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.


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."


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!"  


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.


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 
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.


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 ( for more information.

Monday, November 14, 2011


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.


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.


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."  

Playing by the rules

I noticed a theme running through the November West Marlborough Township supervisors' meeting: the difficulty of keeping track of what's going on in a sparsely populated township without a full-time staff. Sharp-eyed residents brought to the supervisors' attention a few concerns they'd noticed in their travels:
1. A corn crib built much too close to the road along Hicks Road.

2. A structure that's being built along Wilson Road that, according to the zoning permit issued July 1, was supposed to be a barn but certainly looks like a garage with an apartment upstairs, complete with dormer windows.
The supervisors said they'd look into the situations.
"If you see something out of whack, we would appreciate a phone call," chairman Bill Wylie said.
The supervisors also said that Richard Hayne had agreed to reimburse the township for the costs of legal advertisements for the two conditional-use hearings that he canceled on short notice. You'll recall that Mr. Hayne is seeking permission to process and wholesale cheese and tomato products at his Doe Run Farm in Springdell. He has already been making the prize-winning cheese for months and selling it at his Terrain shop and local farmers' markets. No new hearing was scheduled, but the board warned they'd issue a cease-and-desist order on his cheese-making operations if they didn't receive an application from his reps in the near future.

Book shelf

Here are two early Christmas gift ideas for the mushroom-lover in your life: "Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms" by Eugenia Bone, and "The Book of Fungi: A Life-Size Guide to 600 Species from Around the World" by Peter Roberts and Shelley Evans. According to the recent review in the "Wall Street Journal," the former is an "engaging trawl through the labyrinths of mycophilia" written by a food writer from Manhattan. Perhaps these authors could be lured to Kennett Square to do a book signing somewhere in the Mushroom Capital of the World?

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Last week I wrote about the big rabbit dressed up for Halloween as a bank robber in front of a house at Schoolhouse Road and Route 926. He's been captured! Bars were erected in front of him, and a campaign sign for a district attorney candidate was displayed prominently above him. I'm sure, however, that he'll be sprung free in time for the next holiday.
As always, thanks to this creative homeowner for giving us such a chuckle.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In the zone

The monthly West Marlborough Township planning commission meeting on Nov. 1 drew a bigger-than-usual crowd, many of them curious about an unsigned flier that had been circulated around the township criticizing some proposed changes to the township's zoning code.
The zoning changes, proposed by Neil Land, attorney for the Whip, would affect not only Springdell, where the bar and restaurant is located, but also the village of London Grove at Route 926 and Newark Road. Four new uses would be permitted in the village residential zone:

  1. Restaurants (but not drive-through or fast-food ones)
  2. Nightclubs and taverns
  3. Offices
  4. Parking
Mr. Land argued the changes would allow the Whip more flexibility to find additional parking areas in Springdell for its patrons. (The lack of sufficient parking has been an ongoing headache, both for Whip patrons and some of the neighbors.)
According to the flier, however, "This proposal is ill considered and will almost certainly result in unintended consequences which can only be negative...The proposed change is completely at odds with the way of life in West Marlborough and the adjoining area."
Joseph Huston, one of a group of Springdell neighbors who have complained for years that the Whip has a negative impact on their lives, and Kristin Camp, one of their attorneys, stood up at the meeting and reiterated the points made in the flier.
The few other residents who spoke seemed to be concerned that changing the zoning ordinance would be too broad an action to solve a problem that concerns one property (parking for the Whip). They said that the township's experience with the Whip has shown that having commercial developments on small lots in villages can lead to real problems, so why would we want more of it?
The author of the flier warned, darkly: "In light of the recent development and commercial uses of the former Thouron and young takes little imagination to foresee an interested party's purchasing affected properties and turning these villages into intense commercial zones."
The planning commission is expected to make a recommendation to the township supervisors, who will make the final decision on the proposed changes.

Bridge out

On the morning of Nov. 1, a truck carrying steel plates crashed into the covered bridge on Frog Hollow Road, causing serious damage. The bridge, which spans Buck Run, is going to be closed indefinitely for repair. Looks like the residents will have their own private road for a while, although it'll mean driving all the way up to Strasburg Road if they want to get anywhere.