Sunday, October 30, 2011


1. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. It is killing me not to express an opinion about one race in our area -- I know one candidate well and would dearly love to cast my vote for his opponent -- but that's not my role here. In this column I'm officially nonpartisan and determined to stay that way.
2. A loyal Tilda reader tells me she was appalled to learn that so few people contribute money to their local fire company. She urged me to once again point out what a valuable service these dedicated volunteers perform and how we should all support them generously. I agree. Write out that check!

King's Island

The Tally-ho clan celebrated the visit of some very entertaining in-laws with an excellent dinner at King's Island, the Chinese restaurant in the Shoppes at Longwood Village.
I was fighting off a cold and had just run some extra laps at the Kennett Y to give the Occupy Tilda germs their eviction notice. I was looking forward to spending the snowy evening wrapped up on the sofa watching a DVD, but then someone proposed Chinese for dinner and -- well, that was all I needed to hear.
I hadn't been to the King's Island for dinner since they reopened after a kitchen fire in 2010, and I'm delighted to report that the food is just as good as ever. We ordered moo goo gai pan, General Tso's Chicken, Chicken with Ginger, Scallions and Black Beans, Mongolian Beef and a giant combo platter called Seven Stars that came topped with a yellow cocktail umbrella. The chef prepared a custom seafood dish for the youngest member of our family and he was very pleased with it.
Service was good and cheerful and the organized waitress kept us well supplied with rice, tea, water and, at dinner's end, takeout boxes. When my brother received a fortune cookie without a fortune inside, she brought him a replacement.
The ritual fight over the check was swift and was won by the visitors rather than the home team this time.

Friday, October 28, 2011


My fitness instructor at the Jennersville Y -- let's call her "Pepper" -- just earned her personal trainer certification. She was stunned at the news because she was certain she had failed her exam miserably: for example, she said her mind had gone blank when she was asked to coach someone through a squat using proper body mechanics.
A friend of her e-mailed the good news to Pepper's boss, who was on vacation: "Pepper passed."
The boss got back, read the note and was horrified, thinking that "passed" meant that Pepper had gone to that Great Gym in the Sky. Fortunately, she quickly realized that there's no way the news would've been transmitted in such a cavalier way.
She told Pepper the story and assured her that OF COURSE her first thought on reading the e-mail had not been, "Who the heck am I going to get to cover all of Pepper's classes?"

A winner

In high school, at the end of senior year, I won the Future Homemaker of the Year award. This brought howls of laughter and much ribbing from my friends, as (back then) I didn't plan meals, cook, sew, clean, select upholstery fabric, or watch kids.

The only reason I took the qualifying test was that it got me out of calculus class one morning. As I recall it was mostly questions about how many rolls of wallpaper you'd need to cover such-and-such amount of wall space. I think there was an essay question about the modern American family, which I'm sure I batted out of the park. When I won, the girls who'd spent most of their high-school years perfecting their homemaking arts in the home-ec suite were not at all happy.
Well, maybe there was something more predictive about this award than I thought. For one, I'm about to share with you a great recipe for lemon cookies. I made them for a reception yesterday afternoon and people were literally stuffing them in their pockets.
Buy a box of Krusteaz Lemon Bars Supreme Mix. Follow the instructions for lemon crisps on the side panel. Use local eggs, melt the two sticks of butter first, and use bare, ungreased cookie sheets. I even omitted the rolling-in-granulated-sugar part and they were still fantastic.
(Thanks for Corky, Chase and Kevin's mommy for this great idea!)

Visitors from Texas

Santa Gertrudis beef cattle are back grazing on the pastures of the former King Ranch after an absence of 20 years. They were brought up to West Marlborough from Texas because of the severe droughts there, and more are expected to arrive shortly.
You can see the reddish-brown beasts grazing on the east side of Route 82 north of Blow Horn.
In the olden days, I'm told, watching the cowboys offload the cattle from trains was a highlight of the year that brought out the whole community. And their return to our Unionville pastures brought forth an outpouring of nostalgia among longtime residents this past week.

Retired Unionville schoolteacher Don Silknitter recalled, "We used to march the kids across the field near Blow Horn to check out the lime kilns. The cows used to follow us, and then surround us. On one local history tour we found a cow that fell into one of the kilns. Rusty [Wilmont]'s dad had to rope and drag it out because the way it was laying it could not get up. He told me if we wouldn't have shown up when we did it would have probably died in about an hour or two."
"They're cute when they are little... Ugly as a full-grown monster though," said Rob Mastrippolito Jr. "I saw a pair of 'em beat the daylights out of a Ford pickup truck with two white-faced cowboys inside when I was a little kid."
According to the King Ranch's website, the Santa Gertrudis breed "is recognized worldwide as being able to function productively in hot, humid and unfavorable environments. In order to accomplish this goal, King Ranch breeding experts selectively crossed Indian Brahman cattle with British Shorthorns." It was the first beef breed developed in the United States.

Funny bunny

A faithful Tilda reader sent in this tip:
"Have you seen the bunny on 926 at Schoolhouse Road (east of Willowdale)? (S)he was dressed as Darth Vader for Halloween but is now a bank robber. Too funny. The bunny changes clothes periodically. Those folks are very clever."
I agree! The felonious rabbit, already in convict stripes, is wearing a mask and holding a $$ money bag and a flashlight that glows red at night. And it looks like there's an inflatable police car hot on the trail, with one of East Marlborough's finest ready to arrest the bunny's cotton tail.
The same reader also directed me to the extensive work that's being done on the old barn on the Mill Road farm known locally as the "Great Wall of Kennett" (because the new owners have erected a quarter-mile-long stucco-over-stone wall). "It appears to have been raised off its pillars so the foundation can be reinforced.  Looks like it will be lowered back into place when repairs are done," said my tipster. "Amazing sight."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Time for new glasses!

A Unionville friend reports with some dismay:
"I thought I just saw two male bald eagles in my paddock. I grabbed my camera in the hopes of getting a Berkowitz-worthy photo, but it turns out the birds were two crows with dinner rolls in their beaks!"
(The "Berkowitz" she refers to is of course veterinarian Steven Berkowitz of Unionville Equine Associates, whose gorgeous wildlife shots regularly win local photo contests.)

On the menu

At the Half-Moon in Kennett I usually order a buffalo burger, but while I was scanning the menu the other night the buffalo short-rib sandwich caught my eye.
"That's my father's favorite!" commented our waitress.
I agree with her father; it was just delicious. It came with caramelized onions and a hint of horseradish cream, and the bread was focaccia. Another winner from the Half-Moon's kitchen!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


First thing this morning I went for my yearly routine lab tests at the Quest Diagnostics lab in the little shopping center to the east of the Kennett Wal-Mart. Because some of the "normal" values they compare your numbers to are calculated based on fasting levels, you're not supposed to eat breakfast before you go in. So I didn't and I was really missing my bowl of cereal, having had only a salad for dinner some 14 hours earlier.
So what was the first thing the lab tech said to me?
"Wow, is my stomach rumbling! I only had a bagel for breakfast."
I burst out laughing.
"Uh, guess what: you're not gonna get any sympathy from me," I said.
She realized that hadn't been the most tactful remark, and she chuckled and apologized.
But what's impressive is that during this conversation, she'd already poked my arm without hurting me one bit and extracted the two vials needed. Honestly, I barely noticed.

Suspicious activity

I've been working with this one client for probably 15 years. He retired as the president of a major publishing house, got bored without a challenge and started his own software firm. He is a larger-than-life character, both figuratively and literally, and over the past few weeks we've been struggling to straighten out a particularly bug-prone content-management program.
So this morning I was surprised when he called me and started chortling rather than wailing about what new software problems had surfaced overnight with our colleagues in India.
It seems he'd just received a call from one of his credit-card companies saying someone had used his credit-card number to make some kind of nutritional purchase from a body-building website.
Instead of being outraged, he thought this was hilarious. He took a look at the website, roared with laughter and told the credit-card rep, "Are you kidding me? I couldn't look like that even if I had extensive plastic surgery!"
He offered to send a photo of himself if she needed proof.
She said no, that wasn't necessary. He wouldn't be billed for it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Forgive any typos

I've been getting some very peculiar text messages from a friend's iPhone recently. In one she mentioned that her "blackfish" was coming later in the week, and in another she told me she was trying to track down information about an injured rider via the local "goodness wireless."
I thought that perhaps "Blackfish" was some kind of a code-named writing project; "goodness wireless" I couldn't make any sense of.
But at lunch today we figured out what was going on. Her iPhone was on auto-correct: she had meant to type "blacksmith" and "hoofbeat wireless" (her term for the local equestrian grapevine).
When we stopped laughing, she fetched the offending smart phone and reprogrammed it to stop auto-correcting. Shame; I'll miss these baffling texts.

Angels of the first degree

Tilda's Customer Service Award of the Month goes to the outpatient registration folks at Jennersville Hospital.
I went in for my yearly mammogram first thing in the morning (yes, I cluster all of my routine medical appointments into one week) and, naturally, left the prescription hanging on the fridge at home. I thought, yikes, I'll have to drive all the way back home, I'll be late for my appointment and then for the board meeting right after that ...
Nope. The wonderful woman behind the desk simply called my doctor's office and they faxed over the script immediately (lots of thanks to them, too!). I got the test done and was out of there by 8:25 a.m.
"Impressive" doesn't begin to describe it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Stink bug update

So where are they?
Entomological prognosticators advised us that in mid-September the stink bugs would invade our houses again, in even larger numbers than before. But so far that just hasn't happened. I've had two bad days when there were dozens of the disgusting pests on the walls and windows, but since then, maybe -- MAYBE -- only a couple a day.
One theory proposes that the heavy rain we've had in recent weeks has slowed them down. Or maybe they're just waiting until it gets colder outside.
But I've got my defenses all ready. I bought special lighted traps that a high-school friend of mine designed; I want to try Hal Lewis's "death on a stick" sticky device (it's like a Swiffer with a sticky pad on the mop end); and a friend of a friend wants me to try out a prototype of his trap.
And I've heard that those old-fashioned fly-paper spirals work too.


We have to listen to so many inane, high-volume cell-phone conversations -- for instance, the other day at the supermarket a woman was standing in front of the ice-cream section, with the freezer door wide open, yacking about what kind of ice cream to buy. Imagine, then, my luck at overhearing two fascinating ones at the Kennett Y this weekend!
The first was a doctor answering a page. He was pacing up and down the corridor, so I didn't get the full conversation, but I heard "renal insufficiency" and "infection" and "trach tube." With that calm, decisive authority that doctors project, he reassured the nurse on the other end of the line that the patient was OK, although "we'll take a look at him tomorrow."
The second was a Unionville girl planning her Homecoming weekend. She had all the facts at her fingertips: where her friends lived, who was picking them up, what their curfews were, who didn't want to ride in the same car with whom. I was impressed with her organizational skills and envious of her youthful stamina: it sounded like her weekend was a wall-to-wall lineup of sports, parties, dates, and movies.

Friday, October 21, 2011

First comes love

A faithful Tilda reader sent me a link to Philadelphia invitation-design company called Bird & Banner. The very first sample shown on their website is a charming wedding invitation that outlines the couple's history, starting with meeting in fall 1999 on "School Bus #23 at Unionville High School" (it seems they had mutual crushes on each other in high school) and proceeding through their first date, their first "I love you" and their engagement. It's very sweet.

Sign up

I just noticed that the sign at Kennett Friends Meeting at North Union and Sickle Streets has been replaced. The old one had been missing since the morning of June 6 when the driver of an SUV smashed into both the sign and the big evergreen next to it. The new sign, which looks a lot like the old one, was erected by the Kennett Square company Sarro Signs.

Doggin' it

I stopped off at the Longwood Starbucks after working out at the gym on Friday and found myself in the middle of a birthday party for the service dogs from Canine Partners for Life. There were about 10 of the intelligent and beautifully behaved animals there, both inside and outside the coffee shop, along with lots of their human companions. A few of the dogs wore pointed birthday hats, and they snacked on doggie treats while their humans enjoyed their drinks.
Usually there is some good people-watching to be done at Starbucks, but that afternoon was all about dog-watching.
Canine Partners for Life, which is based in Cochranville, trains and places dogs to help people with physical and cognitive disabilities.

New hours

There's a sign at the Unionville Post Office announcing that the window will be open for service from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays through the end of 2011. I'm sure that will be much appreciated by all the early risers around here.
Also, starting in January the price of mailing a letter will go up by one cent, to 45 cents.

Oh, phooey.

I have to the honor to be on the board of a local historical group, and at a committee meeting over Tanzanian tea the other day we were discussing some portraits that we have on display.
One woman told us that the phrase "that will cost an arm and a leg" was coined because colonial artists used to charge extra for painting hands and feet. As evidence she pointed to a portrait on the wall in which, sure enough, the subject's hand was hidden inside his yellow vest.
When I got home I checked out this great story online -- and alas found it thoroughly debunked on "The Phrase Finder" website:
"The tale that is told is that portrait painters used to charge more for larger paintings and that a head and shoulders painting was the cheapest option, followed in price by one which included arms and finally the top of the range 'legs and all' portrait. As so often with popular etymologies, there's no truth in that story. Painters certainly did charge more for large pictures, but there's no evidence to suggest they did so by limb count. In any case the phrase is much more recent than the painting origin would suggest."

In Motion

There was a lovely piece about Graham Motion, a racehorse trainer at Fair Hill, in the Oct. 15/16 "Wall Street Journal." One of the horses he trains is this year's Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom.

The story describes his background (he moved to the United States from England in 1980 and formerly worked under Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard of Unionville), his daily routine and his philosophy of training. "Everything we do is about getting the horse to relax," he is quoted as saying.
He also talks about how he manages to stay organized with so many horses and so much data to keep track of: his laptop and BlackBerry help out, in addition to his assistants and stable manager.

If you access the story online you can also watch a video of Mr. Motion and Fair Hill's jockeys, grooms, and a farrier at work -- along with some remarkable horses and a cute barncat.


A multi-talented friend just earned her Certified Food Handler license and said one of the unfortunate side effects of her new knowledge is that she is quick to notice any violations committed at restaurants. For instance, she was just at a pizza shop and saw the pizza guy wipe his nose, pick up the phone to take an order, take payment from a customer -- and then proceed to plunk down circles of pepperoni on a customer's pizza, without washing his hands or putting on gloves. Not surprisingly, she no longer had much of an appetite.

Behind the scenes of BIG

Festive photos have been appearing all week online of guests at the Brandywine River Museum's 40th birthday gala on Oct. 15. My friend Cathy Quillman, an artist and writer who lives in West Chester, was part of the behind-the-scenes décor committee, led by artist Mark Dance. She wrote the following account:
"I had a chance to see the design piecemeal when I was invited to be part of the requisite “top-secret” work crew. I think I spent more time talking to Dance about his plans than actually working, but that was partly because the work crew, ensconced at a secret location – ok, it was the “Draper Barn,” a historic barn near [Frolic] Weymouth’s estate – resembled the busy elves of Santa’s Workshop.
"Or maybe they looked like elves because all the décor items – colored pencils, paint brushes, even a palette knife – were fit for a giant. I was so caught up in the construction of each item, such as the truckload of PVC pipe and kitchen brooms used to make brushes, it didn’t occur to me that Dance’s theme echoed the word “BIG!” on party invitation.
"The main theme was art, of course, which Dance carried out in nearly every aspect of his design, from the giant palettes used as table tops and the gilt picture frames “framing” the hors d’oeuvres tables to the “mock” art work and row of books showing N.C. Wyeth’s famous illustrations.
"Many of the décor items served a specific purpose: giant paint tubes were carved from Styrofoam and left unpainted, to be hung thirty feet in the air in the courtyard tent. The silky colored fabric spewing from the tubes served to cover the tent poles.
"Dance told me that he borrowed the N.C Wyeth pirate mural he made a few years ago (it had been purchased by a collector) and then created several giant sketches, reimagining classic Wyeth studies. Dance also channeled Andrew Wyeth and somehow came up with remarkably perfect imitations of the great artist’s frenetic drawing style. (Dance drew several field thistles and one sketch of a Wyeth model, but not Helga.)
"When it came time to make a giant “Chock full o' Nuts” coffee can to hold those paint brushes, Dance didn’t even attempt to recreate its label – that would have taken too much time, he said. A professional sign company created a label and then spent a few hours (again) in undisclosed location securing it to a base nearly as high as a garage door. At night, the “can” was wheeled on its platform and into a storage area behind the museum.
"On the night of the BIG event, it seemed that the party-goers were so absorbed in hubbub, which included posing for photographs behind painted picture frames and dancing to the lively Ward Marston Orchestra, they might have overlooked the little details. Tiny brushes were placed in cocktails, for instance, and behind the bartenders, one could catch glimpses of the coffee can, with its “Nutrition Facts” outlining museum facts such as the number of “serving of art” and “visitors to date.”
(Photo credit: Holly C. Clinger)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Muy delicioso!

I just had an amazingly tasty chicken burrito from the newly opened La Michoacana Grill at Union and Cypress Streets in Kennett Square (catty-cornered from Tom Macaluso's bookstore). Along with the chicken, it was stuffed full of beans (pinto or black) and rice (your choice of two kinds), as well as cheese, lettuce, onions, corn and salsa; I think the only extra I turned down was sour cream. Behind me in line were some office workers on their lunch hour. There's only one small table, so it seems this is primarily a take-out place.
One young customer in the shop was waiting for his two steak tacos. He told me he lives in the apartment house just across the street and had already eaten at the grill three times in the few days it had been open.
Hours for the grill are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. And yes, the shop is run by the same friendly people who own the Michoacana ice-cream store on East State Street.


Tony Young's Springdell mansion has now been razed (Richard Hayne bought the convicted swindler's estate to add to his Doe Run Farm), and only the portion of the house closest to Thouron Road remains. Mr. Hayne has told the township that he plans to replace the mansion with a personal fitness center.

I drove past the site on Monday afternoon and it's as if Mr. Young's grand mansion, which was built less than 10 years ago, had never even been there.
In other Doe Run Farm news, I had hoped to give you a lively account of the latest cheese-processing hearing, but it was cancelled. Yes, for the second time. No reason for the delay was given by Mr. Hayne's representatives and no new date was set.
Mr. Hayne is seeking West Marlborough Township's permission to make cheese and process tomatoes at the farm. For months, however, he has been making cheese there and selling it at his Terrain store (he is the founder of the Urban Outfitters empire) and at local farmer's markets.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Estate of the week

White Tail Run, a 30-acre estate on Stockford Road in Pennsbury Township, is on the market with an asking price of $5,750,000. I've never been there, but judging from the online photos, it's pretty amazing. The property details: five bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two half-baths, master suite with his-and-hers bathrooms and dressing areas, formal living and dining rooms, paneled library, fitness room, springhouse, barn, gazebo, pond and "a 7-car garage complete with powder room and large walk-up attic."


An ambitious Kennett Square friend of mine is hard at work studying for a very tough state licensing exam that she'll be taking on Oct. 25. Realizing how easy it is to waste all kinds of time poking around Facebook, she posted the following over the weekend: "If anyone notices me on here for huge chunks of time, I want you to verbally abuse me. Be merciless. Call me horrible names, curse at me, treat me like an immature child, then tell me to get back to studying."
I found this pretty amusing and sent her a message via Facebook asking if I could share her posting in my column. She immediately messaged me back -- then quickly realized that by doing so she'd utterly betrayed herself. 
Get back to work, you!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blow Horn

There's not a lot more I can say about "Occupy Blow Horn," the light-hearted, low-key, nostalgic horn-honking that took place the morning of Saturday, Oct. 15, to protest the removal (by whatever means) of the time-honored "Blow Horn" warning sign from the old mill at Routes 82 and 841 here in West Marlborough.
The protest, organized in just a few days via Facebook and by word of mouth, took about 10 minutes: a procession of people drove through the crossroads and beeped while a bunch of enthusiastic folks stood up on the road bank waving and applauding. There was a lovely sense of community and affection.
My "Daily Local News" colleague Michael Rellahan, who drove all the way from West Chester for the occasion, outdid himself writing about the event, and I highly recommend his series of stories.

90 years young

Congratulations to the Longwood Fire Company on its 90th birthday! Station 25 celebrated on Sunday, Oct. 16, with its annual open house. Quite a crowd of families -- cars filled the parking lot and were parked up and down the road -- were there chatting with the firefighters, checking out the fire company's equipment and displays and sitting down to the delicious-smelling chicken barbeque.
Pierre DuPont formed the company, originally called the Longwood Fire Brigade, in 1921 to protect Longwood Gardens.

Water winner

Actress and singer Olivia Newton-John was here in town on Tuesday, Oct. 11, to receive the Stroud Award of Freshwater Excellence from the Stroud Water Research Center. According to the Stroud website, Ms. Newton-John and her husband, John Easterling, "also known as Amazon John, are both staunch supporters of rainforest conservation and known for work in conserving the Amazon River watershed."
A friend who attended the gala, held at Longwood Gardens, said it was just fabulous. Ms. N-J wore a simple and stylish pants outfit, said my friend.
"We had such beautiful linens and table toppers with one large pumpkin in center with lovely cascading bows all set up in sunken marble floor with the amazing fern trees towering overhead," she said. "Also they have 575 Asian paper umberellas displayed side by side on the ceiling overhead in that same area. You have to go see."

Odd Job Bob

El Brio Vanner farm in Newlin Township hosted an open house on Saturday, Oct. 15, to showcase its beautiful Gypsy Vanner horses, one of whom, Odd Job Bob, stars in "The Greening of Whitney Brown," the new movie backed by the farm's owner, Ed Fitts.
According to the synopsis on IMDB, "Whitney, a spoiled pre-teen from Philadelphia, is forced to move to the country when her parents feel the squeeze of economic hard times. A fish out of water, far from her comfort zone, she befriends an amazing horse, and undertakes a misguided journey back to her old life, only to discover that her family is her home."
Bob's co-stars are Brooke Shields, Aidan Quinn, Kris Kristofferson, and Sammi Hanratty. The movie is set for release Nov. 11, with the DVD available in January.


On Saturday, Oct. 15, about 30 Stanley Steam Car enthusiasts took a jaunt from the Marshall Steam Museum at Auburn Heights in Hockessin to Primitive Hall in West Marlborough. The beautiful old cars had no mishaps en route, and the drivers and passengers enjoyed lunch, drinks, and a tour of the restored 1738 house on the gorgeous autumn day. One driver was concerned that he might not have enough water in his tank to make it back to Delaware, so before setting off he filled up with a garden hose.
According to the museum's website (, "The Marshall collection is made up of 14 original, road-worthy Stanleys representing a cross section of Stanley manufacturing years and operating technologies. The Marshall collection is the largest operating collection of Stanley Steam Cars in the world."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

For sale

Former Unionville schoolteacher Helen Martin is selling her three-story brick apartment house at Street Road and Newark Road in the village of London Grove, West Marlborough. Asking price for the seven-unit building, which sits on less than an acre, is $574,900. Holly Gross of Prudential Fox Roach has the listing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Coffee at Landhope

The weather can't make up its mind today. One minute it's pouring; the next it's sunny.
I was having coffee with a friend at the picnic tables outside Landhope when the skies simply opened up. Even though we leaned back and flattened ourselves against the outside wall of the store, we still got splashed. Two guys eating lunch retreated to their truck, but not before joining in our conversation about my troublesome car.
"Get a Chevy," was their advice.
My friend countered with her perennial recommendation that I should buy a Ford pickup like hers.
Maybe it's just my good fortune, but I've never met a mean person while eating outside at Landhope. Everyone seems to be in the mood for a chat about this or that, or just gives a cordial greeting.

An honest man

I found myself de facto hostess at a social event the other night, so I decided to make the best of it and started chatting with a guest I didn't know. He said he'd run into awful traffic on his way to the event from his gym.
Aha! Conversational gold! As something of an athlete myself, I felt on solid ground here.
"So was today an upper body day or a lower body day, or did you do cardio?" I asked.
He gave me a sheepish look.
"Actually, I sat in the parking lot and made phone calls," he confessed.
I liked him so much for his frankness that I'm afraid I neglected my small-talk and mingling duties and spent most of the evening talking to him.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gas lines

The scene at the gas pumps at the Giant supermarket in New Garden on the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 8, reminded me of the gas lines in the 1970s. For a while back then, because of the fuel shortage, you could buy gas only on certain days, based on whether you had an odd or even last digit on your license plate (this was before the days of vanity plates). Oct. 8 was the last day in Giant's promotion period that you could use your discount points from the supermarket at the pumps, and everybody, including me, was taking advantage of it.
The next Giant bonus-point promotion is, believe it or not, a free Thanksgiving turkey.


I noticed a display of those indoor amaryllis bulbs for forcing in the grocery store on Monday but decided that before I bought new ones, I'd check the pots from last year that I had stashed in the darkness of the laundry room over the summer. Sure enough, green sprouts had appeared on two of the three, so I brought them out into the light and watered them. (And a few days later the third one started to sprout!)
I'm a big fan of these boxed bulbs, and I find that the ones you can buy at the supermarket or home improvement store do just fine. They're inexpensive ($6.99 on sale) and foolproof, and it's exciting to watch them grow so quickly right in your living room. And the giant red or red-and-white flowers are beautiful.


A super-sized thank you to Jimmy John's for improving my morning.
It's never a good sign when a red icon appears on your dashboard depicting a car up on a lift. I made an 8:30 a.m. appointment at my car dealership on Route 202 and stayed in the right lane all the way, constantly worrying that at any moment my car was going to seize up and would need to be towed the rest of the way.
Plus it was raining.
Plus it was rush hour.
Plus a key stretch of Route 926 was closed.
By the time I got to the Route 1/202 crossroads I was already 10 minutes late. Ahead of me a tractor-trailer used up the entire left-turn light to make his turn.
And then I saw the Jimmy John's billboard: "People who run behind cars get exhausted."
I laughed out loud, my irritation vanished and I remembered that any problem you can solve by throwing money at it really isn't a problem.

Ms. Tally-ho regrets

Well, somebody sure thinks I have deep pockets and am eager to fork over my cash. Recently I've been getting cordial invitations to various political fundraisers, starting -- STARTING! -- at $100 a pop. The only one that even slightly tempted me was an Oct. 27 cocktail party at a Willistown farm "featuring a cooking demonstration and entertainment" by a former White House chef. But at $150 per person or $250 a couple, I'm going to pass.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall of the House of Young

It's the end of an infamous chapter in Unionville's history: most of Tony Young's mansion in Springdell has been torn down.
The home of the convicted swindler was bought by Richard Hayne, the billionaire founder of the Urban Outfitters empire, who added it to the former Thouron property that he owns just across Thouron Road. Mr. Hayne has been building quite a compound at the site and has told the township that he wants to replace the former Young mansion with a personal fitness center for himself and his wife.
So on Monday, Oct. 10, I got home from the grocery store at about 2:30 p.m. and spotted the news of the demolition on Facebook. Without even putting away my milk and lettuce, I got back in the car and raced over there (once a journalist, always a journalist...). One of Mr. Hayne's workers very kindly showed me where I could park safely.
What a spectacle! The amazingly skilled demolition guy used his giant excavator with surgical precision, knocking down one cinder block at a time when he needed to and then ripping out a bay window in one fell swoop. When he reached a piece of copper flashing, he removed it with the excavator's jaws like he was tweezing a stray eyebrow and then dropped it into a separate Dumpster for salvage.
A lot of the interior of the house, including the mantelpieces and window glass, had already been removed (I imagine a fair amount of the beautiful interior details were sold to recover funds), and it was strange to see a built-in third-storey cupboard and a staircase open to the sky.
Meanwhile some landscaping guys were using muscle power, and crowbars, to dig out the cobblestones that had edged Tony's driveway.
Tony now has far more humble digs: he is serving his 210-month sentence 756 miles away, in the Federal Correctional Institution at Jesup in southeast Georgia.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Good times

Some 65 members of Unionville High School's class of 1971 turned out for their 40th reunion in early October. At the Community Fair the class had a booth with vintage photos on display and rode on a float in the parade (Shelley Mincer dressed up as the Indian mascot), and class member Jim Hicks beat two-time champ Robert Laffey in the cow-milking contest. The celebration continued at a Saturday night party at the Italian-American Club.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Years of service

At their October meeting, Kennett Square's Borough Council honored Police Chief Ed Zunino for his 35 years of service with the department. I've known a lot of police officers over the years, and I can tell you this: Kennett and its citizens are lucky to have such a good cop and honorable human being at the helm. Dozens of well-wishers, colleagues and family members turned out for the ceremony.
And over the summer Kennett Township's Roadmaster, Roger E. Lysle, celebrated 30 years with the township. "We are pleased and happy to recognize his faithful service to the Township. Roger is a true treasure to our Township," wrote the township supervisors in their semi-annual newsletter (which you can read on the township's informative and nicely designed website,
Congratulations to both men, and compliments to the folks who manage Kennett borough and Kennett Township for being able to keep such skilled and experienced employees on board.

Looking ahead

A couple of noteworthy dates for your calendar:
The 77th running of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup is Sunday, Nov. 6. Gates open at 11 a.m. Top-notch tailgating and some pretty fine races, too, with proceeds going to the Chester County Food Bank. See you there; I already have my tickets! More information is at The course is on the west side of Newark Road, between Routes 926 and 842, in West Marlborough.
The Kennett Square Historical Commission's Candlelight Holiday Home Tour is 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11. On this year's tour are ten homes, a condo suite, a church and a business. has more information. I'll be at that one, too, as a volunteer hostess.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rodeo aerobics

The Willowdale Rodeo at the Unionville Community Fair had some unexpected side effects. In her own fiendish version of barrel racing, my aerobics instructor at the Y set up three obstacles around the room and made us race around them, circling each one, all the while holding as many eight-pound medicine balls as we could (I managed three of them, one tucked under my chin). It was very funny and a great cardio workout.
She hasn't figured out how to simulate steer roping for us yet, but I'm sure she's working on it.


Sorry, Cheerios: I've switched to store-brand cereal. It's just as tasty and wholesome, it's much less expensive, I don't need or want the little children's book that comes with Cheerios, and the generic's packaging is easier to open. The latter is actually why I made the switch: the Cheerios bag was difficult to open and then tore open crookedly, with the result that little O's spilled all over the counter and floor every morning. Not a good way to start the day.
And it seems I'm in good company. An Oct. 4 "Wall Street Journal" story on how consumers' buying habits have changed during the recession found that a full 20 percent of all grocery sales are private brand, up from 15 percent before the recession. (Also, 75 percent of shoppers now carry lists, up from 45 percent in 2008.)

Earned income tax?

West Marlborough residents can expect to receive a postcard from the township in the near future giving dates for a public meeting about the proposed earned income tax. The township supervisors are considering implementing this tax to pay for road maintenance expenses, which would increase if the township "takes back" control of several roads currently maintained by Pennsylvania. The added expense would be in the neighborhood of $60,000 per year, or more if Route 82 were also brought under township control.
The tax would be less than 1 percent. If the tax were implemented, most residents who work in other municipalities would not see any increase in their taxes, because they already pay the tax to the jurisdiction where they work; rather, part of that total would come back to West Marlborough.
For comparison, the millage rate (real estate tax) and earned income tax for neighboring municipalities are 0 mills and 0.50 percent for East Fallowfield; 2.3 mills and 1 percent for Highland; 0 mills and 0.75 percent for Londonderry; 1.25 mills and 0.75 percent for London Grove; 0.75 mills and 0.625 percent for New Garden; 0.40 mills and 0.75 percent for Kennett Township; 1.43 mills and 0 percent for East Marlborough; and 0.75 mills and 0.50 percent for Newlin. West Marlborough's current millage is 1.70 and it doesn't currently have an earned income tax.

In production

Monday, Oct. 17, is the new hearing date for Richard Hayne's request to make cheese and tomato products for wholesale use at his Springdell farm, which comprises the former Thouron and Tony Young properties. Mr. Hayne has applied for conditional use permission from West Marlborough Township to make the products, even though for months he has already been making cheese (which has won awards for quality) and selling it at his Terrain stores and area farmers' markets. The hearing will start at 7:30 p.m. at the township hall in Doe Run.
At its Oct. 4 meeting the township planning commission discussed what its response should be to the request. They drafted a letter to the board of supervisors stating the following recommendations: (1) that the use never become "intensive"; (2) that the current production capacity be determined and not increased; (3) that the use not change the character of the neighborhood, for instance by markedly increasing truck traffic; and (4) that the supervisors pay particular attention to mitigating light and glare coming from the farm's large greenhouses.


I just received a donation request from the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company in Unionville, and I'll be sending a check like I do every year. I hope you support whichever fire company covers your local area -- these hard-working and dedicated volunteers do a great job.
I was interested to read that Po-Mar-Lin operates an engine, a rescue engine, a 3,000-gallon tanker, a "brush tactical unit" and a John Deere Gator "for brush fires as well as equestrian accidents."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pulling on oars

Not that I'm advocating unsportsmanlike behavior, but I thought Nielsen-Kellerman's ad in "Rowing News" was pretty amusing. The Boothwyn-based firm makes a Blue Ocean megaphone especially for rowing coaches and says that it's not only "extremely loud and clear" but also floats and "bounces without breaking -- withstands coach rage."
I checked out NK's website ( and found they also make some very cool specialized electronic pocket wind and weather meters for all kinds of outdoors enthusiasts: athletes, pilots, farmers, shooters and hunters, skiers, firefighters, coaches -- even concrete workers, home inspectors and race-car drivers who need precise information about humidity.

I said NO!

This morning before I went to the gym I stopped by Ulta, a national chain store on Concord Pike in Delaware, to take advantage of a sale on the shampoo I like. I bought probably a year's supply, plus a couple more things that caught my eye, and went to the checkout.
The clerk asked if I had a frequent buyer card.
No, I said.
Did I want one? she asked hopefully. It wasn't a credit card and I'd get coupons, she said.
No, I said.
She rang up my purchases and then asked if I wanted to donate to the store's breast cancer awareness program.
No, I said.
She then told me I qualified for a few issues of some fashion magazine and gave me a slip to fill out, pointing to the 800 number that you had to call so they didn't automatically renew your "free" subscription.
No, I said.
Finally she let me pay and get on with my day. Honestly!
Attention management: We customers just want to shop and leave. This kind of time-wasting hassle from salespeople is NOT a good idea.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Fair to Remember

I can't find words to describe how wonderful the Unionville Community Fair was this year. We are unbelievably lucky to have a group of volunteers who can pull together such a fantastic event for the community. A few special mentions:
1. The Denim & Diamonds preview gala was terrific, with a diverse group of people you don't usually see at the same party. The food by Triple Fresh Catering was delicious, from the bruschetta to the perfectly cooked chicken marsala to the penne with crabmeat.
2. The Parade. Tractors, the Unionville marching band, the Fair queen (who is a delightful young woman) and princesses, scouts, politicians waving from antique cars, gleaming firetrucks. Adorable.
3. The Rodeo. People around here were talking about nothing else for the week leading up to it, at the post office and on Facebook, and I understand that several local riders begged to be allowed to participate (uh, no. The cowboys are pros, the broncs get major altitude when they buck, and the bulls are really, really big). The rodeo drew a huge and enthusiastic crowd, despite the fact that a certain other high-profile sports event was being held at the same time; the friends I went with said they saw virtually everyone on their street there. Afterwards we went "backstage" to see the steers, bulls and horses and the big rigs that carry them. I thanked the cowboys for putting on such a great show, and they in turn thanked us for supporting the show. One even tipped his hat to me!
4. While I was helping out with one of the contests, a visitor stopped me and told me this was her first visit to the Fair. She was quite frankly stunned by the wonderful entries, the cheerful, friendly and wholesome atmosphere and the variety of activities, and she asked me to pass along her highest compliments to the organizers. Consider it done, madam.