Friday, April 29, 2011

Thanks again!

In last week's column I was applauding the PECO workers for restoring our electricity after that awful crash on Route 841 in West Marlborough on Easter evening, and the second and more important paragraph of the item got dropped (no biggie, it happens), so here it is:
"Even louder cheers are due to all of the rescue volunteers who dropped everything, gave up their Easter dinner and family time and rushed off to help with the rescue and clean-up efforts. We are so lucky to have such selfless folks in our community."


Most people talked about the bride's stunning gown, the guests' creative hats, the awe-inspiring setting ... but not from where I was sitting. I watched the royal wedding with a friend who has two horses, and her favorite part of the whole early-morning affair came when the royal party rode to Buckingham Palace in horse-drawn carriages.
The caffeine kicked in and she sat upright on the edge of the sofa.
"Those horses are beyond spotless," she said. "And look at the tack! It's perfectly polished. The hours that must have taken!"
She noted that the horses' manes were "perfectly pulled" and "every hoof" was polished.
However, horses will be horses: one of them got spooked by the noisy crowds and commotion and threw its rider.
"Oh, thank God it wasn't me -- for a change," said my pal.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished!

A friend laments: "Paid a guy to install a post-and-board fence around the lovely shade tree in one pasture to keep horses from messing with it. Another pasture has lots of [lesser-quality] trees with nibble and rub marks all over the trunks. So guess which pasture just had a tree fall down, destroying the fence in the process? And the moral of this story is.......?"
It's too bad; it was a pretty -- but, as she discovered, rotten -- cherry tree.


Hugh Lofting Timber Framing in Kennett Square got a nice mention in the remodeling industry website for the work it did on the Dansko headquarters and store in Jennersville. You can read about it and see some cool photos by visiting the website and navigating to the April 22 edition.
(Thanks to a Lofting family member for the tip!)

Estate of the week

Dick and Sheila Sanford have put their 43-acre Brinton's Bridge Road estate up for sale, with an asking price of $12.9 million. The 23-room main house is 16,000 square feet and includes six bedrooms, a pub, a great hall and a library -- not surprisingly, it has been the site of many large charity functions.
According to his website, Mr. Sanford is a "serial entrepreneur and philanthropist" who founded Intelligent Electronics. In 1998 started Operation Warm, a nationwide charity that provides brand-new winter coats to children living in poverty.
(Thanks to Prudential Fox & Roach Realtor Shelley Mincer for the tip!)

Oh snap!

An East Marlborough resident reports an exciting event along Route 82 last week: "Rarely is there a traffic jam in front on my house (ok, never) but because of a 60-lb-plus snapping turtle there was a big old gaper delay until my saint of a husband with assistance heaved the ugly beast up on the bank.
"Once it was on the bank (and traffic could move) it would have been hard to tell the size from a photo. However, I swear its shell was almost as big as the lid on my trash can and its head larger than a softball!!! Took 2 men to lift it."
She suspects that the old quarry behind her house is a haven for the massive and long-lived creatures.


The stink bugs have started leaving small brown spots on the windowsills, floors, walls and furniture. Occasionally there's even a little trail of dots and then one blob. I'm not sure what fluid this is, and I definitely don't want to spend too much time thinking about it. Fortunately it wipes up easily -- except, I've found, from chintz and brocade upholstery.

Only in Unionville

I looked out the window at 6:30 this morning and saw the school bus stopping for the boys who live next door. The flashing red lights came on as the boys boarded -- and the oncoming equestrian stopped her mount, just like drivers have to stop their cars, and waited until the bus moved off before she continued down the road.

The Fine Print

I bought a jar of supercharged face cream the other day and opened the little leaflet to read about all of the miraculous but absurdly expensive ingredients that are going to preserve my healthy country glow.
Clearly the stuff is made for aging skin, not for aging eyes: the pamphlet was written in the tiniest possible print, smaller even than classified-ad size. I held it as far away as possible and couldn't make out one word in any of the languages it was translated into. Finally I held it directly in the bright sunshine and could read it if I squinted -- sort of.
Think it through a little better next time, packaging consultants!
Speaking of classified ads, I spotted this one in a Lancaster County paper: "Honest, conservative individual to answer phones and good with people, etc." Conservative in terms of politics? Investment strategy? Water usage? And good with people and ... animals? Aliens? Zombies?

Paging David Brent

Two Starbucks customers this morning were having an easily overheard conversation. The man was clearly senior to the woman, and I'm guessing this was supposed to be some sort of a coaching or employee development session.
He certainly started the conversation off on completely the wrong foot: he announced that he was expecting an important phone call and would have to take it, and he assured her it was not a pre-programmed call designed to intimidate or impress her.
Definitely not Boss-of-the-Year material.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A jar

My mother was vexed. She had tried all the usual methods to open a jar of imported apricot jam -- hot water, a sure-grip rubber disc -- and it just wasn't cooperating. She brought it to Easter dinner to see if any of us had a solution.
I tried the old-fashioned claw-like bottle opener that works like a charm on tight applesauce jars, but the lid was thick and had a plastic seal underneath, so the claw couldn't get any purchase.
My brother, an engineer and all-around clever fix-it guy, studied the jar for a few moments and then took it out to the garage. He was back within a minute -- bearing an opened jar.
Great anthems of praise greeted him. How on earth did he do it?
"Don't ask," he said mysteriously, meticulously wiping the lid before allowing my mother to sample the jam.
Speaking of gadgets, I spotted those old-fashioned metal ice-cube trays in a catalog: "The original is back and our customers are thrilled!" Not me: those things were almost impossible to open, and you rarely got an intact ice cube. Buy the plastic trays.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gratefully, Tilda

Three huge cheers to the PECO workers for restoring our electricity so quickly after that awful crash on Route 841 here in West Marlborough on Easter evening. It was a Sunday evening, and a holiday to boot, and we were out of power for only 3 hours, barely enough time to start yearning for running water and the Internet.
And maybe even louder cheers are due to all of the volunteers who dropped everything, gave up their Easter dinner and family time and rushed off to help with the rescue and clean-up efforts. We are so lucky to have such selfless folks in our community.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Under contract

The May 10 Vezelay auction has been called off and the sign has been taken down: the 52-acre Newlin Township estate is now under contract. "[The buyers] understood the value of the estate and were willing to step forward with an acceptable offer in order to negate the risk of losing it on auction day," said Laura Brady, Vice President of Marketing for Concierge Auctions, in an April 20 press release. "Everyone is looking forward to moving smoothly and quickly towards the closing table."
The amount of the "acceptable offer" was not disclosed, but the asking price for the Hilltop View Road property was $4,480,000. I'm told that the buyers are a family with young children who wanted to settle in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District -- and they paid cash for the property.

Career change

On Saturday I was delighted to run into a former newspaper editor of mine, Bettinita Harris, at the Kennett Area YMCA. She is now a personal trainer at the Y, certified by the American College of Sports Medicine! The move makes sense: she was always in much better shape than the average journalist (and also had much better fashion sense). She looks very fit, and I'll bet she delivers one challenging (and elegantly phrased)workout.

Sun King

My friends Bob and Sheryl Willson are avid entertainers, so when Earth Day rolled around they saw it as a perfect excuse to throw a party. It was also a chance for Bob to show off his new, state-of-the-art solar electricity-generating system. He took us on a tour of his basement, pointing out the neatly labeled meters that show how much power the solar panels generate each day and how much CO2 was saved. There's also a PECO meter that essentially runs backward, showing how much power the farm "sells" back to the utility.
Bob says the experience has helped in his law practice assisting municipalities craft their new green ordinances (solar, wind and geothermal) and helping clients contract for their own green installations.
Oh, and the party? Great company and great food, especially Bob's classic mac-and-cheese.


Late yesterday afternoon I encountered one of those newspaper vendors who stands out there in the middle of traffic. It was a chilly, drizzly, gray day, and I felt sorry for him, so I rolled down the window and gave him a smile and a wave.
He came over and handed me a paper, and I reached for the change dish between the front seats.
"No," he said firmly. "It's Friday, it's raining, and we're off tomorrow. It's a good day for a free paper."

A well-regulated life

My friend Dave was telling me about the rules of the development where he lives: no clotheslines, no on-street parking, no gardening, no awnings, no RVs, front doors must stay their original color, holiday decorations can be up for only 2 weeks, garage doors can be open for only 30 minutes ... the litany went on and on. When his dog died, he couldn't even bury the creature out back ("no digging").
Shortly after he moved in, a friend dropped him off and they sat in the driveway for a few minutes chatting. Before they finished their conversation, the police showed up: a neighbor had reported that "two bearded terrorists in a pickup" were checking out the neighborhood.
Of course, Dave gets the huge new house rent-free as part of a benefits package from his employer, so he's not complaining too loudly.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

May Dates

Sunday, May 1: May baskets, May poles, May apples, it's all good. Also the monthly Unionville Community Fair special at Fox's Pizza Den.
Tuesday, May 3: West Marlborough Township meeting, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 5: Cinco de Mayo.
Saturday, May 7: London Grove Friends Meeting Plant Sale.
Sunday, May 8: Mother's Day.
Tuesday, May 10: A Busy Day! Aggie O'Brien is scheduled to plead guilty in federal court on extortion charges. Also: The Whip hearing continues at the West Marlborough Township building, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 14: Kennett Run.
Tuesday, May 17: Primary election.
Monday, May 30: Memorial Day.

What town is this?

I was in line at the Unionville post office the other day and a very frazzled young man was talking on his cell phone. From what I could gather, a friend in Florida needed to have a cell phone shipped to him, and somehow the phone was not in this young man's possession, and his car wasn't working, so he needed to be picked up ... it was all very confusing. At one point he turned to the woman behind him in line and asked abruptly, "What post office is this, Avondale?"
She stared at him, left a perfectly timed little pause and said in an icicle-laden voice, "Unionville."
Then she turned and looked at me incredulously as if to say: Imagine, not knowing you're in Unionville!

Plant Sale

My gardening friend Stefi asked me to publicize the annual Kennett Square Beautification Plant Sale (as well as the Junior Gardeners of the Four Seasons Garden Club plant sale for kids). It will be held 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 30, in the Genesis Pedestrian Walkway on State Street.
"We'll have flowers, herbs, bulbs for sale, some of which are out of our local gardens - always the best,"
Stefi notes, adding that the sale "is a great place to run into your friends."
Spade and Trowel, Four Seasons, and Seedlings are the local garden clubs that sponsor Kennett beautification. Proceeds from the sale help these civic-minded gardeners to keep the downtown looking so nice with flowers and trees.
There is free parking in the parking garage, and you'll have a chance to win a container of potted herbs with your purchase.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Roads closed

The open-grate bridge on Northbrook Road over the west branch of the Brandywine closed on April 18 so that workers can replace the bridge deck, rebuild the side walls and repave the roadway approaches. The work hadn't even started when I checked on April 23, but repairs are expected to be completed by June 17.
According to PennDOT, local traffic will be allowed to drive as far as the bridge from the Northbrook side and down from Marshallton. "Through traffic will be detoured between Brandywine Drive and Bragg Hill Road in West Bradford and Pocopson. Bridge traffic will be detoured over Route 842, Route 82 and Route 162."
Speaking of detours, did you hear that Baltimore Pike will be shut at Bancroft Road for three weeks this summer, from July 22 until August 16? Road improvements will be made to improve sight lines at the intersection, which will only get busier when the new Bancroft Elementary School opens this autumn.

Cash Cab

A friend had been telling me about this entertaining TV game show called "Cash Cab," so when she fell ill last week I shamelessly timed my just-checking-on-you-dearie visit to coincide with its 3 p.m. airing time.
What a hoot! The cabbie/host, Ben Bailey, picks up unsuspected passengers in New York and then informs them that they are in the Cash Cab. While driving them to their destination he poses increasingly difficult questions, and they win money for each correct answer. If they're stumped, they can call a friend or ask a passerby on the sidewalk. If they get three wrong answers, they are unceremoniously booted out, no matter where they may happen to be.
Between the two of us we knew most of the answers. It was fun to watch the interactions between the contestants, and I was surprised at how well informed the random passersby were: when called upon they knew the name of the Hawaiian shell necklaces (puka) and the news anchorman assaulted in New York (Dan Rather).
At the end of the cab ride, the winners are given a video double-or-nothing option. Two middle-aged sisters and the daughter of one of them opted to go for it, and they actually won, identifying what a bartender was doing as "mixology." We cheered.
We watched two back-to-back episodes, and it was a great way to cheer up an invalid.

What Do Neighbors Want?

Knowing that I've been covering the ongoing, and highly technical, Whip Tavern hearings, a friend asked me in some confusion, "What exactly do the neighbors want?"
It's a FAQ, because the hearings focus on arcane legal points like who used the next-door office and when, rather than the basic issues that led to the dispute. It's all rather an expensive muddle.
So I e-mailed the neighbors and asked: "What do you want?" And here is what they said:
Neighbor #1: "My goal is not to close down The Whip. But I want The Whip to stop using the neighbors' property (particularly MY property) to pursue their business plan. ... The prior establishment operated their business entirely on their own property, as it should be. It is NOT OK to use our property for parking, turnarounds, trash disposal, bright lighting, trespassing, and loud noise ....  My farm and the properties of my neighbors should not be FORCED to be used for The Whip's business purposes.
I also want to safely drive the streets. There are many near misses on a daily basis. Many patrons leave The Whip after many drinks. There have been several high profile accidents of cars leaving The Whip and even more that go unreported."

Neighbor #2: "We want the intolerable noise, traffic, parking, all-night lights and late-night bad behavior, all of which are inconsistent with where we live and wouldn't be tolerated if they were going on elsewhere, to stop. The Township has already passed ordinances which, if enforced, would take care of most, if not all, of those problems in large measure, so all they want is for The Whip to play by the rules and if it won't, for the Township to enforce its own laws."

Neighbor #3: "We want the cars off the road; we do not want to hear the rowdy patrons on the patio - at all, ever; we do not want to see the glare of their lights all night, every night; we do not want the greatly increased trash and traffic; we do not want Whip patrons turning around in our driveways and on our lawns; we do not want to see guys [urinating] outside........please!"

Neighbor #4:  "Any business is responsible for providing adequate facilities/parking for their clientele. The Whip has not done this and the township has shown no interest in enforcing this. ... We moved here because of the lifestyle this Township offers and we only want those rules applied uniformly to protect that way of life."

Neighbor #5: "My complaints are the same as my neighbors but I do feel that we need to show that there are more than just the "small" group that are complaining... We feel that the patrons of The Whip Tavern do not understand that there is basis in our complaints. We want The Whip Tavern to operate on their property, be a good neighbor, and respect the beauty of West Marlborough township."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

An Idea!

A loyal reader reports that he bought an old-fashioned sticky fly trap for $3.95 at the Embreeville Mill and hung it in his attic, with a 40-watt light bulb just over it. "In the week it has been up, we captured about 100 stink bugs. I'm going to put a new strip up today and see if we have put a dent in the population."
I'm going to try this!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Woodlands

Phillips Mushrooms has opened a new retail shop at 1020 Kaolin Rd., south of the Five Points intersection. Fresh, dried, jarred and prepared products are for sale in the beautifully restored homestead, which features a splendid mural depicting the history of the farm by Unionville artist Lou Marshall.
I stopped in on a rainy Saturday and one of the owners, Linda Steller (her father is Marshall Phillips), gave me a tour of the shop and the brand-new kitchen, where they plan to offer mushroom cooking classes.
The shop, called "The Woodlands," will have an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 7. Their regular hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
(Thank you to my dear friend Judy F. for this tip! She said she had driven by, seen the Woodlands sign and wondered what it was.)

Up a creek

The April issue of "Main Line Today" has an interesting piece on the Stroud Water Research Center, complete with a photo of director Bernard Sweeney standing on the snowy banks of the White Clay Creek. The writer is J. F. Pirro.
"Today, Stroud—like water—seems to be everywhere. Its 50 employees (40 on the scientific staff) are spread out, but not too thinly. Stroud is now a local, regional and global operation. Its activity stretches from small freshwater ponds in the Antarctic to the world’s two largest rivers, the Amazon and the Congo."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reflections of the Wall

Congratulations to my friend Larry Kesterson of Downingtown, who won a national photo contest sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Larry is a U.S. Army veteran and a hugely talented photographer for "The Philadelphia Inquirer." His photo, "Found on The Wall," will be featured on the group's 2012 calendar. Though he's not shown in this photo, Larry's father, Maj. Charles Kesterson, is also named on the wall: he was killed by a land mine on May 4, 1966, at age 30.
For information about the Memorial Fund, visit and

Sake Hana

Sake Hana, an Asian/sushi restaurant, has opened on Route 41 in the new-ish Acme shopping center, and as a gym pal said, "You wouldn't know you were in Avondale."
Their sushi is very good and presented beautifully, and the menu also includes a wide variety of Asian dishes. I loved the seaweed salad, a particular favorite of mine. I thought the prices were reasonable.
The manager came over and chatted with us and seemed very eager to please, and the place was doing a land-office business on a recent Saturday night.
Sake Hana is also family-friendly, and the staff went out of their way to accommodate a child in my friend's party with a peanut allergy.

A quick lunch

You're hungry in Cochranville, and time is limited. What do you do?
You can stop in at Limestone Pizza & Grille, 3161 Limestone Road (Route 10). A friend and I had a late lunch there on Saturday and really enjoyed it. I had a tasty turkey sub and my friend had a very good Greek salad, and the service was almost immediate. Several other tables were filled, and a few customers also stopped in to pick up their to-go orders. They're open seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Good-bye gutters

The newest vandalism at the crumbling Red Rose Inn in Jennersville: somebody has stolen the copper gutters from the vacant structure. The empty hooks are just sitting there. Also, a couple of the shutters are askew, a few of the entrances are covered with plywood and some of the wooden columns are rotting. It's really a shame to see.

Pick-up line

I was stuck in traffic on Route 7 this morning, in a downpour, and had time to observe the orange truck next to me. It was from a company called Delaware Pooper Scoopers, whose mission is "making life easier for pet owners by cleaning up and removing waste (feces) from customer's yards, pens, and/or living areas." On the website the owner said she started the business while she was working full time, going to school at the University of Delaware, and spending her limited free time cleaning up after her 130-lb Bouvier named Cosmo.
Despite the name, they serve customers in Pennsylvania, too.

Food for thought

I present the following e-mail from the principal of a local elementary school:
"Dear Parents, please use good judgement when sending birthday treats to school. Cupcakes seem to be the most popular choice, but they are not the healthiest treat for our students. Please consider bringing in a healthy treat or using a non-food item to celebrate your child's birthday at school. This guideline also applies to other celebrations in the classroom.
"Also, please do not use food items for estimation jars or the like. Colorful erasers, rubber bands or paper clips are very inexpensive and don't contain sugar. Celebrating with food is the easiest way to go, but it's not always the best for the health of our students."
The principal also urges parents to pack lunches using reusable containers and refillable water bottles, noting that many plastic bags and bottles were found thrown away during the school's "Waste Audit."


Last week I received a real-estate firm's glossy, photo-filled catalog of what they call "extraordinary properties" in the mid-Atlantic area. Of course I immediately paged through to see whether their real-estate agents had any listings in Unionville. None. The closest was a 72-acre farm at 912 Providence Road, Willistown, with eight bedrooms, an underground shooting range, lit tennis courts, a heated greenhouse and a 25-stall barn. Asking price: $17,950,000, reduced from $19.5 million.
I do hope the shooting range is soundproofed. When I was a reporter I often visited a police station with a basement range and the noise and smell drove the secretaries crazy.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Plea bargain

According to a reporter pal, lawyers have worked out a plea agreement on the extortion charges against Aggie O'Brien. Her federal court date is set for May 10. In the ugly and high-profile case that broke last summer, Ms. O'Brien is accused of trying to blackmail a wealthy horse breeder with whom she was formerly friends. Ever since, locals have been baffled trying to imagine what dirt she thought she had on the victim.

Bridle shop

On April 7 my buddy Susan and I piled into her pickup and took a little road trip to Lancaster County. No, not the outlet malls. I'll let Susan describe our destination:
"One of the best and one of the most unusual places for equestrians to buy strap goods and supplies is Bartville Harness Shop in Christiana. Amish-owned and -operated, it’s a regional favorite for eventers, foxhunters and the Amish community. Nothing is elegant, but the quality is good and the prices can’t be beat. 
"They make a lot of what they sell right on the premises, so if you have an odd-sized equine (think pairing size “S” pants with a size “M” shirt) semi- and fully-custom orders are no problem.  
"Park next to a tethered horse and buggy, shop by gaslight; pay by cash or check; expect to hear a recorded message on the phone. This is a genuine “plain people” business devoid of touristy schlock and overpriced stock."
Susan had a hard time sticking to her list: she was sorely tempted by a 60-inch girth for her husband's huge horse, and a very attractive whip handle just the right size for her, and some charming leather sandwich boxes.
And continuing with the day's equine theme, on the way home she took me on a guided tour of the ravishingly beautiful Andrew's Bridge hunt territory along the Octoraro Creek.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Crimson or the Tiger?

This certainly didn't happen back in my day!
A scholar/athlete family member who lives in Minnesota has been accepted at several colleges, and two Ivy League universities want him to enroll so badly that they have invited him to campus this week for a chance to put their best foot forward and impress him with their brilliance, friendliness and amenities. Will he pick School A (in Massachusetts) or School B (in New Jersey)?


Residents of the Newlin Greene development off Route 842 alerted the Newlin Township supervisors to the piles of anti-skid material that have accumulated along the edges of their property after recent snowstorms, according to "The Newlin News." The residents said it's ugly and they couldn't clean it up properly or spread it by raking.
Supervisor Rob Pearson explained that the township road crews use the crushed limestone material to improve traction on the roads, and sometimes the spreader gets clogged and then will dump "an unusual amount of the material in one spot." He said he'll make sure that the bulk of it gets removed.
He noted that the limestone material "is more effective and less hazardous to vegetation than road salt."

Did you pay?

At their April 5 meeting, the West Marlborough supervisors reviewed a two-page list of residents who hadn't paid their 2010 $10 per capita township tax.
"This is the longest I've ever seen," said Supervisor Michael Ledyard.
Township secretary Shirley Walton suggested that because the tax bill includes both school taxes and the relatively tiny per capita tax, perhaps many residents simply sent the bill to their mortgage company for payment without noticing the additional tax, which the mortgage company doesn't pay.
The supervisors briefly weighed the cost/benefit ratio of collecting the back taxes, but agreed to have the township solicitor draft a letter to send to the residents.
And no, I don't know who the delinquents are, so don't even ask.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

News-filled morning

Sinclair's Sunrise Cafe & Tearoom, 127 E. State Street in Kennett Square, is the place to see and be seen -- as I found out on a recent rainy Tuesday morning. I met borough council member Dan Maffei for coffee there to chat about his new landscaping business -- and ended up getting three additional stories while I was at it.
1. Dan's new business is Maffei Landscape Design  ( After 15 years at W.D. Wells & Associates, Dan said he decided to go out on his own "in response to an evolving marketplace and the desire to provide a more personal, customized experience for my clients." Dan and I had a terrific, wide-ranging discussion that would have gone on into the lunch hour, were it not for my expired parking meter.
2. Sinclair's has had a lovely makeover. In the words of owner Lynn Sinclair: " `History and Heritage' is the theme, with plaid wallpaper resembling the Sinclair tartan and a bit of Kennett or family history tucked beneath each of the glass table tops."
3. Former borough council member Doug Stirling has started a new gig, doing the morning news broadcast on WCHE (1520 AM) weekdays starting at 7 a.m. In addition to now being a very early riser, Doug is a member of the Kennett Consolidated School District school board and pastor at Kennett Square Bible Methodist Church.
4. The West State Street restaurant formerly known as Challie's, which closed a few weeks ago, will become "Lily's Sushi Bar & Grill." And the former owner of Challie's will be doing his famous lunches just across the street at Portabello's restaurant.


Some neighbors are having their dense, quarter-mile-long hawthorn hedge pruned back. It's a thankless task, considering that it's full of long, sharp spikes. As I was driving by toward the end of the day, I saw a tired-looking landscaper trudging back to his truck and stopped to sympathize.
He was sweaty and pretty scraped up but still cheerful.
"Whoever planted this should be shot," he said, his grin making it obvious he was just kidding. "No. Whipped first, then shot."
I remember who planted it, but my lips are sealed.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yes, it's open

After a 15-month reconstruction project, Copes Bridge re-opened for good on March 31. The "official" ribbon-cutting was held March 12, but then the barriers went back up so that last-minute work could be completed.
The 1807 stone arch bridge spans the east branch of the Brandywine Creek on Strasburg Road, between Marshallton and West Chester.
The  $3,431,686 project involved rehabilitating the bridge "by removing the existing roadway and fill on top of the structure; stabilizing the arches and placing concrete above them; reconstructing the stone walls and wing walls; and resurfacing the deck," PennDOT said.
It looks great. However, although the approaches to the bridge were widened, the bridge itself could not be, which means there are no shoulders at all along most of the bridge. I foresee some scraped passenger-side doors.
I loved the "hugs and kisses" symbols on the bottom of this jubilant sign, which I spotted on April 3 at Strasburg and Lucky Hill Roads.
Of course, now the Northbrook Bridge over the west branch of the Brandywine is set to close on April 18 for a two-month, state-funded project.

On line

This time of year is so exciting. I love being able to hang my laundry out again without freezing my fingers.
And even though I know that in a few months I'll be spending hours trying to contain it, for now it's a thrill seeing the first tiny purple-green leaves of the perennial herb anise hyssop. This morning I spotted the first grape hyacinth and squill in my garden. Daffodils are in bloom on sunny banks all over, and the yellow marsh mallows are carpeting low areas near creeks. And don't miss the dozens of purple hyacinths planted in the traffic island in front of Unionville High School.
Early last summer I took piles of my favorite groundcover, lamium, from my garden over to some friends in Newlin, who have steep, stony banks along their driveway where nothing grows. After we planted it there was a long dry spell, so I was surprised and delighted to see that the lamium has survived and is actually coming up in several spots.
And judging from all the daylily foliage sprouting on the roadbanks, we're going to have an orange summer.

Personal use only

"It will not be a restaurant. It will never be a restaurant. It could not be a restaurant."
Those were the words of Michael J. Gladnick, an engineer working for Richard Hayne. Mr. Hayne is proposing to convert a stable on the former Thouron property into a freestanding 5,000-square-foot dining room and kitchen, and Mr. Gladnick presented the plan to the West Marlborough planning commission and supervisors on April 5.
"A freestanding dining room is not a typical situation," acknowledged Mr. Gladnick, but in response to pointed questions from the planning commission he stressed repeatedly that the dining room would be for Mr. Hayne's personal use only. He said it wouldn't be used daily: Mr. and Mrs. Hayne might have 36 people to dinner one evening, and then it would be unused for a month.
Mr. Hayne wants to get it built in time for a June wedding that he is hosting for an Urban Outfitters executive. Both the planning commission and the supervisors signed off on the project.
Mr. Hayne would not have needed permission for the dining room if it were attached to another building, but because it will be separate, the Chester County Health Department required him to seek special permission for its sewage system.
(Mr. Hayne, you'll recall, is the billionaire founder of the Urban Outfitters retail empire and has amassed a compound of properties near Springdell that he is redeveloping.)
In other Springdell news, township engineer Al Giannantonio dropped a few tantalizing hints that a new plan for Mr. Hayne's greenhouse complex on the former Tony Young property will be submitted for review in the near future. I'll keep you posted.


One of the stars of Showtime's much-heralded new mini-series "The Borgias" is Jeremy Irons, who plays Rodrigo Borgia, better known as Pope Alexander VI. Tilda has adored Mr. Irons since she saw him in "Brideshead Revisited" 30 years ago. But did you know that he is also Joint-Master of the West Carbery Hunt in County Cork, Ireland?

Just a Shot Away

Wouldn't this be a good idea?
From my observations, Starbucks fans have one drink that they invariably order. Somehow, Starbucks should be able to encode on your card the details of that drink. That way, the barista could just scan your card and you wouldn't have to spell out your preferences each time.
Perhaps my brother will recall the time he and I wrote to Frito-Lay with what we thought was a brilliant idea for an ad. The song "Macho Man" by the Village People was a huge hit at the time, and we suggested that they buy the rights and change the words to "Nacho Man."
We received in response a polite letter with some Frito's coupons and a packet of dip mix.

Sanderson Museum

I can't believe that last week was the first time I ever visited the Christian C. Sanderson Museum on Route 100 in Chadds Ford. What a wonderful and quirky place! It's full of the stuff that "Chris" collected over his lifetime, from autographs to dried flowers to historical relics to little vials of water from exotic locales. It's a charming and refreshingly non-flashy, low-tech museum.
"From Revolutionary War history to childhood memories, from Chadds Ford artifacts to Civil War memorabilia, the Sanderson Museum represents a man's life and a nation's history," says the museum website (

It's open March through November, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (though private tours are also available at other times). Admission is free but of course donations are welcome.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Still good advice

From a 1920s etiquette manual:
"Anyone who thinks well or ill of [a woman], in accordance with her income, cannot be too quickly got rid of!"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

La Poste

A loyal reader writes:
"Standing in line in the Unionville post office this morning, I noticed a new guy at the counter. Stocky, dark, slight accent. Then I noticed he had NPR on the radio and complimented him on it. When I bought my stamps, he said "Voilà" as he handed them to me. "Merci," was all I could call up on the spur of the moment. But to my amazement the next customer and he conducted their business in French! In Unionville!"

Weekly stink bug update

Where do they come from? They just appear seemingly out of nowhere!
I'm getting about 10 or 15 a day, which is quite manageable, and I actually think I'm getting used to them. There was one perched on my toothbrush; I just flicked it off, rinsed the toothbrush and brushed away. There was one swimming in my coffee pot; I fished it out and poured myself a cup. It didn't taste any different.
However, the one on my tissue was pretty gross: I didn't spot it til after I'd blown my nose. (Pretty gross for the S.B., too, now that I think of it!)

Poetry Women

To celebrate National Poetry Month, Christianna Hannum Miller of Kennett Square and Dianne Herrin of West Chester read their poems at the Kennett Flash on Friday, April 1. Christy's poems reflected her deep roots in the Unionville countryside; in "The smell of pools" she wrote vividly about swimming at her grandmother's farm. Dianne wrote about family, and nature, and religion, and I found her "Notice," about a friend's death in a car crash, to be very moving.
I enjoyed hearing the poems read aloud, and the evening was enhanced by John Orban's lovely photographs, which were projected on the screen behind the stage.
The two poets answered lots of questions from the audience afterwards, giving honest, straightforward answers about why and how they write. Dianne said she often jots down ideas on the spot on the closest piece of paper she can find, often the back of a receipt. Christy said she doesn't have much interest in publishing, but she'd very much like to read her poems to children and senior citizens.
I'm so glad I attended: it was great to reconnect with Dianne after a very long time, and delightful to chat with Christy's family members and all the other Unionville folks who were there. And The Flash is a great venue!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A good cause

The Whip raised a total of $1,700 for injured local jockey Jake Chalfin at a special "Chasin' for Chalfin" Race Night on March 30, according to operating partner K.C. Kulp. The owners donated 25 cents for every dollar in sales (about $1,300), two customers each donated $200, and there were a few smaller donations.
K.C. told me that one of the $200 donations came from "one of Dick Hayne's young groundskeepers (mows lawns, rakes leaves, etc.) -- not a wealthy guy, just a local "kid" - I was impressed."
"The Whip is grateful that our community and our customers have been so supportive of us," said K.C. "Because they give so generously to us, we like to give back to the community by organizing and participating in events like this."
For more information about Chasin' for Chalfin, visit

Breakfast special

Despite the stealth snowstorm, Perkins restaurant in Avondale was hopping the morning of Friday, April 1. A men's Bible study group was deep in discussion. The Avon-Grove boy's lacrosse team spread out over three tables. Some friendly PECO workers tucked into a well-deserved breakfast after repairing electric lines downed by a fallen tree on Good Hope Road (yes, I asked) down in London Britain Township. And two tables were occupied by guys in Phillies shirts, possibly on their way to the ballpark for opening day!
I know I'm in the minority, but I thought the snow was lovely. The yellow-brown willows, forsythias and cat-tails against the white backdrop looked like a sepia-tinted photograph.