Friday, December 28, 2012

No tacos for Tilda

Remember the fateful scene in Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles" when Tess slips an important letter under her lover Angel Clare's door, and it actually goes under the carpet, not to be found until it's too late?
The 21st-century equivalent just happened to me.
Earlier in the day I asked a friend to meet me for dinner at La Pena Mexicana, the great taco place in Kennett, at 6:20 p.m. I didn't hear from him, so I ate a boring salad here at home.
At 7:30 p.m. he phoned and said, with some irritation, "So where were you?"
"You never got back to me!" I protested, and immediately checked my e-mails.
Sure enough, he had, and if I had scrolled down sufficiently in the message I would have seen his RSVP, and I would have had a delicious meal. Like he did ("that burrito, it was like a bolster on a sofa").
That sound you hear is me wailing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Red-faced

I was changing in the locker room at the Kennett Y yesterday when a guy came striding in. I thought, oh, it's a college kid home on break who doesn't realize this is the ladies' locker room. So I went up to him and said, "Excuse me, sir? This is the ladies' room."
It wasn't a guy. It was a tall, slim woman with close-cropped hair, wearing a gray T-shirt, baggy shorts and high socks, with a tight elastic binder around her chest.
Thank goodness, she didn't seem to mind in the least being mistaken for a man. I apologized immediately, and I'm still mortified. Who knew I'd get a lesson in gender definition in the locker room at the Y?
(And more power to her for dressing whatever way she wants.) 


Hillendale send-off


Parents, siblings and apparently even pets rallied outside Hillendale Elementary School to show their love and appreciation for the school's students, faculty and staff at dismissal time on Dec. 21, the last day before winter break. Parent Danielle Chamberlain was kind enough to send me these photos. Go Huskies!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

So This Is Christmas

Here's hoping everyone had as merry a Christmas as I did. For the second year in a row (does that constitute a tradition?) the whole family met for lunch on Christmas Eve day at the Greathouse at Loch Nairn Golf Club (wonderful food and service), and then on Christmas day we went to my brother's house for a marvelous feast (lobster tails, roast beef, just-picked Marlboro Mushrooms and Champagne) prepared by my sister-in-law and her mother. After dinner we played a cut-throat game of "Greedy Santa."
My parents' welcoming new neighborhood has a festive tradition of setting out luminaries along the entire length of the cul-de-sac, including around the center island. We put them out as directed along our stretch of the lane, and father and grandson went out to light them just as it started to get dark. Of course, the snow then promptly extinguished them.
A few nights before Christmas I went to a very nice neighborhood open house at Dick Hayne's Doe Run Farm here in West Marlborough. We sampled the delicious cheeses that are made there and got to peek into the underground stone caves where they are aged. Mr. Hayne's cheesemaking staff were there explaining the process of turning milk from his animals into the award-winning cheese, which is sold at the Country Butcher and Terrain. I don't know a lot about milking parlors, but the man next to me said it was the cleanest one he had ever seen. I had fun visiting with not only a lot of my neighbors but also a Jersey calf named Henry, and two energetic goat kids, who jumped up on visitors and walked up and down the back of a woolly black sheep.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Looking back

At the end of 2011, I had an easy time coming up with a list of the year's momentous events. I'm having a harder time for 2012. Here's what I have so far:
1. The bitterly divisive presidential election. It went far beyond the pale of civil discourse, even locally. There is absolutely no reason to call a candidate "an idiot," no matter how much you may dislike him or her. Yet otherwise nice people did, every single day. The vitriol was appalling. A funny and oh-so-true picture was going around online in December: "I've saved so much money on Christmas presents by discussing politics on Facebook."
Not that I'm always moderate in expressing my opinions. But a few weeks ago I lunched with a neighbor who holds many political positions that are polar opposites of my own. And guess what: we found plenty that we agreed on -- in politics and in life -- and we had a lovely time.
2. Snow was a no-show during the 2011-12 winter. Ironically, I replaced my sports car with an SUV because the former, although it was four-wheel-drive, had absolutely no ground clearance and was pretty much useless in anything over an inch of snow. I think we got more snow this Christmas Eve than we did the whole prior winter.
3. We lost some good people this year, way, WAY too early. I'm thinking of Sarah Thomas and Paul Rowland. I love seeing how Sarah's family and friends are remembering her with bonfires and kickball tourneys, not to mention how her spirit lives on through her organ donations. And we said goodbye to others who led lives fully lived, like Dr. Ramsay Buchanan, Bill Dreisbach, Bob Hennes, Jody Shoemaker, and Artie Yeatman. Miss them all.
4. Before a packed house, the West Marlborough supervisors joined almost every other local municipality in enacting a earned income tax. The township needs to raise more money because of decreased income from real-estate transfer taxes and increased legal fees due to various zoning spats, mostly in and around the village of Springdell.
5. It was great to see our world-class local horsemen and women competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London this summer. And back in Unionville we enjoyed the usual round of equestrian/social events: the Cheshire Races, various competitions at the beautiful Plantation Field and an injury-free Pennsylvania Hunt Cup held on a windy, freezing day that challenged even the hardiest spectators (i.e., me).
6. In the wake of Occupy Blow Horn in October 2011, Anne and John Moss erected a replacement "Blow Horn" sign in their front yard at Routes 82 and 841, just across from the old and now-erased/eroded sign. Three for the mill!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Book sale Feb. 22 and 23

I'm already thinking about what books I'm going to donate to the annual Unionville High School used book sale, which this year will be held Friday, Feb. 22 (5-9 p.m.) and Saturday, Feb. 23 (9-2:30 p.m. or 3-5 p.m. bag sale).
The book drop-off date this year is Saturday, Jan. 26, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the high school, near the kitchen entrance. Starting Jan. 28, books can be dropped of at all the district buildings; marked boxes are provided at the schools' main entrances.
Here's what the sale organizers will accept: "Items which are in good condition, clean, dry, mold-free; books with covers; audio books, music, movies; DVDs, CD's, VHS, tapes with original labels; trade size paperbacks, paperbacks, hardbacks." But they WON'T take "items which are unhealthy to handle or dirty, moldy, smelly, burnt, chewed or wet; books missing covers; National Geographic magazines and maps; magazines; encyclopedias, encyclopedia year books, reference sets; Reader's Digest condensed books, EXCEPT large type edtions; law case, statute, and regulation books; catalogs; AAA Travel Guides except for the 5 most recent years; children's board games or puzzles; stationary items, notecards, calendars; and DVDs/CDs/VHS tapes that are missing their original labels."
There is lots more information at http://uhsbooksale.org/

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Interesting

I'm not at all sure what this says about the economy, but today I got an email telling me that my credit-card payment was overdue by one day. Before flying into a rage, I checked my paperwork, and sure enough they were correct: I had gathered the receipts and reconciled the account but unfortunately had omitted the critical step of actually forking over the money.
I immediately paid online and noticed that because of my tardiness I had been charged a $10 late fee. I called the company and threw myself on their mercy, pointing out that I had never before missed a payment.
The customer service person could not have been happier to remove the fee from my account. She even praised me for my "lovely" credit history and said it was perfectly understandable to be late with my payment with all the hustle-bustle of the holidays.
I got the feeling they were thrilled that someone was actually paying.

Reorganization

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requires township boards to "reorganize" on the first Monday of each year, which means the West Marlborough Township supervisors will be meeting on Monday, Jan. 7, not on Tuesday as they usually do. At these meetings the board goes through various ceremonial formalities like setting the meeting schedule for the coming year and deciding which banks should get the township's business. But we'll also find out who the chairman of the board will be for 2013, so stay tuned!

Moth-eaten

(Disclaimer: This is NOT an item about a moth devouring a friend of Tilda's. The Young Relative thought it was, based on the title, and ended up more than a little disappointed and irritated.)
A Kennett pal of mine who leads something of a Bohemian life owns exactly one business suit, and he rarely wears it. But before a recent funeral, he unearthed it to take it to the dry cleaners. He spied some white spots around the trouser pockets and tried to brush them off, only to discover that they were, in fact, holes: a moth had gotten into the wool during the suit's lengthy stay in the closet.
He said that if the holes had been only in the back of the trousers, the jacket would have covered them and he could have gotten away with it. But no such luck: the moth had done a thorough job.
He ended up wearing brown trousers and a tweed jacket and said that even so attired, he was more dressed up than most of the mourners.

Gusts

It is so gusty this morning, I'm amazed that the hard-core bicyclists aren't being blown off the road. Wilmington Airport reported a wind speed of 52 knots and I received a text message from the weather forecasters urging me to "secure holiday decorations."
The tarp that is supposed to be covering my porch furniture is not doing so any longer, and I'm not even going to think about replacing it until the wind dies down a bit. A friend who lives in downtown Kennett said she found her porch furniture, still wrapped in its tarp, out in the yard against a tree.
A landowner up the road from me is storing his large boat outside for the season, and even the carefully applied white shrink-wrap that shrouds the hull is starting to peel off, and the shreds are flapping in the wind.
I'm told that even the increasingly fortified Schoolhouse Road Bunny was blown over. And this sign at the Londonderry/Penn Township border blew completely off its post and halfway across a field. 
An update: I wrote the earlier paragraphs before Christmas, but today (Dec. 27) is another windy day. The West Marlborough road crew spent its morning clearing four toppled-over trees that closed down West Road.

The heart of Unionville

The former tenants have vacated, and the new owner of the historic general-store building at the southeast corner of Route 82 and Wollaston Road (right across from Catherine's Restaurant) is starting to fix it up. The other day some workers were up on scaffolding fixing the stucco, and when I drove by today I saw a giant message near the the top of the east-side wall: "Love" with a heart below it. I couldn't tell if the workers added it or if they uncovered it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The two Karens

Well, now I've gone and done it. In last week's column I mentioned that my friend Karen does not need to buy a 2013 Chester County calendar because I've gotten one for her as a Christmas present.
Trouble is, I forgot I have TWO friends named Karen, and they can both become quite belligerent when crossed. They go to the same physical therapy place, and there may well be a scene next time they're both there.
Perhaps they could share, and one could take the January through June pages and the other the second half of the year?
No. Not likely. Who am I kidding?

Rooftop

Last night I had dinner with some friends at the Half-Moon in Kennett, and that would not ordinarily be Tilda fodder except for the fact that we ate upstairs on the roof-top deck, and that was the first time I'd been up there in the wintertime. In the summer it's great: you can see all over town and the refreshing breezes blow in through the windows. But I discovered that in the winter it's really fun, too: it's dimly lit and it's like you're in a private club. And yes, it's very nicely heated.
Apologies to the staff: my friends and I hadn't seen each other in ages and I'm afraid we were the last to leave.

Wings of a gull

I was getting gas at the Giant gas station the other day and happened to look across Scarlett Road to the former Acme shopping center, where a woman was videotaping the cluster of seagulls in the parking lot. It IS kind of amusing to see them hanging out in that lot as if they own it, and I often see them circling over the SECCRA landfill on Route 926 as well.
I'm not sure what the woman did with her video. I checked Youtube ("Kennett" and "gull") and there was nothing.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

At school

It would take a far better and more insightful writer than myself to evoke what it was like to attend the Young Relative's Winter Concert at his elementary school on Wednesday: the traditional songs and the new ones, the courage and talent of the kids who performed solos, the wide range of colorful clothing choices that the kids made, the musicians' proud smiles as the audience applauded.
And the flag in front of the school at half staff.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On the cover

A click of the shutter to amazingly talented local photographer Jim Graham. His gorgeous photo of a sailboat off the coast of Nantucket graces the cover of the 2013 Nikon World calendar! (I didn't want to infringe on anybody's copyright by linking to it, but you can easily find it online.) You've probably seen Jim's editorial work and wedding photographs in local periodicals, and you can always count on him being in the thick of the action during foxhunts and steeplechases.

In the red

So I went to cash in my winning Powerball ticket the other day at the Giant supermarket. Yes! As I reported a few weeks back, one single solitary number (out of the three tickets that I bought) was a winner, earning me $4. The clerk at the lottery desk seemed confused when I said I wanted every single cent of it back and no, thank you, I did NOT want to use my winnings to buy more tickets.
I learned my lesson: The three tickets cost me $6. I got $4 back. That is no way to stay solvent. And please remind me of this the next time the jackpot tops, say, $500 million.

A great guy

How nice to see my old friend Bill Landmesser lunching at The Whip the other day! Bill is one of those invaluable behind-the-scenes volunteers who truly keep community groups humming -- including the Bayard Taylor Library, where he has done yeoman's duty on the Board of Trustees over the years.

Choco-fest!

I firmly believe the staff at the United Way of Southern Chester County sat down and said, "OK, folks. Time for some brainstorming. How can we get that Tilda Tally-ho woman to cover our fundraiser?"
Because here's what they are doing: they're hosting a Kennett Square Chocolate Lovers Festival on Saturday, Feb. 2, complete with a baking competition! Categories are cakes, cookies, candies, brownies and cupcakes, and entries are welcome from restaurants, bakeries, professionals, amateurs and students ages 12 and up. Talk about right up my alley: I love to bake, I love chocolate, and I'm told I have something of a competitive streak.
For entry forms and more information, go to www.unitedwayscc.org. Forms are due Jan. 25 and entries are to be submitted the morning of the event, which will be held at the Red Clay Room in Kennett Square. Judging is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; after that, the festival will be open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission will be $5 and will include six "tastings" of the goodies (50 cents for each additional tidbit).
Proceeds go to the local United Way, which funds local health and human service programs.

Incisive

This may be the only time I'll ever say this, and you may think that I have taken leave of my normally cranky senses, but here goes: I thought the latest direct-mail ad for Verizon cable TV was kind of clever. It shows a burly sword-bearing gladiator and says, "We're making some big cuts around here." And there's actually a little jagged slice through the paper!
But no matter how creative the ad or how low the price, I still don't want to sign up for Showtime, Starz or any other cable package, thank you very much.

Attention grabber

The other day I was eastbound on the Route 30 bypass and one of those great big, dolled-up, chrome-laden pickup trucks zipped past me. I noticed on his back window a decal saying "HornBlasters.com" and idly wondered what that meant.
I found out. A little farther down the road, traffic was being diverted into one lane and Mr. Hornblaster was forced to take his place behind my Honda SUV. He apparently didn't like this. He expressed it by honking his heralded horn.
I will let the HornBlasters website describe what ensued: "Ever heard a train sound its horn from a mile away? How about from up close? HornBlasters.com specializes in selling extremely loud train horn setups for just about any use. We have lots of specialized kits already perfected for use on trucks, cars, SUVs, boats, or just about any kind of vehicle imaginable. Does your truck have a bad-boy look but fall short with a wimpy horn? We have your perfect solution."
I can assure you that this is nothing short of truth in advertising. If I were you, I would give any vehicle bearing this decal a very wide berth. There is a reason why this company freely acknowledges: "Love us or hate us, we strive to be the best at what we do."

Value added

The last time I went to the chiropractor, she had her adorable newborn son sleeping in the next room.
When I stopped in on Wednesday, the patient before me had come straight from puppy-training class and had brought along Andy, her precious Shetland Sheepdog, who was frolicking in the waiting room. (The little guy has mastered "sit" but not yet "lie down.")
As we were sitting on the floor cuddling with Andy, I mentioned to the chiropractor that not only does she give a great adjustment, but she also provides in-office entertainment. How exactly did she hope to add value to my next visit?
"Forget it," she said. "There's no way I can top this."

Only words

In my gym class today was a woman wearing a T-shirt saying "Fun Fearless Female." I asked her if she was, in fact, fun and fearless.
"That's what it says," she replied. "But don't believe everything you read."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A really good gift idea

Hey! Here's an idea for you procrastinators! Why not give a gift subscription to the Kennett Paper? Your friend will get news stories, school news, editorials, columnists like Lisa, Duane and Caryl, entertaining letters to the editor, sports, events calendars, ads, really good coupons ... and of course "Unionville in the News" each week (she said, immodestly). I'm a big fan of local journalism -- I've subscribed to the Kennett Paper since 1988 -- and there's no better time to support it than now.
It's really easy to order online. I just ordered a subscription for two friends of mine who claim they don't have time to read the paper -- but then are delighted whenever I save up my back copies and pass them along. Now I'll just be cutting out the middle-woman!
Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Modern love

While strolling through Anson Nixon Park on Saturday we spotted a young couple walking along holding hands, as couples young and old have done for countless generations. In their free hands, though, they were holding their phones, ready to check for emails, texts and Facebook updates.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Spirits

Says the reformed and rejuvenated Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of "A Christmas Carol": "A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year. I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of steaming bishop."
A Christmas bowl of WHAT? wondered a curious friend of mine.
He discovered that Steaming Bishop (also known as "Smoking Bishop") is a festive punch made from port wine mulled with sugar, cinnamon, and a roasted, clove-studded orange or lemon (some recipes call for grapefruit).
My sister, an English professor, found this relevant passage from VictorianWeb.org: "Dr. Johnson was quite fond of it, as the following passage from Boswell's Life attests. One very late night in 1752 his friends roused him for a ramble and they walked to Covent Garden to help the fruit & veg merchants set up. They then repaired to one of the neighboring taverns, and made a bowl of that liquor called Bishop, which Johnson had always liked; while in joyous contempt of sleep, from which he had been roused, he repeated the festive lines,
     Short, O short then be thy reign,
     And give us to the world again!"
Dust off that punchbowl and ladle!

Bites the dust

Looks as though the "Barnwood Curse" has struck again: Tacos Palenque, the Mexican place that opened there this past summer, has every appearance of being defunct. It seems that no establishment has flourished for long at the West Cypress Street restaurant -- a BBQ place was there for a while, and I believe another Mexican place -- since the Barnwood shut up shop maybe 10 years ago. I miss old Borelli's: how I loved their crabcakes, burgers, and pasta, not to mention their friendly staff!
 

Longwood

Longwood Gardens' 2013 "Field Guide to Continuing Education" catalog arrived in the mail the other day and I'm having a great time browsing through it. What a variety of classes they offer, from the in-depth ornamental horticulture program to workshops, tours, and classes on garden photography, botanical illustration, floral design and even programs on pesto, "hanging string gardens," and beekeeping.
The catalog also lists the 2013 special exhibits. The orchid display starts on Jan. 19; what words could be more compelling than "enter our warm conservatory"?

Turning aside wrath

Yesterday evening I overheard a guy relating the story of a parking dispute he'd been involved in last Sunday at the Avondale Wawa. I didn't get all the details, but apparently a woman was blocking his vehicle in and emphatically refused to move. The guy said he was close to losing his cool when trying to reason with her.
"I don't know what would've happened if I hadn't just been to church," he said.
But turning the other cheek, he called the state police. They arrived immediately (they're just across the street), backed him up and ordered her to move.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Point A to Point B

Help me out with this one, readers. I was at Dick's Sporting Goods on Concord Pike and wanted to get to Wild Birds Unlimited in Hockessin. Is there a direct route? Mine certainly wasn't: I took Mt. Lebanon Road west to Rockland; then crossed Kennett Pike and took Route 82 across Hoopes Reservoir and along the Red Clay Creek until I got to Yorklyn, and hence past the Hindu Temple to Hockessin. Scenic, yes, and I saw some amazing northern Delaware real estate, but it took forever.
If you have found a better way, let me know: uvilleblogger@gmail.com.
And by the way, Wild Birds Unlimited is a terrific store! I bought lots of Christmas presents.

Fellow humans


When I moved to West Marlborough in 1990, I was amazed and delighted at how people acknowledge each other. It took me a little while to feel comfortable waving to oncoming motorists and riders and workers, even if they're strangers, but now it's second nature and you wonder what's wrong with somebody who stares straight ahead and doesn't acknowledge your existence.
The other morning I was out on my errands early and a couple of riders were on the paved road because it was so muddy. I slowed the car to a crawl, rolled down the window and wished them a good morning. The rider gave me a beautiful huge smile, raised his riding crop in salute and returned my greeting in his enchanting Irish accent.
It's a good way to start the day. 

Calendar

A local freelance photographer named Cristin Rojas has created a 2013 calendar featuring her lovely photos of Chester County, and I know you'll recognize some of the scenes. 
"This is my first venture into selling my work in the marketplace and I am very excited about the prospects," she told me. The calendars are on sale at Carriage House Gifts in Willowdale (where I bought two copies), Paradocx Vineyards in Landenberg and Kennett Square, The Woodlands at Phillips on Route 82 south of Kennett Square, Tender Touch Gifts on Route 82 in Ercildoun, and Chester County Books and Music in West Goshen. (Tender Touch Gifts is also carrying blank greeting cards with photos from the calendar.)
 
 
In addition to her photos, the calendar also includes the usual civic and religious holidays, some equestrian events, and such offbeat celebrations as "Peculiar People Day" (Jan. 10) and "National Clean Out Your Fridge Day" (Nov. 14). 
And just sayin': if you are a friend of mine and your name is Karen, you do not need to buy one for yourself.

Opayo Frozen Yogurt

A "Unionville in the News" reader informed me that there's a new frozen yogurt shop in the Giant shopping center on Scarlett Road west of Kennett Square. Well! That was all I needed to hear. I stopped by "Opayo Greek Frozen Yogurt" yesterday afternoon after working up a hearty appetite doing Christmas shopping.
It's a self-service place: they give you a dish, and you fill it with the type and amount of yogurt you want (they have 18 flavors) and garnish it with whatever toppings (fruit, berries, candy, nuts, and so forth) and sauces (including hot fudge) you choose. Then they weigh your cup and you pay by weight.
I filled my dish with a mix of chocolate and vanilla yogurt and topped it with raspberries and mini-chocolate chips. $4.52. It was delicious. Highly recommended!
(And the name Opayo? The website explains that "OPA is a Greek expression of joy or happiness and YO is short for yogurt." So the "yo" isn't a nod to South Philadelphia argot, then.)

Leaving Unionville

It's a good thing my sister is a seasoned air traveler. After her wonderful visit here this past weekend, my parents dropped her off on Sunday at PHL for her late-afternoon flight back to MSP. She was supposed to take a lunchtime flight, but it was canceled because of the impending blizzard in the Midwest. Once she got to the airport, she learned that the replacement flight, too, was canceled, and the next flight out wasn't until Monday morning.
She phoned my parents' cell phones, trying to get them before they arrived back home, but wasn't successful (partly because my mother had accidentally left hers at home). She left messages asking for them to pick her up.
But then US Airways came to the rescue and found five seats for passengers without checked luggage, for which my sister qualified. She called my parents, relayed the good news and made it back home -- just in time to contend with the slippery drive south from Minneapolis.

What happened?

I'm compiling my annual end-of-the-year "Tilda's Top Ten" list, so if you have any favorite events from 2012 that you'd like to nominate, drop me an email at uvilleblogger@gmail.com. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Social whirl

People ask me all the time how I manage to fit so much into my schedule -- work, socializing, family time, gym time, domestic tasks, township meetings -- and write about it too. Well, last week was nuts even for me: I think I was out seven nights in a row.  By Saturday I was so tired that I fell asleep on the sofa and snoozed right through my friend Karen's annual party. Sunday I was in bed by 8:30 p.m., catching up on the readings for the First and Second Sundays of Advent and looking forward to the tabula rasa week in front of me.
Hah! That didn't last. By Tuesday I was bored and was e-mailing around, looking for somebody who wanted to go out for sushi.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Thrifty

The Young Relative is striking a hard bargain. At dinner the other night he informed me that he is going to start charging $5 per "Tilda item" that he provides. Alternatively, he said that because he is a reasonable youth he will allow me to sublet him a piece of p. 3 each week ("The Young Relative's Corner"), for which he will charge only a retainer.
I can't imagine from whom he inherited this mercenary streak.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cheese

Now this is noteworthy: a Philadelphia newspaper actually did a feature story on Chester County without describing it as "sleepy"!
Adam Erace wrote a story called "Run for the Hills" for the Nov. 15 edition of the Philadelphia City Paper about the cheeses made at Richard Hayne's Doe Run Farm here in West Marlborough. He wrote that the farm "sits on softly rolling meadows of south Chester County. Those wild fairways inform the style and flavor of the fine cheeses [Kristian] Holbrook and his wife, Haesel Charlesworth, craft for sale at local markets and restaurants neighborhoody and star-spangled alike. ... Doe Run’s flagship, the Gouda-style Seven Sisters, is available all year, as is the Alpine-style St. Malachi, which Holbrook named for the quaint white church at the top of a hill visible from the creamery. But the dairy’s crown jewel is available only in spring and summer. Hummingbird is a bloomy rind American robiola, one of the most compelling artisan cheeses made in our fine state. Or anywhere, for that matter — it won first place at the American Cheese Society’s 2011 conference."

Critters

Hillary at the Brandywine Conservancy was kind enough to send me a copy of "Teasel & Twigs: 'Tis a Critter Christmas Tale." It's a children's book featuring the "Critters," the ornaments that grace the River Museum each Christmas. The writer, Paige DD Singer, is a Chadds Ford native (transplanted to Arizona) and the granddaughter of Libby Dean, one of the original Critter creators. The illustrations, by Robert Dionne of Chadds Ford, are adorable, and it's fun to spot the details of the museum's stairwells, the ceiling beams and even the wood-and-rope stanchions that keep visitors from getting to close to the paintings. He even included the Conservancy's "River Rat" mascot throughout!
Proceeds from sales of the book (available online or at the Museum's gift shop) support the Volunteers' Art Purchase Fund, "in honor and remembrance of Critter founders and artists, Libby Dean and Anne Scarlett."

Bittersweet

Christmas-cookie bakers beware: not all packages of baking chocolate contain the same weight of chocolate. Both Hershey's Baking Bar and Baker's Baking Chocolate Squares contain eight squares of chocolate, but the Hershey's squares weigh a half-ounce each and the Baker's squares weigh a full ounce -- double the amount of chocolate! The packages look very much the same, but the Baker's one is thicker, kind of like a Droid compared to an iPhone.
As you probably know, I do a lot of baking, but I just learned about this difference a few days ago, and by direct pantry experience.
It's easy to say that consumers should just read the label, but that's tough to do in the jammed baking-supplies aisle when you have a list of errands to get through.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Burrowing into history

Off Route 162 near Embreeville there's a road called "Groundhog College Road." How did it get this colorful name? I asked East Marlborough historian Mary Larkin Dugan (one of my most loyal readers!), and she tracked down this narrative in an old resident's oral history interview: 

"Well, it was 1923 or 1924 they opened Unionville School, so that’s when it was abandoned. We had one in the edge of West Bradford about as far off the Newlin line as from here to the road. West Bradford and Newlin shared it before Unionville opened. West Bradford said, We’ll try it next year without it. And they closed it the following year because they didn’t have enough students for it. That was abandoned for a few years, and somebody came there to do some work one day, and the groundhogs were all crawling in and out of groundhog holes, and somebody said, Look, there’s Groundhog College! That’s where it got its name."

Danilo Maffei, a member of Kennett Borough Council, grew up on the road and said that's the same story he recalls.
And longtime Unionville school board president Guy Hayman, in his history of Unionville schools, wrote this: "Ground Hog College was owned by West Bradford District, but the water supply was in Newlin. A large number of pupils were residents of Newlin who dwelt within easy walking distance of the school. For a number of years, the two townships had operated the school alternately, rather than jointly."
Thank you, Mary, for your research!
I drove down the road on Saturday morning and saw horses, bicyclists, a jogger and some luxuriant stands of bamboo, but no groundhogs, educated or otherwise.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Byrsa Bistro

Joe Lordi treated me to a delicious lunch today at Byrsa Bistro, 102 E. State St., in downtown Kennett. We both ordered the chicken sandwich on a baguette ("Marinated Organic Chicken Breast, Sautéed Spinach, Roasted Peppers, Sharp Provolone Cheese") with a salad and roasted potatoes, and for dessert we split a mixed-berry crepe. Joe liked the crepe so much he said next time he will just order two of them and make that his entire lunch.
Our waiter, Matt, was very pleasant and competent and the place seemed to be doing a very good business. It was the first time either one of us had been to the "gourmet and western Mediterranean" restaurant, and we'll be back! You can see their menus online. And I know this will sound trivial, but their iced tea was just wonderful.
Joe, the retired director of the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, took me out in return for helping him with his hot-off-the-press book, part 2 of a photographic history of Las Vegas, New Mexico, a town where he spends part of the year.

Delayed

The conditional-use hearing on Russell B. Jones Jr.'s compost dumping that was supposed to be held before the West Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors on Dec. 4 has been postponed to 7 p.m. Jan. 17. Mr. Jones' attorney, Mary Ann Rossi, asked for the delay so she could try to work out unspecified issues with the Brandywine Conservancy.
Mr. Jones has agreed that no more compost deliveries will be made to his 90-acre site at the southeast corner of Hood Road and Mosquito Lane until the supervisors have held the hearing and made their decision. Although he has a plan for the dumping that has been approved by the Chester County Conservation District, township regulations define mushroom compost dumping as a "conditional use." This means the township supervisors can impose additional conditions on the activity.
Neighbors have told the supervisors they are concerned about the truck traffic, the early-morning noise, and the possible environmental impact of the compost.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cheshire Beauties

On Monday night I saw "Goodnight Ladies," Christianna Hannum's movie about her grandmother, Nancy Penn Smith Hannum, the longtime Master of Foxhounds of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds. It is an utter delight. If you love foxhunting and/or Unionville, you will want to see it.
The 35-minute documentary opens with a wryly amused Mrs. Hannum reading her prematurely published obituary. Christy goes on to interview her about her life and family and foxhunting and accompanies her on a few bumpy outings over Cheshire's fine hunting country in her iconic beat-up Jeep. These provide some of the film's funniest scenes, as we see Mrs. Hannum inform huntsman Joe Cassidy where the fox is likely to be, and where his hounds should be going, and where he and the field should be headed next. Joe listens politely and patiently and then just rides off in the direction he wants to go.
Another hilarious scene is when a physician visits Mrs. Hannum, taking her medical history. Only when prompted does she mention that she was struck by lightning.
When was this? asks the startled doctor.
Oh, six months ago, she tells him. When he asks her if she sought medical attention, she tells him no; she was still alive, so what was the point?
In another scene shot one snowy morning, Mrs. Hannum answers the phone -- "Cheshire Stables" -- and tells the caller that no, the Hunt won't be going out that morning. She graciously thanks the caller for phoning, and then immediately after hanging up wonders how anyone could possibly think they'd be hunting that morning.
And yes, Christy also gets her grandmother to tell the story about her infamous roadside run-in with that hapless state trooper. There are also some marvelous old photos and archival footage from hunts past. (I'm still amazed that women hunted while riding sidesaddle!)

I could go on and on. It's a great film and it's available on DVD for purchase ($28) at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, or at the Brandywine River Museum's gift shop, or contact Christy at swimpics@aol.com.

State police input

It was a good thing that state trooper Lieutenant Rich D'Ambrosio happened to be at the Dec. 4 West Marlborough Township meeting to give his periodic report, because he was called upon to comment on two other topics while he was there.
1. First, he reported that although there have been only three criminal incidents in West Marlborough in the past 3 months (a burglary, a theft and a drug arrest during a traffic stop), southern Chester County as a whole is "getting hammered" by burglaries. He said thieves are stealing packages left on porches by delivery people and have even been known to steal Christmas tips left in mailboxes for mail carriers. (He suggested handing your envelope to the mail carrier directly or leaving it in the mailbox near the time of the usual mail delivery.)
Trooper D'Ambrosio advised township residents to continue to watch out for each other and stay alert for any suspicious cars or unusual activity.
2. An Apple Grove Road resident reported that a dog had been abandoned near her home (this unfortunately happens out here in the country) and asked what she should do. Trooper D'Ambrosio said state police can pick up stray animals and take them to the police barracks, but only if the township has a contract with the local SPCA -- which West Marlborough doesn't. Another resident suggested the township should contact the nearby La Mancha animal rescue on Route 82 in East Fallowfield to see if they would accept strays.
Supervisor Michael Ledyard said he didn't think it was necessary to get the township involved in the situation: "We don't want to get away from our roots of taking care of ourselves." 
Supervisor William Wylie said if the problem continues, the supervisors would look into taking action.
3. And finally, a Newark Road resident told the supervisors that some gang-related graffiti had been spray-painted on a road sign near her home. Hugh Lofting Jr. of the township's road crew told her he would take care of it, and the very next morning he posted a photo of the cleaned-up sign on Facebook's West Marlborough Township page. Trooper D'Ambrosio commented that despite the "tagging," gangs are not a serious problem in the county.

63 degrees in the shade

I know by the time people read this in the newspaper we will probably be plunged back into more seasonal temperatures, but today it's in the mid-60s! Haven't the past two days been just glorious? I was ready to go to the Y to walk around the track but then realized it was so warm that I could take my walk outside, just like it was a summer evening.
First I went back inside and donned my blaze-orange vest, and then I did my usual four-mile route, mostly on our township's gravel roads. I enjoyed the different perspective I got in December. The brush has died back and the trees have lost their leaves, revealing some cozy little hidey-holes for creatures at the base of trees. I paused to admire a beautiful little winding rivulet that normally can't be seen in the more verdant months, with ferns, rocks, moss and little pools. From time to time a bluebird or a cardinal would dip down to get a drink.

Tea Party

The Spade and Trowel Garden Club's Tea Party was delightful, as always. I am sure that my colleague Caryl will give you a full account of it in her "Downwind" column, but just let me add that the food -- tea sandwiches and little desserts -- was delicious and the house, on a quiet road overlooking the beautiful Unionville countryside, was palatial. And hats off (as it were) to the multi-talented garden club ladies for decorating the house, organizing the vendors, preparing the food AND selling out both seatings of the tea!
For me the very best part of the afternoon was catching up with some friends whom I don't get to see very often anymore.

Hail and farewell

A warm welcome to Melissa Wright's baby daughter, born Nov. 29! I have no doubt Melissa will be an awesome Mom. As volunteer-wrangler at the Plantation Field equestrian events, she has shown herself to be perpetually energetic, cheerful and unflappable. Not to mention persuasive: I remember one day I showed up just to watch dressage and the next thing I knew she had roped me into measuring the riders' whips and inspecting their spurs.
And an equally fond farewell to Dr. Ramsey Buchanan, who died at his West Marlborough farm on Nov. 20. Dr. Buchanan was a true old-school gentleman and a good neighbor, and he will be sorely missed.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Too funny

I felt like having Mexican food for dinner tonight, so after a quick drink at the Kennett Square Inn my partner-in-crime and I headed to La Pena Mexicana on West Cypress Street at Washington Street in Kennett. I had a chicken burrito and my friend had a steak huarache. Fabulous as always!
But what added even more spice to the evening was the so-bad-it-was-fun dubbed-in-Spanish action movie that was showing on the restaurant's TV. All of us diners joined together in pointing out the glaring plot holes and ludicrous segues. First the hero, a blank-faced guy who carries a pointed stick like the kind park guards use to pick up litter, bursts into a lab where a scientist is just about inject some poor white mice with blue Miracle-Gro crystals. Then the scientist and the hero, who it turns out is blind even though we just saw him drive a plumbing van across the country, are in mid-air in a ski gondola, with a Molotov cocktail apparently left behind by a skier. Perhaps hearing the dialogue in English would have helped, but I doubt it.
I can guarantee you'll get a great meal and a friendly welcome at La Pena; the entertainment tonight was just a bonus!

House concert

The Joe Hillman Band, a local bluegrass/country group, is one of my new favorites. They played at a delightful "house concert" that I went to on Saturday evening and were terrific. The five-man acoustic group (mandolin, guitar, bass, banjo and fiddle) will be playing at the Four Dogs Tavern in Marshallton on Saturday, Dec. 15, and I immediately put it on my calendar.
I was chatting with one of the wives during the show and commented on how talented the band was. She said yes, they practice a lot, and even have their own sort of "Band Cave." She said she and her husband have an agreement: he gets to spend money on instruments and she gets to spend money on horses.
Fun party, by the way: people of all ages and lots of good food -- you don't want to get between me and homemade macaroni and cheese when I'm hungry.
At one point I was pouring myself a glass of cider when a woman arrived at the party.
"You look so familiar," I said, peering at her.
"Well, I should," she said dryly. Turns out she's the nurse practitioner at my doctor's office. I'm just not used to seeing her out of her office garb!

Charles Parks

On Saturday my sculptor friend Joel attended the memorial service for Charles Parks, who died in October at age 90. (One of Parks' most famous sculptures, "Boy With Hawk," sits outside the entrance to the Brandywine River Museum.) Joel, who cast and finished many of Parks' bronzes at his Cochranville foundry over a 33-year span, reported that Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and other dignitaries were in attendance and there were "nice presentations, including 3 Parks ballet pieces." The ceremony was at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington.

Christmas tour

Sunday, Dec. 9, is the annual "Candlelight Holiday Home Tour" in Kennett Square, sponsored by the borough's Historical Commission. Unfortunately, for the first time in a few years, I'm not going to be a tour guide: I hate to miss it, but my sister's going to be visiting us this weekend. Information about tickets ($20) is available online at kennettsquarehistory.org.
The Chadds Ford Historical Society held its annual Christmas tour in Marshallton this past Saturday, and the village looked just beautiful.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wreckless Eric

A big, fat raspberry to all my so-called friends who refused to accompany me to the Wreckless Eric concert at the Kennett Flash on Friday night: it was a great show. Maybe next time you'll listen to me!
Wreckless Eric was a star of the British New Wave movement of the late 1970s, when I was in college. Yes, at age 58 he's put on some weight and his hair has turned gray, but his voice is exactly the same as I remembered. Now, instead of performing with Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and Nick Lowe, he shares the stage with his American wife, Amy Rigby. The two sang for 90 minutes without a break, doing songs from their new CD, a Ramones tribute, and oldies from way back when.
Wreckless told the audience when he and Amy were driving their "clapped-out van full of clapped-out equipment" to the show, he was taken aback when the GPS informed them that Kennett Square was about 40 minutes away from Philadelphia.
"I was like, now hang about, I thought it was Kennett Square, Philadelphia. Like Berkeley Square, London, you know?" he said.
And he wondered aloud what Kennett residents call themselves -- perhaps Kennettians? Or Squares? No one had an answer.
Amy said while driving down the Garden State Parkway they saw a truck labeled "Medical Waste."
Commented Eric: "Oh, I didn't know they were back on tour!"
No matter who the artist is, the Flash is a great place to see a show. It's small, the sound is good and the manager even came around afterward to thank us for coming.

Friday, November 30, 2012

New knee

Best of luck to my dear friend and breakfast companion Karen, who will be getting a new knee on Dec. 10 at Christiana Hospital. She's been telling me about Christiana's excellent preop program for joint-replacement patients, where they've taught her all about the surgical procedure, the unit where she'll be staying, and what she can expect postoperatively. They even gave her husband a "Coach" pin to wear! I certainly hope she gets back on her feet shortly, and for entirely selfish reasons: I need my regular dose of Perkins pancakes.

Seen along the road


Thank you to "Unionville in the News" readers Mike and Becky Majeski for sending along this photo of a tree trunk they spotted along Lamborntown Road, south of Route 926, while following the Cheshire Hunt on Saturday, Nov. 24. They think it resembles the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and I have to agree with them.
(Small world: I was driving west on Route 842 Saturday around lunchtime just as the Cheshire Hunt was crossing the road. I pulled over and got out of my car to say hi and watch -- and who was there directing traffic but Mike Majeski. He introduced me to his pals: "This is Tilda!") 
And below it is an excellent image of two longhorns grazing in a Doe Run pasture, photographed by Springdell resident Bernie Langer. Thanks, Bernie!



It's a puzzle

What a great idea! The Tender Touch gift store in Ercildoun is selling jigsaw puzzles depicting the (former) Blow Horn sign at Routes 82 and 841. You'll recall that in autumn 2011, the sign, painted onto the stone wall of the old mill at the corner, was either painted over or wore off, depending on who you talk to, causing great consternation among many locals and prompting the light-hearted "Occupy Blow Horn" rally. The Mosses, who live across Route 82 from the old mill, subsequently posted their own Blow Horn sign.

Lotto cash

Like lots of other people, I fell prey to the lottery fever that gripped the country on Wednesday. I bought three tickets ($2 each; I had to ask) at Wegman's in Downingtown and was happy to see that the "Powerball" number on one of them was in fact 6, which I have considered my lucky number ever since I was enchanted as a youth by Patrick McGoohan, who starred as #6 in the old TV series "The Prisoner."

Well, sure enough, that was the only number that matched those drawn that evening! You get $4 for matching the Powerball number, which means I suffered a net loss of $2. And to think that they let me serve as the treasurer of a local nonprofit group!
I heard that the odds of being killed by a soda machine toppling over on you were less than the odds of winning the jackpot. It was fun, though, speculating what we'd do with the untold riches. I consoled myself the next morning by noting that even if I had won the full jackpot, I still wouldn't be the wealthiest person in West Marlborough. By far.
By the way, Wegman's has a great buffet. A pal was up in Exton for an appointment with her orthopaedic surgeon (why, yes, it was an equestrian injury!) and we met at Wegman's for lunch. We absolutely loved the Asian buffet. We each piled too much on our plates, thinking we'd take the rest home for dinner. That didn't happen.

Berry strange

A West Marlborough resident reports a peculiar incident that occurred at her home on Monday, Nov. 26. Her dooorbell rang at 7:45 a.m. and "a total stranger wanted me to allow him to cut down my winterberry bushes so that he could make wreaths. I am thankful that he asked but I am still thinking about his nerve wanting to come into my front yard to cut down my bushes. I had them planted there for several reasons including the birds' enjoyment and for my enjoyment. However, I am glad that he asked and I thanked him for asking as I politely told him, "No," from the upstairs window."
I asked her if it would be okay for me to mention this in my column and she replied, "Sure - if it alerts folks. I think probably the man was OK but it was so early and the bush he pointed to was in my front yard. He rang the bell at 7:45 AM. I would never go to a stranger's house before 9 AM."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another Springdell dispute

Dan Waltson can continue to use the barn on his Springdell property to store trucks and mowers for his lawn-care business and he can tear down a 40-year-old mobile home on the property, the West Marlborough Township Zoning Hearing Board decided after a three-hour hearing on Monday night.
Mr. Waltson had to appear before the board because the mixed business/residential use of his property would not be permitted under current zoning, but because it was used for business purposes before the zoning code was enacted, it is considered a "nonconforming use," and he needs permission to make any changes.
After granting the permission, the zoning board praised Mr. Waltson for making the renovations to his barn, although they noted that he really should have gotten a building permit first, and thanked him for improving his property so nicely, converting "a green ugly metal building to a building that is truly good looking" and an asset to the village, as board member Baz Powell put it.
Zoning board chairman Clayton Bright said Mr. Waltson's renovations did enlarge the barn's footprint slightly, but removing the trailer would represent "an equal exchange." 
Next-door neighbor Gus Brown, however, was on hand to object to Mr. Waltson's plans. He questioned him repeatedly about various improvements he had made to the property, entering into evidence aerial maps, photographs and even a real-estate listing sheet (Mr. Brown is a real-estate agent, and you may recognize the name as one of those Springdell residents who also objected to the Whip Tavern's operations).
I asked Mr. Brown after the hearing why he was opposing the project. He told me that he didn't object to the business use of the property at all, but there was stormwater runoff from Mr. Waltson's property onto his land, he had had issues with some of his previous tenants in the trailer, he was concerned that there might be two residences on the property and he didn't like the fact that he had made the improvements without a permit.

Mr. Waltson agreed to the zoning board's conditions that he would not enlarge his business, would not permit any outdoor storage, would not store any chemicals or fuel on the site, and would not install any additional exterior lights. He said his operations have minimal impact on the village: his employees show up at 7 a.m. during the lawn-mowing season and do not return until dusk. No customers come to the property, and the business is closed entirely during the winter.
The board also asked him to address Mr. Brown's runoff issue with the township's engineer. Mr. Waltson will also be allowed to convert the second floor of his barn into an apartment, but it can be occupied only after he removes the trailer.
At the beginning of the zoning hearing, board member Joseph Huston said he wanted to disclose three things: that Mr. Waltson had cut his lawn; that Mr. Brown is a friend and neighbor; and that Mr. Waltson's attorney, Neil Land, represented the Whip (Mr. Huston, like Mr. Brown, was another Springdell resident who battled the Whip). Mr. Huston said he believed he could put aside those issues and decide the matter impartially.
However, Mr. Land asked Mr. Huston to recuse himself because of his friendship with Mr. Brown. Mr. Huston said he would just as soon go home and have dinner with his wife, and the zoning board chairman, Clayton Bright, agreed that perhaps that would be best.
The hearing was over at 10:15 p.m.; on the way out, one audience member commented that the hearing had probably been more entertaining than watching the Eagles game.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hunters

I'm writing this on Nov. 26, the first day of Deer Season. Surprisingly, I heard only one muffled gunshot this morning, in contrast to the usual sunrise barrage. I saw that the two ladies from the farm up the road had tacked up their horses with blaze-orange saddle pads, and just to be on the safe side I too will don an orange vest before I go out for my walk.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Popcorn

A kind but germ-conscious friend who knows I used a stove-top popcorn popper, the old-fashioned metal kind that you crank, called the other day and offered to come over and scrub it out. It seems she had heard or read somewhere that bacteria can thrive in a popcorn popper and was concerned I might become ill.
A little taken aback, I thanked her but assured her that it would not be necessary.
I went online and found nothing whatsoever about any health hazards of using an unsterilized popcorn popper (and as any Internet surfer, knows there are PLENTY of scary websites written by hypochondriacs). In fact, I read that the oil has to reach above 400 degrees for it to make the kernels pop, which I'm sure is enough to kill any lurking bacteria, however hardy.
By the way, my Whirley Pop Jr. popcorn popper rocks. And it's American-made.

Snowing!

As I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon, it's overcast and 36 degrees and a few flakes of snow are spiraling around outside my office window -- the first of the season! Just this past week our township road crew posted the yellow "No Winter Maintenance" warning signs on the gravel roads I regularly travel. Here's hoping that we get more of the white stuff than we did last winter. As I recall, the only snow worth mentioning last season occurred before Halloween!
At Starbucks on Saturday -- you'll recall what a blustery day it was -- I got to chatting with a motorcyclist and asked him if his thickly insulated jacket and pants kept him warm while he was piloting his shiny BMW bike. Yes, he said, plenty warm, although when it drops much below 20 degrees, he hangs up the motorcycle keys. Sounds sensible to me!

Municipal business

I know you probably don't have an unscheduled 15 minutes in December, but in case you have Tuesday, Dec. 4, free, the West Marlborough Township planning commission and supervisors will be holding their monthly meetings. In addition to the regular business, the supervisors are going to hold a conditional use hearing about Russell B. Jones Jr.'s dumping of a large amount of mushroom compost on his Hood Road farm. The meetings start at 7 p.m. at the township hall in Doe Run.
I'll be there, knitting away, with a pen at the ready so that I can take notes when somebody says something quotable (which always happens).

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Artie Yeatman

I just got home from Meeting for Worship at London Grove Friends Meeting to celebrate the life of Artie Yeatman, who died on Nov. 11 at age 84. He was a kind, patient, gentle, loving man who lived a full, joyful and principled life. I don't think I've ever seen the meetinghouse so crowded: the pews were filled and people sat on folding chairs in the library and even upstairs in the balcony.
And for an hour and a half, people stood and spoke about Artie's kindness to them and the profound impact he had on so many lives, his love for gardening and the Earth, and his strong pacifist and Quaker beliefs.
Elinor Thomforde read a moving passage from "The Prophet":
"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
 Only when you drink form the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance."
What I'll remember is Artie's gentle smile and twinkling eyes and his unfailingly cheerful and positive outlook. Deepest sympathy to his family.

With gusto

I traveled to Phoenixville Friday night to see my friend Phil's band, Jimi's Not Home, perform at the Steel City Coffee House on Bridge Street. It was a terrific evening! The band sounded really good, and the reasonable volume allowed you to talk to your neighbor without screaming. It's a BYOB, so we walked across the street to the Franco Ristorante and bought a six-pack of Corona to go. (Talk about a welcoming town! We were just buying beer, but the restaurant employees held the door for us and gave us discount coupons for what they hoped would be our return visit.)
What I enjoyed most about watching the band was seeing my Phil, in a bright-red shirt, up there on stage, playing lead guitar, introducing songs and cracking corny jokes (his wife, sitting next to me, rolled her eyes). Here's a guy who has a very responsible, grown-up, serious job during the day. Yet there he was on stage, growling ZZ Top, Who and Rolling Stones lyrics. Gotta love it!
In the lot where we parked, across from the Phoenixville Foundry, we were rather surprised to see a towering, spotlit phoenix constructed from wooden planks. Apparently they torch the phoenix each year as part of the Phoenixville Firebird Festival, which this year is Saturday, Dec. 8. It looks very cool, and I'm told there are all manner of drummers, dancers and costumed revelers. Perhaps Kennett could make a similar bonfire part of the Mushroom Fest?
(By the way, sorry about all these Phoenixville evenings I've been writing about! I'll be closer to home, at the Kennett Flash, on Friday, Nov. 30, to see British New Wave rocker Wreckless Eric, a throwback to my college years. Can't wait!)

Debate

Now that the election is over, praise the Higher Power, all the pundits and columnists are playing Monday-morning quarterback, pontificating solemnly about what lessons we should all learn from the outcome.
Here's what I learned: Don't get into arguments, online or otherwise, with people about politics. It's a waste of good work time and it changes no-one's mind. Civil discourse is the first casualty, and when accusations and epithets start flying, things get very nasty, very quickly.
I eventually just removed myself from the crossfire. This tended to annoy people, who accused me of being cowardly or perhaps not having statistics to back up my arguments. Nope: I just don't want to get into a debate with you, that's all.

Thanksgiving

Here's hoping you had a peaceful Thanksgiving. We had a small and relaxed gathering at my parents' wonderful new home: a Butterball turkey that my mother said was the cleanest she had ever cooked in her 59 years of making Thanksgiving dinner, stuffing (yes, inside the turkey, thank you very much), brown rice, green beans, salad and rolls.
For dessert I was asked to bring cookies. I had planned to make pecan snowballs and ginger snaps, but on Wednesday evening my mother just happened to say, "You know, Tilda, your father loves those chocolate cookies you make." Fortunately I had all the ingredients for my triple chocolate/cinammon/walnut cookies on hand, and I baked a batch on Thanksgiving morning.
(I'm glad to share recipes; just email me at uvilleblogger@gmail.com.)
After our early dinner we watched the Washington/Dallas football game, which was about the best contest you can imagine for holiday viewing: exciting and actually suspenseful.
I know a lot of people who got up before dawn on "Black Friday" to do some serious shopping, but not me. Actually I can't think of much I'd less enjoy than fighting hyped-up crowds at a mall. I worked, cleaned up the yard a little bit, and played tennis (in late November!), much more my speed.
On Facebook, the line where you post your status normally says, "What's on your mind?" On Thanksgiving they changed it to, "What are you thankful for?" My response: "Health, family, home and friendships: old ones, new ones and renewed ones."

Friday, November 23, 2012

The vortex

The Bermuda Triangle that masquerades as my side yard has sucked in another victim, this time the little cage that houses suet cubes for the birds. It usually hangs on the big walnut tree, but when I went to put out the first suet of the season it was gone. I searched in circles outward from the tree, tramping down the thick lamium ground cover. Nothing. What creature could have taken it? And why?
I improvised a hanger for the suet, and the birds don't seem the least bit bothered. It'll do fine until my next trip to Lowe's.
Years ago, just a few feet away, this apparent vortex swallowed a hefty S-hook while we were putting up the hammock. It simply disappeared. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking for it until we admitted defeat or started snapping at each other in frustration, I forget which. A few years later it resurfaced during spring planting, and I was utterly dumbstruck.
While I'm on the subject, here's my suet recipe. In the microwave melt 1 cup of peanut butter (the least expensive you can find) and 1 cup of lard, and add to 2 cups of quick oats, 2 cups of cornmeal, a cup of flour and 1/3 cup sugar. Spoon the result into plastic suet dishes (reused from the commercially made suet cakes) and refrigerate until set.

Route 41 crash

What a shame to read about the double fatal crash on Route 41 last week! It really hit home for me, because goodness knows I've pulled out of the Taqueria Moroleon parking lot onto busy Route 41 after dark many, many times. And I'll wager lots of you have, too.
A Cochranville friend shared this scary anecdote:
"I almost got it while waiting to make a left turn, years ago. A semi was approaching and the driver was looking for something on his dash, another semi was coming towards me in the other lane. School bus and telephone pole to my right. He started to skid and I knew I would be hit. I pulled forward, straddled the yellow line, and they passed me simultaneously at 40 mph....Mad Max lives!"

Communicable

This was a little odd. I was at the gym the day before Thanksgiving when I got a call from my dermatologist's office in West Chester, wanting to confirm an appointment for somebody named Eileen. Ummm ... there's no Eileen in my family, I told the clerk. When I mentioned, however, that I was in fact a patient at the practice, she immediately apologized, saying the new computer system has apparently started switching patients' phone numbers around.
Not good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hot stuff

I had a memorably tasty dinner last night (Nov. 20) at Lily, the Asian restaurant in downtown Kennett. First we ordered the seafood tom yum soup, undeterred by the fact that (1) it had a little spiciness icon next to it on the menu consisting of THREE peppers and (2) the waitress emphasized that it was spicy.
The clear Thai soup came in an asymmetrical white bowl, and it was amazing, full of shrimp, fish, mushrooms, and cilantro in an orange-colored broth. And oh, my, yes, was it ever spicy. Thank you to the thoughtful waitress kept my water glass filled!
We also shared delicious sushi (tuna and avocado rolls).
I was glad to see that the restaurant was doing an excellent business, with most of the tables full. In fact, we sat at the sushi bar, which was fun because we got to watch the sushi chefs at work.

Expired

I bought my vehicle last December, and I've been thinking that I'd better get around to booking an appointment to get it inspected again. I assumed that because I bought it in December, the inspection would be valid through the end of this December.
WRONG. I checked the window sticker on Nov. 19 and was astonished to find that it had expired at the end of October!
Lest our township police officer, Lt. Bob Clarke, pull me over (he already calls me "Speedy" for some unjustified reason), I immediately drove over to the Springdell Garage and got it inspected on the spot.
Back in compliance!
By the way, the other day I got beeped at by the impatient motorist behind me because I refused to make a left turn from eastbound Baltimore Pike onto northbound Route 796 (in front of the crumbling Red Rose Inn) even though there was no oncoming traffic. Sorry, guy: the light for the turning lane was red; it's not one of those "yield on green" intersections. I am NOT turning illegally just to save you a few seconds.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wolf's Hollow

Wolf's Hollow County Park could have been designed just for me: it's got amazing views, great hiking trails, lots of club moss and mountain laurel, and fascinating ruins of old stone structures -- all this only a few minutes north of Cochranville!
I had a great time on Saturday afternoon exploring the park's 569 acres. I printed out a helpful map of the seven miles of trails from the county's website and brought it along. A lot of the trails are level and easy, but be warned that there are some steep hills, especially along the Waterfalls Trail. (The waterfall was perhaps not at its best, but the little feeder pool just above it was very neat and unexpected.)
There are some stone ruins right along the Octoraro Creek and it's interesting to speculate about the hardy people who lived there. Right across the creek from the ruins is a very steep hill leading up to the Atglen Sportsmen's Club, whose members were discharging some serious ammo that afternoon.
Further along there are some amazing views from the Octoraro Ridge Trail, where I saw vultures circling at about eye level. I didn't realize there was such dramatic topography in our county; it reminded me more of South Mountain in central Pennsylvania.
You won't need any special shoes. I walked probably five miles wearing my usual sneakers and gym socks and was fine.
The parking lot was almost empty when I arrived but it was full when I returned. Out on the trails I saw only two other people, but near the ruins of Schoff Dam close to the parking lot there were dog-walkers, families and groups of young people enjoying the warm sunny day.

The park is off Schoff Road in West Fallowfield Township.


Chinese food

After I mentioned that I had dinner on Saturday at the King's Island Chinese restaurant, I was asked about the quality of the food since the restaurant reopened in the summer of 2011 following a kitchen fire the previous year.
I think it's very good indeed. I had chicken with black beans, ginger and scallions and my avid but picky eater friend had the kung pao chicken (which he rated as a 4 on the hotness scale; I would have put it higher). Good stuff, and very friendly service! We took leftovers home, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanks!

May I take this Thanksgiving opportunity to thank you for reading "Unionville in the News"? It's so gratifying when people tell me they look forward to reading about my little adventures and anecdotes each week.
When The Kennett Paper started running my column, the editor, Fran Maye, predicted from day one that it would be a giant hit. I disagreed strongly with him, doubting whether anyone would be interested in hearing about the hyper-local day-to-day goings-on in my corner of the world.
Well, it seems he was right.
And a very special thanks to my friends, family and neighbors who appear regularly in "Tilda items." You know I couldn't do it without you!

Meteors

My gym friend Kevin is an avid astronomer, and when I saw him on Friday, Nov. 16, he urged me to check out the Leonid meteor showers the next morning. They'll be at their peak, he told me, at 4:30 a.m.
So I set the alarm, and sure enough before sunrise I got out of bed, wrapped my fleece bathrobe tightly around me, put on my glasses and shuffled outside in my slippers. (The dog let out a few barks in surprise but then retreated into her doghouse.)
What a breathtaking sight! There were zillions of stars shining against the inky sky: Orion was unmistakeable, high up in the western sky, and the Big Dipper was low in the northeast. I stood outside for 20 minutes and saw only one meteor, a quick flash almost overhead, but the sight of the stars and Jupiter, Venus and Saturn was well worth leaving my warm bed.
If you're curious about the constellations, I highly recommend "The Stars: A New Way to See Them" by H.A. Rey (yes, the Curious George guy). My copy is seriously dog-eared from frequent use.
And by the way: What is up with the phrase "a meteoric rise"? Meteors don't rise; they fall.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Crafty

I'm in the middle of my Christmas present knitting, and on this year's list are two identical scarves for family members. It's an intricate lace pattern, done with a very fine yarn and small needles, and it's especially maddening ("intermediate" difficulty, my foot!) because the pattern doesn't give you any "clues" as to where you are in a row, or whether you're even on the right side or the wrong side. Experienced knitters will know what I mean: with some projects your fingers can go on auto-pilot because you develop muscle memory, and you "know" that two stitches before the heart, you'll do a knit-two-together stitch.
So I'm sitting at a township meeting, knitting away, doing my yarn-overs to create the lace pattern, when a smart-alec meeting regular peers over my shoulder.
"That's not going to be very warm," he points out, teasing me. "It's full of holes!"
I gave him my best mock glare.

Land of confusion

On Monday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m., West Marlborough's Zoning Hearing Board is going to review Daniel K. Waltson's request to use his half-acre Springdell property for storage for his landscaping business and to remove the existing mobile home. The property, in the 1300 block of North Chatham Road (Route 841), is zoned for Village Residential use.
It turns out that it's a very complicated situation, because it seems the buildings that are currently on the property -- the storage building and mobile home -- were there before the township adopted its first zoning ordinance, which makes it a non-conforming use. It doesn't meet the current regulations in terms of property size, setbacks or use, and the fact that there are both a storage building and an occupied mobile home on site means there are two "primary uses."

Also, Mr. Waltson did some renovations to the storage building -- he removed the deck and walkway and replaced them with an enclosed addition, without actually enlarging the building -- and he's seeking the zoning board's approval for that work after the fact.
I'll be at the meeting, and I'll do my best to write a clear account of what goes on. No promises, though!

Greenhouse fire

While driving south on Route 52 yesterday I went past Stephen's Gardening Creations, which was the site of a devastating fire on the night of Election Day. I was pleased to see that according to their sign, they're still managing to service customers' garden ponds.
The fire and the very loud tank explosions that accompanied it caused much Facebook chatter that night. I was having a late dinner at Longwood Family Restaurant when we saw all kinds of emergency equipment racing east toward the scene. I immediately checked Facebook and the news was already out there.
The fire reminded me of another local conflagration 100 years ago. On Jan. 27, 1912, at 8:30 p.m., an acetylene gas generator blew up at a stone house at 1225 East Baltimore Pike, Toughkenamon, owned by the Richards family. Thompson Richards died on the scene; his wife, Anna Scarlett Richards, and his daughter, Anna T. Richards, were seriously hurt and were taken to a Philadelphia hospital by train from Toughkenamon. The family dog was unharmed.
The next day some 3,000 curious sight-seekers flocked see the ruined house, arriving via automobiles, carriages and trolleys.
You can still see the stone wall that was in front of the house. Joe Lordi and Dolores Rowe have a full account of the 1912 explosion, with photos, in their book, "Greetings From Kennett Square."

Happy Diwali!

When I'm wearing my copy-editor hat, the job that pays the bills, I spend a lot of time working with people in Chennai, India, who handle the textbook production process. They're terrific, hard-working folks and great colleagues. Tuesday, Nov. 13, was Diwali, the Festival of Lights, one of the biggest celebrations of the year, involving fireworks, new clothes and lots of sweets. I sent emails to all of my editors there, extending my best wishes for a happy day.
Well, the response I got was amazing: they were incredibly grateful that I even knew about Diwali, much less would take the time to send them greetings. It seems that sometimes we Americans are a bit less global-minded than we could be.
Closer to home: Christmas stamps are available at the post office. This year the designs are Joseph and Mary silhouetted against the Star of Bethlehem; Santa and his sleigh; and fancy cartoon ornaments. I went with the latter.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Orphan sign

Attention, Chester County Day people: there's still a directional sign left over from your October tour on the north side of Route 926, between the London Grove intersection and Newark Road. It's nailed kind of high up on a utility pole; that's probably why no one has retrieved it yet.

Scaling back

Congratulations to my gym friend Georgia for reaching her weight-loss goal of 30 pounds! She said it was a matter of following the Weight Watchers "points" plan, rethinking portion sizes and food choices, and coming to the gym faithfully and working out hard. She is celebrating by going on a cruise with her husband and said she intends to skip the all-you-can-eat buffet.

In the neighborhood

Roses to the nice people at Kennett Florist for sending my parents a lovely arrangement to welcome them to their new home! What a nice gesture! The senior Tally-hos report that they have gotten an extremely warm reception from the community: they've already attended a neighborhood get-together, and they've been recognized as "You're Tilda's parents!" not only by Kennett Florist but also at their new polling place, the township building, their breakfast spot, their bakery and numerous other shops and restaurants. They are learning that anonymity doesn't last long in Unionville.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

First Tuesday

On the first Tuesday of each month, I cover the West Marlborough Township supervisors meeting.
Alas, also on the first Tuesday of each month, Penn Vet's New Bolton Center offers a veterinary lecture that's open to the public.
But because the township's November meeting was held a day earlier than usual due to the election, I got to attend the lecture, and I enjoyed it very much. It was all about headshaking syndrome, an unfortunate ailment that afflicts horses. The vet, Dr. Joy Tomlinson, did a great job explaining the pathology, the various treatments and the ongoing research.
I hope I'll be able to make it to another lecture at some point; the next one (Dec. 4) is "The Critically Ill Foal," given by Dr. Jonathan Palmer. Two friends of mine attend the talks regularly, considering them to be a valuable part of their continuing education for running a small farm.

Utilities

Our local gyms have certainly had problems recently! This morning (Nov. 14) I went to the Kennett Y for a core class, only to find when I got there that it was closed until noon because of an early-morning gas line problem. And the previous week, a water main break at the Jennersville Y shut down its operations for a day.
Our local Ys are also adding some new classes. I've been taking "HIIT," which stands for "High-Intensity Interval Training." It's a half-hour of fat-burning, heart-pounding pain, and it certainly takes your mind off the problems of the day: all you can think about is getting through the set. I recommend doing it on an empty stomach. Word is that the Y is going to start charging a fee for these extra classes, however ($25 for 10 classes), and this idea is going over with members about as well as you'd expect. (The Y's explanation for the extra fee is that enrollment in these classes is going to be restricted so that each athlete will get personal attention.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Garden cleanup

What a glorious Sunday it was! It was sunny and fully 25 degrees warmer than the previous Sunday (about which you will read more later in this column.) I was outside playing tennis and then doing garden work, planting tulip bulbs, cutting down dead stalks, pulling up withered annuals and ripping out the lamium that if left unchecked would completely obliterate the garden. (If you're looking for something that grows -- nay, thrives -- near a black walnut, may I suggest lamium, a hardy and attractive groundcover.)
A Facebook friend commented that she was way behind schedule in doing her autumn yard work, but she had a very good excuse: she was hosting family members who were forced to leave their Long Beach Island home during and after Sandy's ravages. They were able to return home this past weekend.

Birthdays

Everyone's schedules were forced to coincide, and the family went out to dinner at Floga Bistro to celebrate the birthdays -- one of them a momentous round number -- of the senior Tally-hos.
What a nice meal! I had the chicken/lemon/egg soup to start, and then angel-hair pasta with oil, pecorino and lots of garlic ("lots" being the way I like it). The Young Relative had the Zuppa de Pesce, with shrimp, mussels, calamari and other seafood, and other members of the party enjoyed the baked ziti and several chicken dishes. (All of us but my father took home neatly boxed leftovers.) The restaurant is a BYO, and my brother and sis-in-law were kind enough to bring a very special Navarro Riesling.
The Young Relative was bemoaning the fact that he had school the next day when his father had the day off from work, the very reverse of how things should be. I told him I would phone one of the school district powers-that-be on his behalf and complain.
"Yeah, right. Have you ever even talked to him?" the Y.R. asked doubtfully.
"I have!" I boasted.
"Was it more than, like, FIVE SENTENCES?" the Y.R. continued, with a distinct (and fully deserved) measure of sarcasm.
Well .... no, I confessed.
Since when are schoolchildren taught to be so suspicious and to pounce on the pretension of their elders, I'd like to know! It must be all this critical thinking they're learning in our schools!



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Art show

I had a nice time at the 37th annual Art Gala at the Unionville High School today. An artist friend of mine whose works were on display invited me to stop by, and I was impressed at the quality and variety of the work of all the artists -- not only paintings but sculpture, photography, jewelry, ceramics, stained glass and furniture. A few of the local participants whose names you might know are Doug and Pat Mooberry, Neil Carlin, John Hannafin, Robert Jackson, Julie Dixon, Lele Galer and Kelly McConnell.
I especially liked Polly Davis Chalfant's tiny prints of creatures she creates by kneading erasers, Frank DePietro's waterlilies, Patsy Keller's fused glass, Sherry McVickar's barn paintings and Sarah Snyder-Dinsel's painted furniture (especially the charming little footstools decorated with frogs and goldfish).
My friend also said the Art Gala committee treated the artists extremely well, providing an excellent opening-night party. Proceeds benefit the high school's PTO.
I also browsed through the display of works by students; the art students at my high school were by far the hippest and most creative clique in the school, and it looks like nothing has changed.

More than a commodity

Yesterday I overheard a manager briefing her staff on the company's standardized plans for its Christmas products and campaigns. She showed them photos of merchandise that will have a "hard" and "soft" launch on certain dates and urged the employees to keep track of the company's daily promotions throughout December so customers wouldn't be better informed that they were.
I have to say, her pep talk left me cold, and even a little repelled. Yes, of course, all of the spending that goes on at Christmas keeps many merchants afloat and keeps the economy humming. Yes, stockholders demand profits. And yes, Americans like a certain amount of predictability and "branding": they expect each store in a chain to be pretty much alike. I know all that. But defining Christmas in terms of how to hawk gift cards and how often to change the canned soundtrack just seems phony (to quote Holden Caulfield).
This is why Thanksgiving is increasingly becoming my favorite holiday. It's one day. It's on a human scale. Everybody celebrates it. They haven't made it into a commodity with must-have geegaws and gimmicks and promotional tie-ins, except for maybe the free turkey offer at the grocery store. And as my regular readers know, I will be the last person to complain about that.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pie day

A pal and I were running errands in the Thorndale area the other afternoon and my stomach started rumbling a bit. It's my friend's old stomping-grounds (she used to live in East Fallowfield Township), so she recommended the Double D Diner on East Lincoln Highway, where the road goes over the railroad tracks just east of Coatesville.
Great diner! We had coffee and delicious pie (pumpkin for her, cherry for me), ran into my mechanic buddy Fred, who was taking a break from his Modena garage to grab a late lunch, and chatted with some lovely retired ladies who were regulars.
Out of habit, my friend found herself reaching for her uneaten pie crust as if to toss it under the table; she shares her home with three dogs and they are always looking for handouts around mealtime.
She quickly realized what she was about to do and started laughing.
"You know," she said, "I really, really need to get out more."

A taxing question

Probably the most excitement at the West Marlborough Township supervisors' meeting on Monday, Nov. 5, was the fact that all the tables and chairs in the township hall had been rotated a quarter-turn from their usual position in preparation for the general election to be held there the next day.
However, there was some discussion about the township's newly enacted 0.5% earned income tax, which went into effect Oct. 1. Township secretary/treasurer Shirley Walton said all township residents should have received a letter from the Keystone Collections Group explaining their new tax obligations.
In the public comment section of the meeting, Springdell resident Gus Brown questioned whether the new tax had been properly enacted. He read aloud a passage from a state tax code document that he had brought along and said that based on his understanding of the law, the earned income tax can go into effect only on Jan. 1 and July 1, not on Oct. 1.
Supervisor Bill Wylie responded that the township's solicitor had advised the supervisors on the required procedure for enacting the tax, but the township would ask for his opinion on the issue raised by Mr. Brown.

Compost hearing

In response to neighbors' complaints about the mounds of spent mushroom compost being dumped on a field along Hood Road, there's going to be a conditional use hearing before the West Marlborough Township supervisors on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
Although the landowner, Russell B. Jones Jr., has a plan for the dumping that has been approved by the Chester County Conservation District, township regulations define mushroom compost dumping as a "conditional use." This means Mr. Jones must appear before the township supervisors, and they can impose additional conditions on the activity.
Neighbors have told the supervisors they are concerned about the truck traffic, the early-morning noise, and the possible environmental impact of the compost.
The compost is being dumped on a 90-acre property owned by Mr. Jones at the southeast corner of Hood Road and Mosquito Lane. 
Mr. Jones' attorney, Mary Ann Rossi of MacElree Harvey, West Chester, submitted the application for the hearing on Oct. 25, along with the $2,500 filing fee required by the township.
The hearing will be held at the township building just after the Planning Commission's 7 p.m. meeting.

Talkin' trash

I spent Saturday morning picking up trash along Route 82 from Doe Run east to Apple Grove Road. No, it wasn't some mandated community service: periodically the local conservation group the Buck & Doe Trust sponsors cleanup efforts along the part of the road it has adopted.
One of my litter-patrol buddies was "Mountain Goat" Pat Branum, who clambered up the treacherously steep roadside banks to retrieve bottles and stray pieces of trash. She is very thorough and was certainly not going to let brambles or vines get in her way. At one point I spotted a bottle in a creek and said, jokingly, "Pat, ya wanna get that?" She got wet up to the knees, but sure enough she did!
Amy McKenna, the president of Buck & Doe, thanked us all repeatedly for coming out on a chilly morning, but it was actually fun (the coffee, donuts and camaraderie helped) and it felt good to pitch in to keep our beautiful countryside litter-free.
Saturday's event was organized by board members Pam Smyth and Brendan Miney. In addition to Amy, Pat and me, other litter picker-uppers were Kim Dillon, Annie Jones, Janet Sidewater, Joe Huston, Brendan Miney, Pam Smyth and friend Lon. Amy tells me that the Buck & Doe Trust "is also organizing a similar clean up of the Laurels in conjunction with the Brandywine Conservancy later this month. The first event was rained out from Sandy."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Veterans

This afternoon my friend Susan and I visited the Coatesville VA Medical Center to see "The Wall That Heals," a traveling version of the black granite Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington DC.
It was moving and sobering. The half-size replica contains the names of the nearly 60,000 Americans who died during the conflict, listed by "day of casualty" (a chilling phrase). Sixty thousand, each with a story, each leaving loved ones behind: it's beyond comprehension.
There's also an exhibit of photographs of the young soldiers, letters home, MIA/POW bracelets, helmets and boots and dogtags, and a map and summary of the Southeast Asian conflict that was a staple of the evening news when I was growing up.
One of the workers had a thick notebook containing all the names in alphabetical order, and he looked up my friend Larry's father and helped us to find his name. Maj. Charles Kesterson was killed by a land mine on May 4, 1966, at age 30.
There were probably a dozen people at the Wall, and another one of the workers told us there had been a steady flow of visitors during its stay in Coatesville.
That morning, before I emailed Susan and asked her to go with me, I thought, it's really windy; brrr, it's going to be cold out there. I had to laugh at myself: what a wimp! Compare that to the incredible discomfort, pain, anguish and danger that these brave men and women went through (and many still do to this day) to defend their country.
Still more locally: Did you know that there's a World War II monument at Unionville Elementary School? It reads "IN HONOR OF THE MEN AND WOMEN OF EAST MARLBORO, WEST MARLBORO, NEWLIN, AND POCOPSON TOWNSHIPS WHO SERVED IN WORLD WAR II TO PRESERVE THIS NATION AND PROTECT ITS HONOR - Erected by the citizens of these townships July 4, 1943."
(The "Marlboro" spelling is [sic], not my typo!)


Connections

Retired Unionville schoolteacher Don Silknitter and his wife, Joan, have started a West Marlborough Township group on Facebook as a way to share news with township residents. It has already become a big hit, full of information about election results and township meetings, as well as historical tidbits and photos.
Don't look for any political commentary, though: Don's strictly enforced rule for the group is NO POLITICS!
Don shared a wonderful postcard view of Doe Run circa 1907, showing Edwin Buffington and Thad Herr crossing Route 82, then a dirt road.
The group is up to nearly 100 members, and at the Nov. 5 township meeting, planning commission member Josh Taylor thanked Don for providing a very useful public service.
I don't want to neglect our worthy neighbor East Marlborough Township: in recent weeks they also started a public Facebook page that you can "like"!
(Sorry, but yes, you DO have to join Facebook to access both of these sites. Some people refuse to do so, and I can't say I completely disagree with them.)