to the hoary empty glass ploy, saying you are parched and need a refill. 
But what about when the person sitting next to you at dinner is the relentless bore? This is not a new problem, and a few generations ago they even had an accepted way to solve it: it was called "turning the table."
According to Emily Post's 1929 etiquette book, the hostess "turns from the gentleman (on her left probably) with whom she has been talking through the soup and the fish course, to the one on her right. As she turns, the lady to whom the `right' gentleman has been talking turns to the gentleman further on, and in a moment everyone at table is talking to a new neighbor."

Directions

All of us Tally-hos love maps and are precise about directions -- a good thing, given that two family members are pilots. So perhaps it's not surprising that the only family dispute over Christmas was a geographical one: whether the new Bancroft Elementary School on Bancroft Road is north or south of the Route 1 bypass.
"North," said I. "It's right near New Bolton."
"South," disagreed my brother, "and it's nowhere near New Bolton! It's near the New Garden airport."
After a few increasingly heated exchanges my mother brought out her Chester County atlas and proved us both sort of right.
Yes, the school is south of the Route 1 bypass (what was I thinking? It's right at Pemberton Road!), but it's also near the New Bolton Center. My brother explained when he thinks of New Bolton he thinks of the entrance off Route 926 and didn't realize it stretches all the way down to Line Road. And as far as being near the airport, he was thinking as the crow, or a pilot, would approach the landing strip. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thinking outside the door

A local woman named K. M. Walton has written a contemporary young-adult novel called "Cracked" and has a creative way to promote it: a big sticker on her car door. I spotted it at the food store a few weeks ago and just got around to visiting her website.
"Cracked," which was released Jan. 3, is about a high-school boy who is the victim of bullying. Chester County Book & Music Company in the West Goshen Shopping Center is having a launch party for the book on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m. It's published by Simon Pulse, a division of Simon & Schuster.
Although "Cracked" is her first novel, K.M. also wrote "Teaching Numeracy: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking."

Coexisting

The Christmas spirit was everywhere this year. Foolishly, I waited until Friday to go food shopping at the Giant supermarket in New Garden, and of course the parking lot was jammed with people buying provisions for their feasts. But inside the crowded store, nobody seemed to be ornery or in a hurry; indeed, they seemed eager to smile and chat. It was a nice surprise.
The spirit of cooperation and good will continued at the Y. People who aren't used to using the track will often walk on the outside lanes, blocking those who are moving more quickly, or kids will walk two or three together, oblivious to anyone who wants to pass. But these minor irritants just didn't happen on Saturday, the day before Christmas. Parents were actually on hand supervising their kids and ordering them to stay on the inside lanes. Yes, two young women were walking side by side, but they were paying attention to the people around them and automatically changed to single file when a runner approached.
Wow! Wouldn't it be wonderful if such courtesy continued all year?

Great meal at the Greathouse

I've raved before about the Farmhouse, the nice restaurant at Loch Nairn Golf Club, but I'd never been to the Greathouse before, the other restaurant at the club. I'm glad to say that it's every bit as nice. Eight of us gathered there for a family day-before-Christmas luncheon. It was beautifully decorated, the food was wonderful and the service -- not just the delightful waitress, but everyone there -- was perfect: gracious and thoroughly professional.

When he made the reservation, my father arranged to have the bill charged to his credit card, outsmarting the other senior member of the party (who conceded defeat gracefully, not that he had much choice).
The Greathouse overlooks the golf course, which was busy on the sunny and not-too-chilly afternoon. Some of the golfers were even wearing Santa hats.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Year that Was

Some highlights of 2011, in no particular order:
1. Doe Run Farm creator/Urban Outfitters founder Dick Hayne showed up at a West Marlborough township meeting, even if (a) he didn't speak up and (b) it didn't concern one of his projects. Here's hoping that he attends more meetings rather than just sending his representatives as not-always-accurate mouthpieces.
2. I traded in my German sports car for a Honda mini-van. Lesson learned: Prestige means nothing in Unionville if you don't have decent ground clearance.
3. It was such a wet spring that we had to wait til the end of May to plant the garden, and then the beginning of the school year was postponed because of flooding. We had snow at the end of October, but the week later it was the warmest Pennsylvania Hunt Cup I can remember (the course had to be quickly reconfigured because of the mud).
4. There were a few stink bugs, but nothing like the horrible invasion of 2010.
5. My dear friend Paul turned 50, got married, bought a house in Seattle and won an international wildlife photography award (walruses in northern Norway, a bear catching salmon in Alaska). (I know, Paul visits Unionville maybe once a year, but readers seem to enjoy hearing about his adventures anyway. Go figure.)
6. The sign at Blow Horn was erased, prompting lots of media coverage and a peaceful Saturday-morning "Occupy Blow Horn" motorcade. I hadn't blown my horn at Blow Horn in years, but now I do, every single time.
7. The earth shook. I missed it because I was in my car.
8. Con man Tony Young finally got his comeuppance, and his mansion was razed.
9. The Whip Tavern and the ongoing litany of complaints by some of its Springdell neighbors led to a series of beyond-tedious township zoning hearings. As an audience member I got a lot of knitting done and earned my "Aging Whipster" T-shirt. As a taxpayer and as a Whip fan, I hope that the popular restaurant can figure out a way to solve its parking problems. As a planning commission member pointed out recently, the township has spent more than enough time and money -- taxpayers' money -- on this issue.

10. The Unionville Community Fair had a rodeo! Very exciting.
(Thanks to one of my best pals for helping me come up with this top-ten list over a quiet Boxing Day/End of Holiday dinner at Sovana Bistro!)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Scoop

"Beating Tilda" seems to be a new and popular sport at parties this season, and it's one that I love.
Here's what happens: A neighbor or friend grabs my elbow, marches me over to a quiet corner and breathlessly says in a confiding voice, "Have you heard ..."
If I have heard the news, we swap stories and details and compare the reliability of our sources (they vary widely).
But the REAL fun happens when, perchance, I haven't heard the news.
"YES!" exclaims my informant. One otherwise dignified social leader actually pumped her fist at this point. Another chanted, "I beat Tilda! I beat Tilda!"
Honestly, who needs that national magazine's "Most Interesting People of the Year" when you live in Unionville?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A certain lack of Ziel

There was a sense of unreality and frustration in the West Marlborough Township hall the evening of Dec. 13.
Richard Hayne, billionaire founder of Urban Outfitters, has applied for permission from the township for two activities at his sprawling Doe Run Farm in Springdell: (1) processing and wholesaling cheese and yogurt at his creamery and (2) processing and wholesaling vegetables at his greenhouse complex.
The hearings were held back to back and, to dot the legal i's and cross the legal t's, Mr. Hayne's representatives covered a great deal of the same ground, producing deja vu in the audience.
Unfortunately, there was also a strong sense of mistrust. Mr. Hayne has already been making cheese for many months now without permission from the township, selling it at his Terrain stores and local farmers' markets. Also, Mr. Hayne has never testified at any township hearing dealing with his property, leaving his representatives to -- presumably -- speak for him. But they are also the ones who famously once said that Mr. Hayne intended to make cheese for his own personal use only.
Also, David Ziel, the rep who was supposed to address most of the issues of interest to the township -- like truck traffic, wastewater management and such -- wasn't even at the hearing. Supervisors and audience members again and again asked exactly what would be going on in the creamery and the "processing shed," only to be told by Mr. Hayne's attorney that Mr. Ziel was the person who could address that. (He is supposed to appear at the continuation of the hearing on Thursday, Jan. 5.)
Springdell resident Joseph Huston told me after the meeting that he was reminded of the old Cheech & Chong comedy routine "Dave's not here!" It was the best line of the night.

Dental woes

This morning I was at the very busy Longwood Starbucks having coffee with a dear friend who is the office manager at a local dental office. I'm not sure what led to a discussion of popcorn -- our conversations are always global in their scope -- but she said it's the number-one cause of dental problems at her office over the holiday. Apparently crunching down on a piece of popcorn, much less an unpopped kernel, can wreak havoc with a tooth that's weakened or that already has a small fracture in it. And patients trying to get those pesky bits of shell out of their gums can actually push them down further, requiring dental tools for removal.

A safe bet

My old newspaper friend Kurt, now at the Oneida Daily Dispatch, wrote an editorial on Dec. 15 criticizing the local hospital for not releasing information to the paper about patients, even if they gave permission.
"Dollars to doughnuts," wrote Kurt, "this is a modern notion to avoid lawsuits."
What a delightful and underused phrase! I looked it up on Wikipedia and found out that it means "a faux bet in which one person agrees to put up the same amount of dollars to another person's donuts in a bet (where a donut is considered to be worth much less than a dollar). Betting someone dollars to donuts is a rhetorical device that indicates that the person is confident in the outcome of an event, but it does not usually involve an actual bet with actual payoffs (either in dollars or in donuts)."
I asked Kurt what the reaction to his piece was: "It's 4 pm and I haven't heard from the hospital yet, but dollars to doughnuts it's coming."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Warning!

A Unionville family had a very scary experience last week when one of their Labrador retrievers "went from normal to incessant seizures to comatose within a half-hour," said the owner. They rushed the poor creature to West Chester Emergency Animal Center, where the vet found a bag's worth of chewing gum in her stomach. It seems that the xylitol sweetener used in some types of gum is toxic to dogs.
"It was a VERY close call and she really was on death's doorstep," reports the owner. Fortunately, the Lab seems to be on the mend and was released in a few days.
Now the owner wants to spread the word that gum with xylitol sweetener should be kept away from dogs: "Glad she is a hefty sort (80 lb) or she would have been done. Two sticks of gum can kill a 20-lb dog."

House tour

Every year I look forward to being a hostess on the Kennett Square Candlelight Home Tour. The borough's Historical Commission always does a great job lining up a variety of houses and taking care of all the details, everything from publishing the brochure to lighting the luminarias. I even heard a compliment about the tasteful gold wristbands!
We lucked out this year in terms of the weather, as the past few years had been wet and dreary. I was stationed at a charming and beautifully decorated Victorian house. As hostess my duties include opening the door (brrrr), greeting people (my favorite part of the job), answering questions (some on the nosy side) and directing traffic flow through the house. This year I also had to keep the fires stoked; the owner had thoughtfully piled plenty of logs next to each fireplace.
One of my co-hostesses looked stunning as always but was under the weather with a sinus infection. At one point, with about an hour still to go, I suggested that she head home early to bed.
Absolutely not, she said, unwrapping another cough drop.
Then I remembered: oh, right, she's a foxhunter! No way is she letting some wimpy, penny-ante, non-life-threatening ailment get the better of her.

Meals on foot

For the past 14 years the neighbors on Huntsman Lane in East Marlborough have celebrated an excellent holiday tradition: one family offers appetizers, another entrees, and so forth, and the residents walk from house to house, getting a little exercise in between courses. I'm told that both the food and the conversation at this year's "dine-around" were terrific.
I happened to drive down the cul-de-sac one recent evening and I have to say, these homeowners do a splendid job with their holiday lights and decorations. I love those little bright blue lights that seem to be so popular these days.

Newlin update

Newlin Township has a really nice-looking new website, www.newlintownship.org, designed by township secretary Gail Abel. On it you can find information about Newlin's history, government, officials, ordinances, committees, and meetings. Minutes from supervisors' meetings will start to be posted online in 2012.
According to the website, Newlin, which became a township in 1840, comprises 7,700 acres, 3,900 of which are protected from development (including the beautiful ChesLen preserve off Route 162 north of Unionville). There are 1,285 township residents, with a median age of 41.9. Of the 20 miles of roads maintained by the township's road crew, 7 are unpaved.
"The Township owns 16 acres of land where the Township Maintenance Garage is located at 1751 Embreeville Road (Rt. 162). The Garage is where Township residents vote. Future plans are to renovate the house which is on the property to make it suitable for meetings, an office and fireproof record storage."

In a recent "Newlin News" newsletter, Board of Supervisors Chair Janie Baird thanked Ms. Abel for her work on the website and also township resident Wayne Bullaughey "for his help both past and future" with the website, and for his local photographs on the site.

Blow Horn update

I wish I had known this before Christmas, but artist and photographer Lee Schlingmann just told me that her note cards and prints of the pre-October Blow Horn corner (that is, before the "Blow Horn" sign was erased) are on sale at Tender Touch Gifts, the shop next to Triple Fresh in Ercildoun.
Also, I couldn't help but think of the Blow Horn controversy when I came across this verse in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: "Cursed is he that removeth his neighbour's landmark."

My true love gave to me

Our demon-in-human-form instructor at the Y celebrates Christmas each year by wearing a series of increasingly outlandish hats to class, bringing in little treat bags of healthy snacks for us, and making us do an appalling series of exercises using the "Twelve Days of Christmas" structure. For instance, you start with one pushup; then you do two shoulder presses and one pushup; then three chest presses, two shoulder presses and one pushup ... and up to twelve burpees (squat-thrusts), eleven medicine-ball slams, etc. It takes a full half-hour. For the lower-body version we alternated 12 reps of an exercise (squats against an exercise ball, say) with lunges back and forth across the room while holding 12-pound hand weights (note the elegant echo of the "12" motif).
She told us the sum total of exercises and reps involved but I blocked it out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Every four years

A woman and her little boy, John, were sitting next to me in a waiting room this morning. The mom told me that although John was 4 years old, he hadn't had his first official birthday party yet because he was born in a Leap Year. She said that a woman she knows, another Feb. 29 baby, was treated to a Sweet 16 birthday by her daughters -- on her 64th birthday.

Monday, December 19, 2011

On the cover

The cover art on the Dec. 12 issue of "The Chronicle of the Horse" is by Unionville artist and horsewoman Susan Tuckerman. Her artwork, "On Course," shows Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM ("Reggie") competing at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

Grounded

I was at my favorite shipping store today mailing Christmas presents. Not surprisingly for Dec. 19, the place was swamped, with boxes and mailing bags stacked everywhere ready for the UPS and FedEx pickup.
The two young clerks seemed remarkably calm and poised, even though they were both downing large cans of Red Bull, the caffeine-packed "energy drink." When I remarked on their choice of beverage, my clerk read aloud the wording on the back of the can: "Improves performance, especially during times of stress." He said the drink seems to help when he's confronted with difficult customers, and indeed he was very patient with the demanding fellow in front of me. 

Shopping

What a delightful little open house/craft sale at Inverbrook Farm in West Marlborough on Saturday! Claire Murray invited several local artisans and vendors to the Lofting family farm; there were cheeses by Talula's Table, jewelry by Whitney Marsden, adorable hand-made bags and aprons by Bessie, "inspired orchids" by Chansonette, herb rubs by Happy Cat Organics, stoneware by Lyla Kaplan, beeswax candles and even rain barrels. The dining room was full of wonderful quiches, ham, latkes and desserts.

I bought some fancy salami and cheeses for my sister and her family, and a sweet little toiletries bag for my teenage niece. I used a credit card to pay and the woman from Bessie's used her smart phone to swipe it (she had to stand by the window to get a signal). Instead of a receipt I received a text message while I was still standing there: very cool!

Food by Trader Joe's

I've been to two Christmas parties this month where most of the food has come from Trader Joe's. As a frequent party-goer, this is a trend I definitely like. Not only is it much less work for the hosts, but it's also delicious: on Friday night the buffet spread included those yummy little hot dogs wrapped in pastry and chicken satay on skewers as appetizers, and then baked ham for dinner.
At a party postmortem this hostess told me that her guests stayed much later than usual: more than coincidence?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Right and fitting

I spent a fascinating morning at my friend Susan's barn with Keith, the local rep from StΓΌbben saddles. We got a master class in saddle fitting. Using a stripped-down saddle as a model (with only the tree and webbing and brass stirrup bars), he explained to us how a saddle serves as the interface between two complicated three-dimensional objects in motion: the horse and the rider.
Then he analyzed how Susan's saddles fit her horse and her husband's horse and gave advice on how the fit could be improved (some additional padding). She took copious notes on a yellow legal pad.
To our surprise, we learned that a bigger horse (say, her husband's 17-hand, 2-inch horse Diesel) does not necessarily take a bigger saddle -- Keith said this is a common misunderstanding. Rather, the fit depends on how the horse's anatomy is put together, in addition to the rider's body mechanics. He showed how an improperly fitting saddle can force the rider's legs into an incorrect position, and said that fit problems might be responsible for her horse's tendency to buck while going downhill, and even for her husband's back soreness after a long day in the hunt field.
Keith brought a truck full of beautiful brand-new saddles, with supple full-grain leather and precise stitching. Real craftsmanship.

Just say no

Just in time for New Year's Eve dates: At a party last night a twenty-something friend -- smart, pretty, lively and a martial-arts fan -- was telling us about her romantic woes. She gets a lot of attention from thoroughly unsuitable young men, many of whom have difficulty taking "no" for an answer, even when it's given frequently and in no uncertain terms.
When one of these persistent suitors begs for her phone number, she has started giving out the number for the "Rejection Hotline." It looks like a legitimate number, complete with a local area code, but when you call you get a message saying that you're out of luck. Desperate times....

Friday, December 16, 2011

Input

About 50 residents -- a full house -- gathered at the West Marlborough township building on Dec. 15 for a wide-ranging discussion about the zoning process, a proposal for the township to take over responsibility for state roads, and the proposed earned income tax that would help to fund it.
First, township solicitor Dwight Yoder and engineer Al Giannantonio gave a concise and well-organized summary of the local zoning process, as well as common pitfalls and misunderstandings (for instance, a "special exception" to a zoning ordinance is actually neither. "A terrible term," said Mr. Yoder). For a while there I felt like I was back in my State & Local Government class in college, minus Professor Entman's Marxist spin. The supervisors said they wanted to educate the public about the zoning process because an increasing number of zoning issues had arisen in the township.
Residents asked several questions about who enforces the ordinances and how landowners can prove that a nonconforming use has been ongoing on their properties.
Then traffic engineer Al Federico outlined the state roads that the township is thinking about taking back, such as Route 842, Route 841 and part of Springdell Road, parts of Newark Road and Route 82. He analyzed the costs that the township would have to bear (for instance, maintenance and snow removal) in return for gaining more control over the road in terms of speed limits and traffic restrictions.
One thing I learned is that taking back a road excludes the bridges, which PennDOT would still control.
Residents raised numerous objections and alternatives to the road turnback proposal:
  • Would the township face additional legal liability?
  • How much more equipment and personnel would be needed to maintain the roads, and could the township building accommodate it?
  • Would having the township control the roads actually make a difference in terms of reducing traffic?
  • Could the "traffic-calming" strategies actually backfire?
  • Do all the roads need to be "taken back" at a time, or might it be better to experiment with only one at first?
  • Would the money be better spent on more traffic enforcement, perhaps expanding police coverage?
By this time it was after 9 p.m., so the discussion of the proposed earned income tax consisted of only a brief explanation by the supervisors' chairman, Bill Wylie. I had expected this to be the "hot" part of the meeting, but I guess everyone just wanted to get home.
One exciting side note: Doe Run Farm owner Dick Hayne was at the meeting, to my knowledge the first one he has EVER attended. He stood in the back corner by the road grader and said nothing. At the end of the meeting he came up front, introduced himself to the supervisors and then left. I can understand wanting to operate behind the scenes, but why on earth didn't he do that a long time ago?

Is it a barn?

There's a two-story structure being built on Wilson Road in West Marlborough, and a few neighbors told the township supervisors they suspect it may be a garage with an apartment upstairs, rather than the barn that the owner has permission to build. 
At the December meeting, township engineer Al Giannantonio of Yerkes Associates reported that he inspected the structure and said the second floor contained nothing but electrical outlets. However, he did see some piping in place even though the owner did not have approval for a septic system. He planned to follow up with the owner.
The township supervisors (Bill Wylie, Mike Ledyard and Hugh Lofting) said they are considering having people who apply to build agricultural buildings, which are less stringently regulated than houses, sign a document spelling out exactly what does and does not qualify as an agricultural building. A proactive township resident sent them several samples of such a document.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Paybacks

According to U.S. District Court documents finalized November 28, Neely Young, convicted con man Tony Young's wife, has admitted that "between late 1999 and April 17, 2009, she received or benefited from fraudulent transfers ... totaling at least $26,964,594" and acknowledged she is liable for $20,423,511.88 that wasn't recovered from the sale of the Youngs' houses (Maine, Palm Beach and here in West Marlborough), cars and personal property. (She'd owe one more dollar if I hadn't snapped up a Waterford vase at the auction. You're welcome, Mrs. Young.)
Tony is serving a 210-month sentence in a Georgia penitentiary. Last we had heard, Mrs. Young and the couple's two children were living in Florida.

Another path

Thanks to my reader Sally for sharing her "scenic route" from Unionville to Wegman's east of Downingtown!
"From center of Unionville, take 842 east about 2 1/2 miles to Indian Hannah Road on left. Indian Hannah Road to Northbrook Road and turn right. Northbrook Road to center of Marshallton (at 4 Dogs), left on Sugarsbridge Road to light at 322. Turn right, cross Brandywine, and make immediate left on Skelp Level Road.  Go one mile to crossroad and turn right onto Harmony Hill Road. Follow Harmony Hill about a half mile to Valley Creek Road. Turn left onto Valley Creek and follow it to light at Boot Road (stream on right and geology on left, plus dark railroad tunnel).Continue through light (Quarry Road) to shopping centre on left. Regal Theatre and Wegmans.Whole trip is 10 miles with little traffic. We live in a very beautiful country in Unionville!"
Amen to that, Sally. We certainly do!
And here's my pal Rob's advice:
"Another shortcut option that I use regularly: Route 162 East, turn left on Stargazers Rd, then left on Strasburg and immediately right on Shadyside. Take Shadyside to 322 and make a left. Make a right on Boot, Left on Quarry. The main bonus is that I can stop in Embreeville on the way there and see if the grandparents or Mom need anything while I'm there."  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Always and forever

I was filling out a customs form at the Unionville post office yesterday (mailing cookies to England) when a woman asked what exactly a "forever" stamp was and whether she would need to supplement it when the price of stamps goes up by one cent starting January 22, 2012.
Seemed like the obvious answer was "no," but I decided to do some research anyway.
According to stamps.com, a forever stamp is exactly that: "Forever Stamps were created by the United States Postal Service® (USPS®) in 2007. They are non-denominational First Class® postage, which means that they can be used to mail First Class letters no matter what the postal rate."
Useful? Certainly. But:
"There are a few drawbacks associated with Forever Stamps. First is that although they may be used to send mail to international addresses, customers must calculate the difference between the current First Class rate and the international rate and affix additional postage to ensure delivery. Similarly, if a piece of domestic mail weighs more than one ounce, additional postage must be used. In both of these situations, customers all too frequently find themselves affixing multiple Forever Stamps to their envelopes, overpaying to send their heavy or international mail for lack of exact postage."

A certain lack of Ziel

There was a sense of unreality and frustration in the West Marlborough Township hall the evening of Dec. 13.
Richard Hayne, billionaire founder of Urban Outfitters, has applied for permission from the township for two activities at his sprawling Doe Run Farm in Springdell: (1) processing and wholesaling cheese and yogurt at his creamery and (2) processing and wholesaling vegetables at his greenhouse complex.
The hearings were held back to back and, to dot the legal i's and cross the legal t's, Mr. Hayne's representatives covered a great deal of the same ground, producing deja vu in the audience.
Unfortunately, there was also a strong sense of mistrust. Mr. Hayne has already been making cheese for many months now without permission from the township, selling it at his Terrain stores and local farmers' markets. Also, Mr. Hayne has never testified at any township hearing dealing with his property, leaving his representatives to -- presumably -- speak for him. But they are also the ones who famously once said that Mr. Hayne intended to make cheese for his own personal use only.
Also, David Ziel, the rep who was supposed to address most of the issues of interest to the township -- like truck traffic, wastewater management and such -- wasn't even at the hearing. Supervisors and audience members again and again asked exactly what would be going on in the creamery and the "processing shed," only to be told by Mr. Hayne's attorney that Mr. Ziel was the person who could address that. (He is supposed to appear at the continuation of the hearing on Jan. 5.)
Springdell resident Joseph Huston told me after the meeting that he was reminded of the old Cheech & Chong comedy routine "Dave's not here!" It was the best line of the night.
In other Doe Run Farm news: Mr. Hayne is building an indoor pool and squash court on the site where Tony Young's mansion used to be. He is also converting the existing clay tennis court into a grass one -- not necessarily because he prefers playing on that surface, but for storm-water management purposes: clay is considered to be an "impervious surface," and he is allowed to have only so much paving on the property.
Also, you might remember that at the November township supervisors' meeting a resident pointed out that Mr. Hayne's new corn crib was too close to Hicks Road. Township engineer Al Giannantonio of Yerkes Associates reported that he looked into the matter and found that not only was it in the road right-of-way, it was also built in a flood plain, which isn't allowed. Mr. Hayne's rep told him it would be moved.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And on earth peace, good will toward men

For me, the biggest challenge of the Christmas season is trying to make bright conversation while balancing a little plate of hors d'oeuvres and a wine glass without dropping them. I usually end up both spilling something AND putting my foot in my mouth.
But for a lot of people the general merriment of December is doubly hard. Perhaps they're facing a health challenge, or they've recently lost a loved one (human or animal), and they feel isolated from the rest of us who are rushing around happily buying gifts and devouring shrimp and mini-quiches.
Think about it. I'll bet you know somebody who's sick, or grieving, or going through another kind of rough time. Don't forget about him or her this Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Movin' on down

Well, you may have gathered that I bought a new car, trading in my posh-but-getting-to-be-troublesome German sports car for a brand-new Honda mini-van just in time for the winter.
Friends' reactions ran the gamut from utter dismay to disbelief, but I love it.
Just two days after I bought it, I was at a Christmas party and pointed it out proudly to a friend. It turns out that she, too, had just "traded down," replacing her Audi with a Toyota. We laughed about how we were both so happy that we'd gone the practical and dependable and non-prestige route. (I also got a big break on my insurance premium, and even a refund!)
My new car also boasts satellite radio, a sunglasses-holder and a roomy, deep beverage holder that securely holds a drink from Starbucks or a pint of Baily's chocolate milk (in comparison, the old car's beverage holder seems downright flimsy). Stop laughing: it's important!
The odometer rolled over to 100 on the way to breakfast at Perkins; to 200 on the way home from the Jennersville Y; and to 300 on Strasburg Road while going Christmas shopping in West Chester. And its inaugural fill-up was at the Willowdale Landhope.
I bought the car from a dealership only half-an-hour away, but I could tell they didn't get many country customers. I  got some really weird looks when I said I needed more ground clearance because I drive on unpaved roads every day and often park in pastures.
A neighbor told me she once had to assure a salesman that, yes, she really did want to buy a pickup. "But ladies don't drive trucks," he told her. And another friend said her salesman tried to talk her out of getting a brown car: "Nobody wants brown," he insisted.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Remembering the past

I first visited the Chester County Historical Society when I was in the fourth grade, writing a report on Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in Chester County. I loved poring through the archives -- the fancy, sometimes-illegible handwriting, the yellowing paper, the knowledge that these old letters, newspapers and ledgers were around at the very same time the Underground Railroad was operating.
I had the same experience this past weekend when I was doing some photographic research at the Society's library. The wonderfully helpful librarian, Pam Powell, had pulled out some files for me to look through, and I donned my special white gloves and spent a few hours sorting through fascinating photos of life in Kennett and Unionville in the 19th and early 20th century. A cinema marquee in Kennett advertised a D.W. Griffith spectacular: "Exciting Night!" A group of  folks posed on the front steps of Pyle's dry goods store in Willowdale, one man with a crutch next to him. A gas station in the middle of Unionville boasted three old-fashioned pumps with "White Flash" fuel.
And there were some fox-hunting photos that could have been shot at last Saturday's meet, except for the ladies in skirts riding side-saddle.

Ticks

Yesterday afternoon I was over at a friend's house in Cochranville, admiring her new skylights, when her husband returned from an afternoon of buck hunting. He flopped down in the mudroom, unlaced his boots and started removing his many layers of camo and orange.
"Don't forget to check for ticks," she reminded him.
I thought ticks were a summer problem only, but apparently not: he said he has found deer ticks well into the winter. After all, he's out there in the woods and brush, right where the deer live.

Carol sings

You can get back to the basics of Christmas with carol sings at two historic Quaker meetinghouses: at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, at Marlborough Meeting (the corner of Marlboro and Marlboro Springs Roads in East Marlborough) and at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 19, at the old West Grove Meeting House (not the one in the middle of West Grove), 605 State Rd.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Deflation

There's a big blow-up Santa on the front lawn of a Unionville village house that for some reason was grossly under-inflated the other morning when I stopped by the post office. Santa was lying face-down on the grass, and the wind was making his arms pound on the ground, just like a toddler having a tantrum at the supermarket.

Sinus infection

This lingering sinus infection that's going around is sending even committed physician-phobes into the clinic. It features a sore throat, a cough and unpleasant sinus congestion, and from my experience and that of my friends, it doesn't get better on its own without antibiotics.
After days of symptoms and actually missing a day at the gym -- the last straw! -- I finally called my doctor's office on a Friday. I described my symptoms and apologetically asked if they thought I should wait til Monday to come in.
"Why would you want to do that?" the kind nurse said, giving me an appointment for that very morning.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting to Wegman's

Two readers replied to my plea last week for an efficient route from Unionville to the Wegman's supermarket east of Downingtown:
From Steve:
"842 to Northbrook Road, hit 162 at Marshallton for a couple hundred yards, then Sugars Bridge Road to 322. Right before the narrow low bridge entering Downingtown, turn right (at the Wawa) on Boot Road....then a left at a light at Quarry Road. You can dead end at 30 or enter the shopping center at the movie theater. The fastest and most scenic I think."
From an anonymous reader:
"This Wegman's fan starts out as Steve directed above, except turning right onto 322, going over the open grate bridge, then making a left onto Skelp Level Road. Then you turn right onto Boot Road & continue as above. Only cuts off that corner where the Wawa is, but it feels pretty quick to me!"
An alternative, of course, might be to build a Wegman's closer to Unionville. Just sayin'! 

Shop local

In this year's thank-you gift basket that the Cheshire Hunt delivered to landowners: blue mugs with the hunt's name in orange; a jar of Swarmbustin' honey from Walt Broughton of West Marlborough; a selection of teas from Mrs. Robinson's Tea Shop in Kennett; and granola bars from Dough Run (love that name!) in Unionville.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Family dinner

Just got home from a family dinner at the Texas Roadhouse on Route 1 in Glen Mills to celebrate the truly amazing pace that a certain father-son pair set in the 5K Stride run on Sunday. The Roadhouse is the favorite choice of the younger member of this duo, who always orders the 8-oz sirloin (and usually manages to finish it, if he doesn't sneak too many preprandial rolls, that is). The place was hopping, as usual, even on a Monday night.
As we finished and were boxing up our bones to take home for the dog, a manager came up, introduced herself and asked about our dinner. We told her the service was quick and accurate and the meat was cooked just as ordered. I was impressed: how often do you get a visit from the manager at any busy restaurant, much less a chain steakhouse?
We will definitely go back.

Another tale from the Island of Unionville

At the post office today I saw a petite woman from behind and greeted her: "Hi, Babette!"
It wasn't Babette.
"I'm Sue," she corrected me. "But Babette's a nice person, so I don't mind."

Under construction

The newest project at Doe Run Farm, the West Marlborough compound being developed by Urban Outfitters founder Richard Hayne, is an indoor pool and squash court on the site where Tony Young's mansion used to be.
Mr. Hayne is also converting the existing clay tennis court into a grass one -- not necessarily because he prefers playing on that surface, but for storm-water management purposes: clay is considered to be an "impervious surface," and he is allowed to have only so much paving on the property.
In other Hayne news, you might remember that at the November township supervisors' meeting a resident pointed out that Mr. Hayne's new corn crib was too close to Hicks Road. At the December meeting, township engineer Al Giannantonio of Yerkes Associates reported that he looked into the matter and found that not only was it in the road right-of-way, it was also built in a flood plain, which isn't allowed. Mr. Hayne's rep told him it would be moved.
Mr. Giannantonio said he also inspected a structure being built on Wilson Road after residents told the supervisors that it appeared to be a garage with an apartment above, rather than the barn the owner had said he was building. He said the second floor contained nothing but electrical outlets, but he did see some piping in place even though the owner did not have approval for a septic system. He planned to follow up with the owner.
The township supervisors (Bill Wylie, Mike Ledyard and Hugh Lofting) said they are considering having people who apply to build agricultural buildings, which are less stringently regulated than houses, sign a document spelling out exactly what does and does not qualify as an agricultural building. A proactive township resident sent them several samples of such a document.

Whip zoning

It doesn't look like the Whip's proposed zoning changes for Springdell are going to pass. At its Dec. 6 meeting the West Marlborough Township Planning Commission recommended that the township supervisors NOT approve the changes, which the Whip's attorney suggested would help the popular tavern solve the parking problems that have plagued both customers and village residents.
However, the planners expressed frustration with the ongoing problems and the time and expense the township (that is, the taxpayers) has incurred in dealing with them, and urged all the parties to reach a solution.
Planning Commission Chairman Josh Taylor was also upset about the anonymous flyers that have been circulated around the township criticizing the proposed zoning changes, calling them "incorrect" and "propaganda."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Paybacks

According to U.S. District Court documents finalized November 28, Neely Young, con man Tony Young's wife, has admitted that "between late 1999 and April 17, 2009, she received or benefited from fraudulent transfers ... totaling at least $26,964,594" and acknowledged she is liable for $20,423,511.88 that wasn't recovered from the sale of the Youngs' houses (Maine, Palm Beach and here in West Marlborough), cars and personal property. (She'd owe one more dollar if I hadn't snapped up a Waterford vase at the auction. You're welcome, Mrs. Young.)
Tony is serving a 210-month sentence in a Georgia penitentiary. Last we had heard, Mrs. Young and the couple's two children were living in Florida.

Monday, December 5, 2011

But Siriusly, folks

For years I've read about satellite radio, but until a few days ago I had never actually experienced it in my car. I have a three-month trial of Sirius XM and I have to say, it's pretty amazing. I briefly wondered how I would manage the 200-some channels. There's a channel for just about everything: professional golf and every other sport you can imagine, traffic reports from around the country, reggae, Broadway, heavy metal, gospel, country music, Sinatra, Elvis, hip-hop, club music, Punjabi music, talk radio from all over the political spectrum, BBC news. (No Unionville news channel, though!)
I very quickly realized that whole categories were of no interest to me, but the channels I do like are very good indeed (yes, you can probably guess which ones) and I programmed them in instantly.
A consumer word to the wise: I  understand that if you let your trial subscription expire, the company will significantly lower its monthly price to lure you back.

Waders

Longwood Garden's continuing education catalog for 2012 contains the most enticing sentence I've read in a long time: "You will have the rare opportunity for one hour to get into the world-famous water lily pools for a frog's-eye view of this spectacular display," reads the description of a photography workshop.
Wow! Who hasn't wanted to do exactly that on a hot summer's day?

Feed the birds

A West Marlborough neighbor wonders what she's doing wrong: she put out her bird feeders but isn't getting any birds. That has happened to me before, and you just have to be patient. Sometimes it takes a while for the birds to show up.
That certainly wasn't the case for me this autumn, though. A blue jay was at one of my feeders within minutes of my filling it up for the first time a few weekends ago. And lots of chickadees and nut hatches have been visiting. They're even brave enough to harass the squirrels!
It's been so warm that I haven't made any suet cakes yet. As I'm writing this, I just got back from a lovely half-hour walk over to a neighbor's house to drop off a misdelivered letter. It's in the 60s, and I'm having a hard time believing that in a few hours I'll be getting ready for a Christmas cocktail party.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Found!

Happy news from a gym friend in West Grove: the family lizard, Perry, who had been missing for over two months, was found alive and well, out back by the playset. "Survived the snow!" she notes with disbelief. Perry is back in his cage after his adventure.
According to last week's paper, Kennett borough is considering enacting an ordinance banning exotic pets, but I think Perry, despite his wanderlust, would be exempt because he isn't venomous and poses no threat to humans.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Getting there

If there's a (1) direct and (2) pleasant route from Unionville to the Wegman's supermarket outside the borough of Downingtown, I wish somebody would tell me about it. Route 30 through Coatesville, Thorndale and Downingtown is certainly direct and interesting, but it has too many traffic lights. Strasburg Road is a fine east-west road and easy to get to, but there's no direct connection up to Downingtown; the best route would seem to be Marshallton-Thorndale Road (which gets you to Route 30) or Shadyside Road (which gets you to Route 322, near the Harmony Hill/Gibson's covered bridge). I've heard that Sugarsbridge Road north from Marshallton is another good connection between Strasburg Road and Route 322; next time I'm going to try that.

And yes, this was actually a topic of animated and heartfelt conversation at a recent brunch I attended. Welcome to the world of Wegman's fans.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Township meeting

If you live in West Marlborough, clear your calendar for the evening of Thursday, Dec. 15. The township supervisors are holding a special meeting at 7 p.m. at the township hall to discuss "1) the required permitting process for all work done in the Township and 2) whether to apply to PennDOT to request the turn-back of maintenance responsibility for a number of roads in the Township currently maintained by the State."
In recent months, both have been the subject of animated discussion not only at township meetings but basically anywhere and anytime that township residents run into each other. This should be an interesting meeting.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The pause that refreshes

Out of the blue I got a letter from a saleswoman I've dealt with in the past, informing me that she moved to a new job. I caught up with her, and she explained that two years ago, she had gotten laid off from the job she'd had for nearly 20 years. She was shocked and decided to take a hiatus and regroup. She thought she could swing it financially: she's single, lives frugally, has her house in West Chester almost paid off and had some savings socked away, in addition to unemployment checks.
So she spent a year reading, going on day trips, doing yoga, getting involved in neighborhood and municipal groups and helping out her friends and neighbors with errands and projects. By the end of the year she had her balance back and was ready to return to the working world. She got hired immediately by a former coworker and seems very happy where she is, personally and professionally.

A heated discussion

If you have car seat warmers, I don't need to tell you how wonderful they feel on a frosty morning, or after a tough lower-body workout. You get used to them very quickly.
My brother is normally a rugged and low-maintenance man of few words, so it was a bit startling the other day to hear him grumbling that the seat warmers in his Ford truck (King Ranch model) have only two settings: off, and "rump roaster."
"At least you can adjust yours," he said to me, peevishly.
Our mother quickly played her trump card, though, pointing out that HER car has not only heated seats .... but also a heated steering wheel.

One L or two?

Is the quaint village in West Bradford spelled Marshallton or Marshalton?
"Marshallton is correct," states a history-buff friend of mine who lives there. The town was named after Humphry Marshall, a Quaker botanist who was born there in 1722. He also lends his name to Marshall Square Park in West Chester.

Speaking of names, Blow Horn lives! Even though the sign on the old mill at Routes 82 and 841 was erased back in October, casting a pall of local gloom, someone with a sense of humor posted a "Blow Horn 5 miles" sign along Route 82 in Unionville. And we continue to use it as a landmark: it was mentioned in two recent e-mails from the Cheshire Hunt Conservancy giving directions to fox-hunting fixtures.

Matchmaker

Congratulations to Liz and Bob Burns of Kennett Square, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. As part of the festivities they visited Sister Eleanor Echardt, the woman who introduced them while Liz was a student at Immaculata University (then College).
Explains Liz: "I needed a date and she had a cousin with his own tux! Wanted to dump him but he never stopped talking long enough for me to get a word in to do the deed." 

"Dogs soon learn to count"

Caroline Rance, a Londoner who writes the blog "The Quack Doctor," rediscovered her copy of Horses, Dogs, Birds, Cattle. Accidents and Ailments. First Aid, published in 1906 by the makers of Elliman's Embrocation (no, drug marketing is NOT a recent invention). "Rather than posing as a general veterinary work and sneaking in adverts for the products, the book is openly about Elliman’s Embrocation and it’s no surprise that the product is recommended as a treatment for most things," writes Ms. Rance.
Here is some of the advice the book offers for giving medicine to dogs:
"The majority of persons who keep dogs seldom or never give a dose of medicine to them, and it is often difficult to do so. When medicine can be conveyed in food or drink, it is, of course, the easiest plan of administering it. The dog should not see the prepared food, neither should the first morsel contain it. The suspicious pet should taste the appetising morsel and find that it is all right, and take the medicament in a subsequent one. Dogs soon learn to count, and the programme should be varied each time."

Picks

Once you've played fantasy football, your brain is permanently altered. I'm not even a team owner this year, but I still can't watch football without keeping an eye on the statistics crawler at the bottom of the screen. Without even meaning to do so, I notice myself calculating how many points Reggie Bush or Tony Romo would've racked up for their fantasy owners.
"Whoa, 307 yards, sweet!"

Parking in Kennett

I don't know about you, but I've always been confused about downtown Kennett's parking rules, especially since I heard that new regulations are in place for the Christmas holiday. So I went straight to the source, and here's the answer I got:
"From Nov. 25 to Dec. 25 parking in the metered spaces in the parking garage is free for three hours. All metered parking is always free after 5 p.m. and on Sundays. And parking in the garage and in the surface lots is always free on Saturdays as well."
OK. Got it now!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Deer season

Today was the first day of deer season. Time to pull out the blaze orange vest from my coat closet whenever I venture outdoors! This morning I heard shots from up the road, more like distant explosions, two at a time. I saw a lot of hunters' pickups off the side of the road, and lone men wearing blaze orange and camouflage walking along the edge of the woods. The fox hunters, wisely, take a hiatus during the first few days of the season.
My childhood friend Karen, now a college professor near Wilkes-Barre, had the day off from teaching on Monday, as did many students in more rural areas. She recalls: "When I moved to Milton in central PA to teach many, many years ago, I asked why we got the Monday and Tuesday after Thanksgiving off. I was told because it was the first two days of buck season and was asked, didn't I get them off where I went to school? I explained I grew up in suburban Philadelphia, where the only thing I hunted was a bargain at the mall."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Talkin' turkey

I hope you had as glorious a Thanksgiving as the Tally-hos did. Random reports:
1. A high-school pal who is on a round-the-world amble with his wife and teenage daughter celebrated the holiday in Istanbul. "We didn't plan on the Thanksgiving/Turkey connection, but it worked out well! We're having dinner with about 35 American travelers and expats this evening at Molly's Cafe. Should be fun. Today also marks six months on the road. Our travels have made us even more thankful for what we have (and take for granted) as Americans."
2. At a friend's dinner in North Wilmington, each of the 18 guests expressed something they were grateful for. One guy said he was glad he'd been born in North Carolina, and then proceeded to recite the state motto. 
3. A very cool young friend who was home from school (Temple) spotted me at the gas station the day after Thanksgiving and gave me a big hug and an update on his family: older brother in medical school in Philly, younger brother at Temple as well, sister a high-school freshman. How time flies!
4. Why did downtown Kennett smell like burnt toast the afternoon of "Black Friday"?
5. I texted my British friend George: "U guys need to start celebrating Thanksgiving!" The reply? "We will when you all see sense and join the British commonwealth. Then U can scrap the dollar and use pounds instead!"
6. Who knew that cranberry sauce was so controversial? Apparently there are purists who disdain the canned jellied stuff and will eat only the fresh, home-made, chunky variety. Hey, I'll eat either one.

Jean genies

I just got an e-mail offering free shipping on J Brand jeans.
It quickly went into the delete file. I NEVER pay shipping for my J Brand jeans: I get them at Chantilly Blue, the wonderful locally owned clothing shop at 120 West State Street in Kennett. They have the same or better prices than online, but the real difference is the amazing service. The women in there know their denim, and that's very important when you're spending a lot of money on "good" jeans (as opposed to work jeans from Tractor Supply; I have those, too).
The folks at Chantilly Blue know what fits, they know what's suited to your body and your life ("These would be perfect for dinner at the Half-Moon!"), they know what looks good. I truly love everything I've bought from them and I wear it all the time (right now, as a matter of fact).
And no shipping!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Good-bye, City Life!

For the next month, until it gets gift-wrapped and put under the Christmas tree, I have in my possession a simply amazing newspaper "for the week ending Saturday, July 11, 1863" (a date that should mean something to history buffs). In addition to the riveting dispatches from Gettysburg during that history-changing week, it contains all kinds of useful house and farm advice, including a recipe for ginger snaps that's a lot like mine, and a testimonial for Mercurial Ointment as a cure for bed-bugs: "Some plead expense. I say if too stingy to purchase one shilling's worth of what will not fail, if properly used, they ought to be tormented now and ever."
I especially liked this (perhaps just slightly idealized) view of country life:
"No employment or profession is more fitted to give strength, elasticity and power to the body; none more adapted to expand and furnish more varied and healthful nourishment to the intellect, and to refine and ennoble the affections, and to render men and women more true and just to themselves, to their fellow-beings, and to their God, than that of Agriculture or Farming. ...
Children born of parents who work in the open air as farmers and who, up to years of manhood or womanhood work on the land, as men and women, take precedence of all others in the great drama of human life simply because, as a general rule, they are more perfect, and of course more powerful, physically, intellectually, socially and morally . . .
Ignorance, coarseness, vulgarity and general debasement of nature and character belong less to farming than to any other occupation or profession by which men and women subsist."

Storm event

The "No Winter Maintenance" signs are up! Whoo-hoo!
What this means is that when we get big snow and ice storms, our township road guys have to make the paved roads their first priority before turning to the less-traveled gravel ones.
It occurred to me only belatedly that this yearly ritual would probably not produce joyous anticipation in many neighborhoods other than mine. And yes, you have my permission to remind me of this in a couple of months, when we're snowbound and I can't get out to the gym, the coffee shop or a lunch date!

A holy estate

This afternoon I took a break from errands to get a Skinny Peppermint Mocha and a blueberry muffin (irony? what irony?) at Starbucks and settled into one of the comfy chairs with the newspaper. I noticed that the cheerful-looking middle-aged man next to me was reading something on his iPad and was laughing quietly to himself, which I found charming.
As he was getting ready to go, he offered to throw away the little bag my muffin had come in.
"Thank you!" I said. "That is so kind!"
"I'm well trained," he said, stuffing my wrapper in his empty coffee cup. He raised his left hand and pointed to his wide gold wedding band with a beaming smile overflowing with pride and love: "17 years."

"Invasive vine of a tax measure"

Uh-oh, yet another angry unsigned missive about township politics has reached my desk, this one about the earned income tax that the West Marlborough supervisors are thinking about enacting so they can take over from the state the maintenance and policing responsibility for more of our roads.
"This is a BAD TAX," says the writer. "The misguided township managers want to tax the people's income for unnecessary intrusions on the township's character. Rt 82 is like the Blue Ridge Parkway just 2000 feet lower in elevation. Don't let greedy political foes invade your finances."
Yes, that's a verbatim quote. Yes, I too have a few questions for the writer.
However, he or she is not the only one out there expressing opposition to the proposed tax. I also received this comment from a reader:
"How can they even think about taking over more roads? I believe in local control, but... Just look at Rokeby Road. It has been closed, (yet open), since 2003. The road is falling into the Buck Run Creek. We also have roads with "No Winter Maintenance" done on them. Where does the current money for our roads go?
Why pursue an earned income tax? How about an amusement tax on all the equine events held in West Marlborough Township. Let all the outsiders who come into the township, for these events, pay for the current roads we have. No new taxes on the backs of property owners!!"

Just a shot (or two) away

Ads for flu shots and pneumonia shots are appearing all over the place, but it really never occurred to me to get them; after all, the last time I had flu or pneumonia was in the 1970s. But yesterday my doctor mentioned that statistically speaking, many of the same germs that the vaccines defend against can also cause sinus infections, those miserable, hard-to-eradicate ailments that make you utterly wretched and wreck your sense of taste and smell for weeks.
I was immediately sold. A few minutes later the nurse brought the needles in and jabbed one in each bicep. (I realized later it was the first shot I'd gotten in 20 years; the previous one involved a tetanus booster after a dog bite.)
So sure, my arms are feeling a tad bruised this morning, and (sadly) I've had to sidestep a few hugs, but it's much, much preferable to a sinus infection.
UPDATE: At the gym I informed my teacher about my sore arms, expecting to be excused from some of her more challenging upper-body exercises. Hah! I should've known better.
"Well," she said, eyes gleaming with delight, "if they're already sore, now's the perfect time to use these 10-lb weights instead of those lame 5-lb ones!"  

ChuckIt

This past Monday morning, a dreary one even by November standards, I drove over to a friend's farm to discuss the 2012 budget for the nonprofit whose board we serve on. I was carrying a file folder full of bound audits, spreadsheets and financial statements.
As always, a group of friendly dogs greeted me, and I picked up a tennis ball and tossed it to them a couple of times.
But then my hostess took down from a nail on the wall a sort of catapult called a ChuckIt. It's a slightly flexible blue plastic stick, about 18 inches long, with a claw at the end. You pick up the slimy, slobber-covered tennis ball with the claw, do a slight low backswing (she demonstrated) and then -- whammo! -- you launch the ball and watch it go soaring a phenomenal distance out over the field, with the dogs racing after it at perilous speed.
It's hilarious and exhilarating. A couple of my shots almost went into the lake and one nearly beaned a swan. We went inside in a happy frame of mind and got the budget hammered out in under two hours.
Perhaps the congressional super-committee should have tried playing ChuckIt out on the Mall before their ultimately unproductive meetings.
Check out the ChuckIt website for their products and lots of photos of dogs and humans at play.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope that you have a joyous Thanksgiving with family and friends. Thanks for reading my column. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In other words

This coming Sunday is not only the first Sunday in Advent, it's also when an updated liturgy will be officially introduced into services at Roman Catholic churches.
Over lunch on Sunday, a member of St. Patrick's Church in Kennett told me that the changes to the Roman Missal reflect a more accurate translation of the original Latin.
"They're somewhat subtle," he said, "but they give a richness to the liturgy."
For instance, when the priest says, "The Lord be with you," instead of answering "And also with you," the congregation is now supposed to say, "And with your spirit."
And in the Nicene Creed, instead of "We believe in one god," it's now "I believe in one god"; instead of "seen and unseen," it's now "visible and invisible."
And he said "a really big word" is being added to the Nicene Creed: instead of "Begotten, not made, One in being with the Father," it's now "Begotten, not made, Consubstantial with the Father."
My friend said the congregation members are getting used to the changes, which have been gradually rolled out, although there are still occasional glitches even by those conducting the services.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Busy night

It was like rush hour at 9:30 p.m. this past Saturday at the Willowdale intersection. Judging by what people were posting online, almost everybody was out for dinner, or at a party, or at the new vampire movie. There was a big wedding reception at the Stone Barn, and as I was driving home, I even saw a stretch limo heading east on Street Road!
I spent the evening with two dear friends at Kyoto, the Asian restaurant in the little shopping center next to the Kennett Wal-Mart, behind the Hilton Garden hotel. We had excellent sushi, fantastic miso soup with seaweed, a bowl of edamame (soybeans), and shrimp pad thai, and the non-seafood eater in our party had a chicken dish with cilantro (to her delight, she found many dishes on the menu to choose from). There were absolutely no leftovers on anyone's plate.
While sharing a dinner companion's white tuna roll, I inadvertently ingested a clump of undiluted wasabi, the Japanese horseradish paste. I was unable to think, much less speak, for probably 10 seconds as a rush of intense heat rocketed through my sinuses. Talk about powerful! I highly recommend it to anyone suffering from nasal congestion.

Thinking globally

Kanokwan Trakulyingcharoen, an architectural history scholar from Thailand, spent three weeks at the Hagley Museum and Library recently researching the Seagram Building in Manhattan, which was designed by German architect Mies van der Rohe. She is writing her doctoral dissertation (from an Italian university) on several postwar projects by the noted architect and received an H. B. du Pont research fellowship from Hagley to use the library's Seagram corporate archive, which contains "detailed information on how the Seagram Building was imagined, designed and built,"according to a story in the "Hagley Magazine."
"Drawings, letters, corporate minutes, and other documents in the Seagram papers have allowed Trakulyingcharoen to unravel the tangled connections between corporate intentions, design sensibilities, and materials provisioning that made the Seagram Building one of the outstanding examples of the International Style in corporate architecture."
The story says that Ms. Trakulyingcharoen "plans to return to Thailand after completing her dissertation to teach and to write."
The Seagram Building, 375 Park Ave., is 38 stories tall and was completed in 1958. According to Wikipedia it was designed as the headquarters for the Canadian distillers Joseph E. Seagram's & Sons.

Smart

From a 1929 etiquette manual:
"Nothing looks works than riding clothes made and worn badly, and nothing looks smarter than they when well made and well put on. A riding habit, no matter, what the fashion happens to be, is like a uniform, in that it must be made and worn according to regulations ... A riding habit is the counterpart of an officer's uniform; it is not worn so as to make the wearer look pretty... The woman who can ride well enough to follow the hounds is too good a sportswoman, too great a lover of good form to be ignorant of the proper outline necessary to smartness of appearance in the saddle. ... Whatever the present fashion may be, have your habit utterly conventional. Don't wear checks or have slant pockets, or eccentric cuffs or lapels; don't have the waist pinched in... And don't try to wear a small size! . . . The above admonitions have held for many decades, and are likely to hold for many more."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

At sea

East Marlborough resident Stephanie Bernasconi is on her way across the Pacific as part of an intensive oceanography course organized by the Sea Education Association. Stephanie, a Tower Hill grad and now a junior at Dickinson College, spent the past six weeks studying at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts in the land component of the "Oceans and Climate" program. On Nov. 16 she departed from Honolulu harbor aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans for a 3,000-mile voyage across the Pacific.
"As full, working members of the scientific team and sailing crew ... students deploy oceanographic sampling equipment, manage shipboard operations, navigate by the stars, and make port stops off the beaten path," according to the SEA Semester website. The trip will end at Papeete, Tahiti, on December 23.

Blog entries from the ship are posted daily at www.sea.edu/voyages. 
We hope Stephanie spots at least one mermaid, Dickinson's unofficial mascot.

Bad songs say so much

There's no better way to start a lengthy and entertaining comment thread on Facebook than to ask, What's your least favorite song ever?
Everybody has an opinion. Even Facebook friends you haven't heard from for months will chime in.
I tried it recently, offering up Billy Joel's "Piano Man" and the Oak Ridge Boys' "Elvira" as my Hall of Shame selections.
Suggestions came in all day from all over the world, including some truly awful songs, like "Muskrat Love" by the Captain and Tennille, "Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog" by Three Dog Night, "The Pina Colada Song" by Rupert Holmes, "Young Girl" by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, and the ear-damaging "Loving You" by Minnie Ripperton.
All dreadful! But I had to take issue with two picks that are absolute disco classics: Donna Summer's "MacArthur Park" and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." And what was my pal Susan thinking, suggesting "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by Ohio Express? Has she no love in her tummy?
In the Christmas-song (not carol) category, "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" (an aberration by Sir Paul McCartney), "Grandma Got Run Over" and  "Two Front Teeth" were nominated, with my full backing.
And my always-entertaining friend Betsy was unmoved, except to dyspepsia, by a country ditty she heard called "Christmas Shoes," in which a little urchin is desperate to buy his dying mother a pair of shoes "before she meets Jesus tonight." 
"How does this kid know Mama will meet Jesus tonight?" Betsy demands. "She could linger for days. Truly a 5 star gagger!!!"
Alright, let's end this item on a happy note: Best Christmas song ever is Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You." And that's not open to debate.

Polished

A business owner friend told me recently that with money being tight, customers are just looking for an excuse to trade down to a lower-cost product or service. A snippy receptionist or a gristly steak, and you'll never see the patron again.
I think the converse is true, too: a little extra can go a long way to ensuring loyalty.
This afternoon I stopped in to Polished Salon for Natural Nails, 112 S. Union St. in Kennett, to buy a gift card and on a completely uncharacteristic whim decided to get my scratch-and-dent toenails rehabbed while I was there. Too late, I realized I hadn't put enough quarters in the parking meter.
Well, you're not going to believe this: The manager offered to run out and feed the meter for me! Using her own quarters!
Why will I definitely return to Polished?
1. That was above and beyond the call of duty.
2. They did a great job improving my beat-up feet, which actually look civilized for a change.
3. They don't use any acrylic products or iffy chemicals.
4. The workers were kind, cheerful and pleasant, and the place has a happy vibe.
5. And now I know there's free parking behind the building!  

New restaurant

A restaurant called A Bite of Italy is moving into the space formerly occupied by Manny Hattan's in the Shoppes at Longwood Village on East Baltimore Pike. There's a help-wanted sign on the door and it looks as if there's some major renovation work going on inside.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Freedom Train

My friend and loyal reader Mary Larkin Dugan, president of the Kennett Underground Railroad Center, has asked me to spread the word that she's looking for any old family letters, diaries, etc., pertaining to the Underground Railroad in our area.
For instance, she said, "Hannah Cox (house across from Dunkin' Donuts) kept a diary for much of her life, according to her obit, but it's gone missing. It's my holy grail, believe me, because the Coxes took in not only fugitive slaves but also abolitionist big shots like William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, and John Greenleaf Whittier. And there are lots of families around here with abolitionist ancestors who might have juicy original sources up in their attics."
Visit the Center's website (http://undergroundrr.kennett.net/) for more information.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Non-gardener

It's unthinkable to me, but a friend of mine loathes gardening work -- indeed, any outdoor chores -- and does the bare minimum required to insure domestic tranquility. And even that, grudgingly: one splinter from cutting down vines, one bubble of poison ivy on his finger and he places himself on the disabled list for the season.
So imagine my surprise when I was reading an article about a local tree-planting project and saw him quoted as saying that he loves landscape work! But no, my friend has not had a Ebenezer Scrooge-like personality transplant; looking at the accompanying photograph, I could see that there's somebody else out there with the same name. And much, much better shoveling technique.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Food and drink

A few friends ventured into West Chester for dinner the other night and reported having an excellent meal at the Side Bar and Restaurant at 10 East Gay Street (where Vincent's used to be). They loved the plantain chips as appetizers and as entrees had the mixed sausage grill; short ribs over penne; grilled salmon on top of a green salad; and seafood with pasta. Much to their surprise, they found a parking space very close by, and although the restaurant was very busy and they didn't have reservations, the staff managed to find them a table upstairs.
As it happens, I too was in West Chester last week for a late-afternoon drink at the bar at Pietro's Prime Steakhouse, 125 West Market Street. A very nice spot to sit and talk and actually see some non-Unionville faces.

The new 52

This morning I took my inaugural trip on the new stretch of Route 52 between Routes 1 and 926. Instead of the old, winding road, it's a spanking-new, three-quarter-mile-long boulevard that goes over a pond and through some nicely landscaped hills. When you reach the intersection with 926 you can see the "old" Route 52 going off at a funny angle, and it looks pretty decrepit and long abandoned.
I remember hearing about this relocation project for years, from back in the days when there was a Downingtown Farmers Market billboard at the 926/52 intersection. Remember that?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Home with the armadillos

A recent style section of the "Wall Street Journal" featured a pewter armadillo belt buckle that, it suggested, should be "worn by a man who works on the land, or at least has at one point in his life. Match the critter with a weather-worn leather belt, beat-up Carhartt workmen pants and a chambray shirt."

Who knows? With the return of those Santa Gertrudis cattle from Texas to Unionville, it might be just the thing for the "rancher dude" on your Christmas list.
Yeah. Right.
I mentioned this fashion suggestion to a well-dressed fellow who traded in his work gloves for a laptop many moons ago, and he started getting all nostalgic.
"Aww . . . I still have my Carhartt overalls," he said.

On a gyro jag

Last week it was Mexican food, this week it's Greek.
On Friday, Veterans Day, I went to the Whip for lunch. At least, I tried to: when I got there at 11:30 there was not a single parking space left. My lunch-mate and I had deliberately agreed to meet early so we could get a spot, but apparently everyone was thinking the same thing.
What to do? We headed north on Route 82 to the Big Apple Deli, a terrific, casual Greek place at the Strasburg Road intersection. There, we had no problem parking, although they were doing a good business, mostly people on their lunch break.
I had a really tasty gyro on excellent warm pita bread, with raw chopped onions and tomatoes and that tangy tzatziki sauce. And their iced tea was really good.
(Other good spots for gyros that I can personally vouch for: Longwood Family Restaurant and Hank's.)


Birds of Hockessin

My lengthy quest for simple, unadorned, sturdy wind chimes took me to Wild Birds Unlimited, a delightful nature store in the heart of Hockessin. And not only did I find exactly what I was looking for, but I also got a chunk of my Christmas shopping done. They are WAY more than just bird feeders and food -- although they've got plenty of them. They also sell beautiful decorations for your house and Christmas tree, books about nature, jewelry, clothes, towels, cards, and tasteful crafts. There's nothing tacky in the store: the owner, Charles Shattuck, told me he tries to buy hand-made, unique items whenever he can. He showed me some absolutely charming Christmas ornaments that are hand-painted by a woman in Dover, and some traditional Ukranian eggs with nature scenes etched into them.
While I was there testing out the wind chimes, one of the helpful staffers was helping a customer decide which bird feeder was right for her back yard. She clearly knew her stuff: she listed the pros and cons of the feeders, mentioned which birds might visit and advised the woman on proper placement. And when another customer came in and told the staff that he'd spotted two immature red-headed woodpeckers, everyone was excited.
I loved this store and had a great time shopping there. And I feel good about buying quality products from a local merchant.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Old-Fashioned Girl

Tilda was on her high horse at a family dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill this evening, complaining that it's impossible to find new songs with both (a) a good beat to exercise to and (b) no offensive lyrics.
The youngest member of the family gave his patented world-weary sigh and told me that obviously I don't belong in the 21st century.
"Oh yeah? So what century DO I belong in, Mr. Smarty-Pants?" I asked.
"The 16th or 17th," he replied without missing a beat. "Maybe."
His grandmother jumped to my defense, asking if he knew what it was really like to live back then.
"Mimi," he explained patiently to her. "She runs Microsoft Word 2003."
Game, set and match, Master Tally-ho.

Intersectionality

Well, my ace in the hole is no more.
If there's ever a slow week, I thought, I can always write about this weathered stop sign in Chatham that's completely hidden behind a tall bush (at 841 and London Grove Road). Pull over, snap a photo, write some amusing copy and bingo: another item ready to go!
Nope. On my way home from Perkins the other morning, I noticed that somebody cut down the bush and installed a gleaming new stop sign.
Good for traffic control. Not so good for your blogger!
Speaking of signs, one Kennett church is, I suppose, trying to boost attendance and has posted signs at the Jennersville and Willowdale intersections. The sign probably looked good close up, but when you're approaching in a car the word "Church" is shaded so oddly, and is in such a weird font, that it looks like "Dump Oil." For the longest time I thought it was posted by some environmental group.

Stuff and nonsense

On Monday I got a very nice e-mail from a taxidermist who said how much she enjoyed meeting me at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, and she described her outfit in case I'd forgotten who she was.
The appearance didn't ring a bell at all.
"I don't think I met her," I told one of my Hunt Cup companions.
"Are you sure?" she said. "We talked to a LOT of people that day."
I had to agree with her there. But I think even I would've remembered "the vintage-clad gal with the black rooster on my head."

Another garden

I spent yesterday afternoon putting the vegetable/flower garden to bed for the winter. Usually it's cold and nasty when I finally get around to this autumnal chore, but yesterday it was warm and sunny. I always marvel at how the zinnias, salvia, cosmos and snapdragons, which started out as tiny plants, grow into such big bushes of flowers, and how my massive, towering sunflowers started as just seeds. There's a motivational poster there, somewhere.
I "lifted" the Peruvian daffodil bulbs -- they're not hardy here -- and was amazed to see how big they've gotten (time to divide), and how solidly they had grown into the earth. Picture four big Vidalia onions, joined at the top, with ridged rat's tails as roots. I got a very good workout digging them out.
I'm editing an academic book on how people define themselves, and one of the more interesting chapters is an essay about how one woman sees her different identities all on display in her garden: artist, creator, nurturer, teacher, perfectionist, hard worker, peacemaker with others in the communal garden. Wish I'd thought of that.

Dogs and cats

This will come as no surprise to friends who wince when they receive their veterinarian's bill. On Nov. 2 the "Wall Street Journal" reported that the average American household "spent $655 on routine doctor and surgical visits for dogs last year, up 47% from a decade ago....Expenditures for cats soared 73% over the same time frame -- on pace with human health-care cost increases."
The article attributed the increased costs to the more advanced treatments available for animals today as well as "higher standards for routine care."

I was #44

30%. 169 out of 566 people. That's what voter turnout was in my municipality, West Marlborough, on the general election last Tuesday. I really don't understand why it's not at least 90%. Sure, some people may be traveling, or ill, or have some other good excuse -- but surely not that many!
I can't remember the last time I missed an election -- possibly when I was overseas at school, but that was a long time ago. It's the way I was brought up, and I actually look forward to expressing my opinion (as you've perhaps noticed).
You really don't have a leg to stand on in any of the controversies raging in our little corner of the world if you don't vote. You don't like what's going on in our township? Well, you had a chance to vote for or against one of the supervisors. Same with the school board.
Plus, in West Marlborough, voting is fun. I took a lovely walk down to our polling place in the township garage, and I got to chat with several friends who were helping out with the elections.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hunt Cup

What a perfect afternoon for the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup on Sunday! It was warm and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Four friends and I piled into a big Ford truck, along with two corgis, seven collapsible chairs, two folding tables, pulled pork sandwiches and subs from Hood's in Unionville, home-made cookies, baked beans, split-pea soup in a Igloo cooler, a tub of drinks, a cooler of beer, and various chips and salsa. We got there at 11 a.m., scored the best parking spot on the entire course, set up our party and proceeded to eat, drink, socialize and watch the races.

It's pretty exciting to see the horses and jockeys galloping right by you and taking the fences almost in unison. The two pony races that started off the day were lots of fun to watch. Jody Petty, aboard the legendary McDynamo, paced the young riders around the course, and after the last fence they got to race to the finish. Those ponies really moved!
Paddy Young -- amazing rider and nice guy -- had a splendid day, winning both the Arthur O. Choate Memorial and the Hunt Cup races.

Unfortunately, in one race, a horse went over a fence and then simply dropped dead on the spot. It was a chilling sight and brought tears to the eyes of a lot of spectators.
In another race -- at the very same jump -- two jockeys came off their horses, and one horse went running off the course. Two outriders and a spectator got him under control, and they walked the beautiful animal back right past our truck, much to the delight of my equestrian friends.
"That," said one in awe, "is the Ferrari of horses."
As always, hospitality was the order of the day, and lots of friends stopped by our party. The two gentlemen in our party set up their chairs in the bed of the truck for a better view over the beautiful countryside and got a kick out of waving to us commoners beneath. They said they wanted scepters for next year.
One tailgate party near the finish line was held in memory of Gilbert V. Sheck, a dapper gentleman who was a fixture at every local equestrian event until his untimely death at age 52 in November 2009. His friends even brought Gil's classic Ford pickup, sporting an American flag.

This was the 77th running of the Hunt Cup races, and it's become an autumn ritual I look forward to. Thanks to the Hunt Cup committee for keeping this wonderful tradition going!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stottsville Inn

How can it be that I haven't written about one of my favorite lunch spots, the Stottsville Inn?
I've been going there for years. It's a very comfortable spot and the food is really tasty, whether you order a sandwich (the salmon on pita bread is my current favorite) or a larger meal of, perhaps, fish or pasta. Their lobster bisque and snapper soup are particularly good and I love their vegetables, even the cooked carrots. The owner and chef is Jack Saleh; odds are good he'll come out from the kitchen and greet you.
I've also been to Stottsville for banquets and special events, and in the evening there's a very friendly crowd of locals at the bar. Legend has it there's even a ghost who lives upstairs!
Stottsville Inn is at 3512 Strasburg Road, between Weaver's Mulch and Parkesburg. The menus and hours are on the website.

Detour

Those of us who frequently travel on Powell Road in Newlin Township were delighted when the bridge near Route 162 was fixed and the road reopened, as I for one got a little tired using Scott Road as a lengthy, though scenic, detour. Why, then, are all the "detour" and "bridge out" signs still hanging around on the roadsides?
Because Powell Road is going to be closed again later this fall for pipe repair, according to the "Newlin News" newsletter.

Solar Firefly Jar

You have to cut catalog writers some slack, but this crosses the line. It's a six-inch-high, lidded glass jar with a plastic vine and some round blobs inside. The ad copy:
"Bring back those lazy summer nights when you and your friends chased fireflies. These are faux, but they're every bit as magical... The five fireflies turn on automatically at dark. Complete with faux foliage to create a realistic environment."
Yuck! Lightbulbs in a jar is NOT the same as seeing actual real fireflies light up at dusk. Another example of how removed so many people are from nature these day.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hunt Night

Stevie Hayes of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds ruled at Hunt Night at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show in Harrisburg on Oct. 17. 
Stevie, riding "Clever," won the Field Hunter Class for Riders over 35 years of age (I told him he obviously lied about his age) and the Gentlemen's Hunter Under Saddle Class.
Cheshire also took first place in the team competition.
"Winning the Hunt Team competition was quite a feat as nine Hunt Clubs from the East Coast sent teams of six members to participate in the event," said a press release on the show's website. "It was truly a sight to behold as the teams of three riders jumped the course at the same time, following each other as if out on a hunt, and taking the final fence in unison. The team of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds #1 with Hayes, Cindy Buchanan, VMD and Joy Slater, negotiated the course in spectacular fashion keeping a close distance to each other and jumping the last fence as a single unit."
Congratulations, all!

Reporting on the event, my fellow blogger "Horse Country Chic" said, "Fox hunting is a great sport but it takes a certain type of rider and horse. You need to be bold, aggressive, fearless, not afraid to fall off and most of the people I know who hunt are "brave" and live life to its fullest."