Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Something in the water

We live in an area where horses are so popular that even if you don't ride, you probably have friends who do, or you see folks wearing their muddy boots at the post office.
I got a reminder of how deeply we internalize the equestrian lifestyle last Saturday when I was helping a friend settle into his new apartment. After we made a list of kitchen items he needed, I looked at my watch and saw that it was close to lunchtime.
"Why don't we head to Bed Bath & Beyond before people get back from hunting," I suggested.
There was a pause.
"Tilda," he said patiently. "We're in Exton."
I shared this story with some avid foxhunting friends, who understood completely. When a horse belonging to one of them became lame, Saturday morning loomed like a terra incognita because for years, every Saturday in the winter had involved hunting.
(Speaking of Bed Bath & Beyond: Their coupons do not expire! My friend bought seven items and used seven 20%-off coupons, all but two well past their sell-by date.)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

By the book

Gus Brown, you may recall, is one of the Springdell residents who has complained repeatedly about The Whip tavern, accusing its owners of violating the West Marlborough Township zoning regulations and damaging the town's quality of life.
In an interesting bit of irony, it turns out that Gus and his wife, Linda, have been running a personal training business out of their North Chatham Road home. The township zoning officer has determined that this violates the township's zoning rules and they will need a special exception to continue doing so. The Browns will present their case to the township's Zoning Hearing Board on Thursday, March 1, at 7 p.m. at the township building.
(Sorry for not letting you know sooner, but I just saw the notice. If you don't get there, rest assured I'll have a full report in next week's paper.)



I spent Saturday morning at the Unionville High School PTO used book sale and, as always, had a great time. I immediately filled my bag with books for myself and family members (including "The Hobbit" and "Hound of the Baskervilles" for the junior Tally-ho), and was delighted to chat with several folks I hadn't seen in ages. I caught up with my gym friend Eileen, who updated me on her family. How time flies! I remember when her children were born, and now they're in high school. In fact, she was stocking up for their summer reading lists.
My newspaper colleague Michael, an avid nonfiction reader, was arriving at the sale just as I was leaving.
I'm always impressed with how well organized the book sale is. Everything is clearly marked, the volunteers are competent and pleasant and books are restocked promptly. Well done! Hope they made a lot of money for a good cause.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Memorial update

Last week I asked whether anyone knew anything about the roadside memorial on Route 841 between Blow Horn and Thouron Road. Two readers informed me that it marks the spot where a motorcyclist died, in the summer of either 2010 or 2011. One recalled a rescue helicopter landing in a field nearby after the accident.

Undeck the halls

A friend just moved into a condo development with very strict rules. A scolding notice went up at the community mailboxes pointing out that the deadline for removing Christmas decorations had passed, citing chapter and verse of the bylaws like an article in a law journal.
I certainly agree with the sentiment -- Christmas wreaths are looking downright odd by this point -- but something in me rebels at the thought of being told what I can and cannot do. If I lived in one of those places I bet I'd run afoul of the Homeowners' Association within weeks.

Aged news

In addition to free towing, being a AAA member also gets you a subscription to "AAA World," a travel magazine. The March/April issue arrived the other day and was already getting buried on the coffee table when one of my many sharp-eyed correspondents texted me: "Doe Run Dairy mentioned in PA Cheese article in new AAA magazine."
And indeed it is, right there on p. 44, along with other local cheese-makers Birch Run Hills in Birchrunville, Amazing Acres Goat Dairy in Elverson and Shellbark Hollow in West Chester. Kennett's Talula's Table is also listed as a place to find Pennsylvania cheese.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


(If you're not a Facebook aficionado, this item will mean nothing to you. Yes, that means you, Mum and Dad. Although you really SHOULD like FB, as there are photos of your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on it!)
There seems to be a recent plague of not only upper respiratory ailments, but also Facebook glitches.
First thing this morning I noticed that a local venue, which normally posts only upbeat items about its performers and special events, had a fairly vehement posting about one of the Republican presidential candidates. I'm thinking it was posted in error because it was taken down within a few minutes.
Over the weekend I posted about my new-found love for Netflix, and a gym friend responded: "Wait til you have kids who wake up at 6:30 in the a.m. You'll need to get out of the house!"
OK, I thought... perhaps a little testy, but sort of on target, I suppose.
She later wrote back, mortified, apologizing and saying she had meant to post that remark on someone else's page.
But the best was a friend who "liked" a post supporting a politician whom she utterly loathes in reality. She claims that what she "liked" was a completely different, even non-political, item, but I had great fun giving her a hard time anyway.

The comfy chair

Last night I was helping a friend choose some new furniture up in Exton. He liked the first sofa we saw, and as I was discussing pillow choices with the very pleasant saleswoman, he tried out the matching overstuffed chair and ottoman. I glanced over, saw him smiling and immediately realized that our search was over. It fit him so well, and he looked so relaxed and comfortable, it was as if he had lived in that chair for years.
The saleswoman and I started laughing.
"Easiest sale I've had in weeks," she commented.
(Update: Raymour & Flanigan gets high marks. They delivered the sofa, chair, ottoman AND bed within 2 days. The delivery guys phoned to say they'd arrive earlier than expected, and they were pleasant, professional and extremely efficient.)


How warm has it been this "winter"?
A Facebook friend posted this morning that it's the end of February and she just noticed the first "crack" on one of her fingers. If you're one of the lucky folks who doesn't get these ailments in the cold weather, they're stubborn little fissures that follow the lines of your fingerprint. They're sore, they afflict a nerve-rich area and they just won't close up the way a normal cut would. 
The only thing I've found that helps them heal is a thick white cream called Lotil that comes in a jar and smells appropriately medicinal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In verse

I just received an e-mail inviting students (grades 1 through12) who go to school in Chester County to enter the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project's fourth annual e-poetry contest.
The first-place winner in each category (grades 1 and 2, 3 through 5, 6 through 8, and 9 through 12, and a separate sonnet category for grades 9 through 12) will receive a full scholarship to a summer Young Writers camp.
Deadline for submissions is March 31, 2012. Poems should be e-mailed as a Word document attachment to:
"Winners will be notified during Poetry Month in April, with a celebration for the winners and their families at the Chester County Book and Music Company in West Goshen on May 3, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. The top 3 winners in each category receive a certificate, a writer's toolbox, and public recognition of their poem on the PA Writing & Literature Project website ( and in the Chester County Library in Exton."
There's also a category for teachers: "The winning teacher will receive a certificate to attend a Fall or Spring PAWLP workshop and a gift card."
If you have any questions, e-mail or call 610-436-3089.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I had high hopes that some exotic species would show up in my backyard during the annual Great Backyard Bird Count last weekend, but it didn't happen. I recorded the usual suspects: juncos, nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers, cardinals, mourning doves. I was pleased to see both a male and female downy woodpecker, and I don't usually see red-winged blackbirds in the backyard. I was sorry to read that our Outdoors columnist Lisa didn't have much of a turnout of birds -- I guess they were all over here, Lisa!
Of course, just after doing my final backyard count I spotted more Canada geese than I could count by a pond near Doe Run, and on Apple Grove Road a beautiful bluebird flew right in front of me. But you'd have to be one churlish person to complain about seeing a bluebird under any circumstances.
If you haven't sent in your tallies yet, the deadline is March 5.

Whole Foods

There's a growing sense of impatience surrounding when the Whole Foods supermarket is going to open in the Glen Eagle shopping center on Route 202. It certainly looks ready to open its doors, but I'm told that mid-March is the estimated opening date for the upscale store. The owners can rest assured that there are many eager shoppers here in the Kennett area.

Bite of Italy

A BYOB restaurant called "A Bite of Italy" has opened in the space where Manny Hattan's used to be. My sister-in-law and I tried it out on a Sunday evening and enjoyed a nice light meal. As soon as we sat down a waiter brought bread with olive oil for dipping. We split one of their side salads (it was ample for both of us) and shared a Margherita pizza (tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil on a homemade crust, which you can watch the pizza chef tossing). The pizza was delicious not only Sunday evening but also Monday morning, when I finished the two leftover pieces.
By the time we left, most of the tables were filled -- including some neighbors of mine, and two Kennett gentlemen I know.
Good luck to this new business. We will definitely be back to try more of the dishes on the menu.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Romance, Unionville style

The day before Valentine's Day I got an excited phone call from a friend. She had just been to the Unionville post office and picked up a package addressed to her husband. She phoned him to ask what it was and, quite properly, he refused to divulge any details.
I Googled the return address for her and found out that it was from either the Fellowship of Christian Magicians or an insecticide company in Wilmington. She had high hopes that it was the latter: her horse has mites, and she thought it might be some kind of anti-mite spray or powder.
No such luck. The next morning she was allowed to open the package -- and found that her sweetheart had gotten her a rose sculpture. No mite poison.


A few years back a Unionville friend started selling Worth, a line of very nice women's clothing. Perhaps you've been invited to one of these events? You go over to the salesperson's house and try on the clothes that she has put aside for you, peering at yourself in a full-length mirror like a model. It was always great fun because she knew what kind of clothes you needed, and what looked good on you, and would discourage you from buying something that wasn't flattering (although I refused to buy that bustier that I never would've worn). Inevitably I'd end up spending way more money than I expected, but I still wear most of the pieces and still get compliments on them (especially the tight boucle tweed jacket).
However, this is a small town, and I've subsequently discovered that another woman and I own many of the same pieces: the wool shawl, the red cotton sweater with fringed collar, and yes, even the tweed jacket. We laugh that we'll have to coordinate before attending the same event.
With regard to the jacket, she was very helpful. It had these fiddly little metal ornaments hanging from the end of the sleeves that clanked against your soup dish. "I just took them off with a pair of pliers," she advised me the other day. I went home and did the same.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Full up

I don't get or send a lot of mail these days. I receive and pay almost all of my bills online; instead of receiving checks, the money is deposited right into my account; and instead of letters I communicate by email and Facebook.
But when I stopped by the drive-up mailbox at the West Grove post office this afternoon, it was overflowing. Letters were sticking out, and I could hardly fit my Netflix movie ("Downton Abbey"!) into the slot. Fortunately an employee was standing out on the loading dock, and as soon as I gave him a heads up he went over and started emptying the box.

March Sanity

I guess it's inevitable when you have a children's librarian who is also a huge sports fan: John Hendrix just posted two March Madness brackets on the bulletin board at the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library, but they have picture books and chapter books instead of college basketball teams.
According to BracketMeister Hendrix, "You're supposed to come into the library and pick up the pool, fill it out and the kid with the most wins get a prize...Every Friday I will post the winners of each if I get 100 pools and 75 of them have Hungry Caterpillar and 25 The Mitten, Hungry Caterpillar advances."
Who will make the Picture Book Final Four? "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"? "Where The Wild Things Are"? "Goodnight Moon"? "Stellaluna"? "Rainbow Fish"?
I'm told that "Very Hungry Caterpillar" is the number-one seed, but personally I'm rooting for "Green Eggs and Ham."    
And the Chapter Book competitors? Talk about all-stars: "Charlotte's Web," "Pippi Longstocking," "Ramona the Pest," "Little Women," "Harry Potter," "The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe," "The Hobbit"... it goes on and on.
Stop by the library and join the pools!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Dog Heaven must be a busy place: three friends have lost their beloved canines in the past few weeks. Fortunately all three lived good, happy doggie lives and didn't suffer very long illnesses, and I hope that's some comfort to the owners. One friend reported that when she went to pick up her dog's ashes, she found that the vet had made a cast of his paw print that she could take a memento home. I thought that was very sweet.

2012 Book Sale

This coming weekend is the annual used-book sale at Unionville High School gym. It's an event I look forward to each year for two reasons: I get to clear out my shelves by donating books I don't want, and then restock them with new ones. Proceeds go to the high school PTO.
Here are the hours (the snow date is the following weekend, but I don't think we need worry overmuch about that):
  • Friday, February 24th, 5 PM - 9 PM
  • Saturday, February 25th, 9 AM - 2:30 PM
  • $8 Bag Sale, Saturday, February 25th, 3 PM - 5 PM


Perhaps one of my readers has the answer: There is a commemorative marker, with a wreath, along the side of Route 841 between Blow Horn and Thouron Road. I've always wondered who it is in memory of.


Wooden barriers have been erected blocking horses, carriages and other vehicles from using the two covered bridges in the Laurels nature preserve after an engineering study showed that the bridges are damaged and unsafe for heavier loads. The narrow openings permit only pedestrians to cross the bridges.
"We have applied to the Department of Environmental Protection for a permit to upgrade a downstream ford," says a letter from the Brandywine Conservancy. "This work should be completed within a few weeks and will improve the ford so that it may be used as part of an alternate route."

An orange sign directs riders and carriages toward the detour.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

We are family

A friend of mine is having some health issues that appeared out of the clear blue sky, and she spent several days in Christiana Hospital. Word trickled out via the grapevine to her large network of friends in Kennett. When I heard that something was up, I phoned one mutual friend who is always "in the know," got some details and then passed the word along.
I found myself phoning some people I hadn't spoken to in years, not since all of us served on a very active nonprofit board together, but it was like no time had passed at all: I knew that of course they would want to hear about our former colleague. I suppose it's much like working together, or playing on a team together: certain bonds form when you're on "the same side," you've eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner together, and you've been on the phone at all hours of the day and night discussing good news and bad.
As one friend put it: There are all kinds of families in the world.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Food by Triple Fresh? And music by The Sermon? Now really: what more do you need for an excellent party!

The Willowdale Steeplechase is hosting a Mardi Gras-themed party on Friday, March 9, from 7 to 10 p.m. to kick off the 2012 race meet season. It'll be held at the Yellow House on the Steeplechase grounds. Tickets are $75 per person, $130 per couple. You can reserve yours at, or call the office at 610.444.1582. The organizers tell me that the event was a sell-out last year.


A certain cancer not-for-profit has been in the headlines recently for its decisions on how it allocates its funds. I thought I would seize the opportunity, however oblique it is, to put in a plug for one of my very favorite charities: The Cancer Support Community Delaware, known until recently as Wellness Community Delaware. They run cancer support groups and educational programs for patients and family members. They keep a low profile, but they do life-changing work and they are VERY good at it.
You can look them up online for more information. The New Castle County office is at 4810 Lancaster Pike
Wilmington, DE and the phone number is
(302) 995-2850.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


A Newlin resident who keeps chickens reports with some satisfaction that because the days are getting longer (more hours of sunlight, that is), her hens are starting to increase their egg production. This is good news for all concerned, as her eggs are wonderful (and the judges at the Unionville Fair agree). This morning when I stopped by her farm I had a slice of delicious quiche with spinach, cheese, and roasted peppers, all on a Trader Joe's crust.

Night school

You probably received in the mail the course catalog for this coming semester at the Chester County Night School. Though most of their classes are held at the West Chester or Great Valley schools, there are quite a few being offered here at Patton Middle School or Unionville High School. Among them: art, beekeeping, ballroom dancing, computer-aided drafting, financial planning, "improv" comedy, nutrition, photography, Spanish, tennis, woodworking, and writing.
I saw one course title, "It's OK to Be Crabby," and immediately thought of several acquaintances who would be perfect instructors. But no, it's a seafood cooking class.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Heads up

In a follow-up to my item in last week's column about local break-ins, a fellow West Marlborough resident told me that she has found a female trespasser in her barn twice, unauthorized, "asking questions about saddles and their value." My friend told the woman that she had notified state police, and found out that apparently she has been arrested before for trying to sell stolen tack.


The Jennersville Y certainly knows its market: it's offering a "Yoga for Riders" class from 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27.
"The ancient practice of yoga has the same goals as dressage -- harmony, energy and balance," reads the flyer. "Learn how practicing yoga can improve your riding through improved self-awareness, improved ability to relax and breathe, resulting in better communication with your horse; increased understanding of body positioning, improved balance and ability to be centered."
It's free for members. If you've been looking for a reason to join the Y, this might be it.
Speaking of something else that equestrians might enjoy, check out Ponybeds on Facebook (their website is being built). They sell VERY cute beds with headboards and footboards that look like jumps.

Work it!

Remember Jessica Latshaw? She's the "ukelele girl" from Landenberg who became an instant YouTube sensation a few weeks back when she was videotaped playing her uke on the NYC subway. Since then she's been making the most of her lucky break. Among several other gigs, she has performed at a fashion charity event in Soho pre-Fashion Week; opened for Dia Frampton on Feb. 8 at The Note in West Chester; is playing in the finale of Germany's edition of "America's Next Top Model"; and on Thursday, Feb. 23, will be playing at World Cafe Live at The Queen Theater in Wilmington.
I should add that she's also a very nice person. You go, Jess!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


A friend of mine stopped by this afternoon in a dark mood: her horse is lame, her computer keeps crashing, her website is balky, her favorite fruit is no longer in season....on and on.
I tried to distract her by feeding her cookies and showing her a really cool commercial for a satellite phone gadget that stars a friend of mine. The video shows him pulling ashore on a remote island off the Katmai Peninsula in Alaska, unloading this BlueCosmo device and his laptop from the boat, and then hooking up to the Internet right then and there. 
This high-tech wizardry did not cheer her up. In fact, as the kids say, it was something of an Epic Fail.
"Great," she said despondently. "He can check his e-mail from Alaska. My printer won't even communicate with my computer and they're in the same room."
She left and headed off to continue her errands. Presently I got a text message from her: because we'd taken time to watch the video, she had arrived at the bank a few minutes after closing time.
Oh well. Maybe it will cheer you up. It's at

Mom's morning out

Bedbugzz, the baby and children's store at 128 E. State Street in Kennett, is hosting a get-together every Wednesday morning from 10 to 11:30 for mothers "who are seeking the support and camaraderie of other moms who are in the throes of life with a baby or toddler." There will be "a time for sharing, asking questions, soliciting advice, offering suggestions, and providing and receiving encouragement while your little one(s) play. Light, healthy snacks will be served." There's no charge. 
The leader is Nikki Graham, a Certified Lactation Educator, Certified Massage Therapist, and Certified Doula. For more information you can contact Bedbugzz at 610-444-5566,

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cheese legal

Richard Hayne's cheese-making operation in Springdell is now in compliance with township ordinances.
At their Feb. 7 meeting, the West Marlborough supervisors approved the conditional use for the creamery at his Doe Run Farm (which had been operating for more than a year without such permission), but only with lots of conditions. Some of them are as follows:
1. Mr. Hayne must abide by all the statements made by his representatives at the hearings.
2. Within 45 days he has to obtain building permits for the dairy barn (permits aren't needed for an agricultural use but they are for a commercial use) and pay the appropriate fees to the township.
3. Within 45 days he has to have an engineer state that emergency vehicles will be able to negotiate the driveway to the creamery off Hicks Road.
4. He can't erect any signs advertising the creamery.
5. He can't have any more than four employees per shift working in the creamery operation.
6. He has to maintain current state and federal licenses for his operations. 
7. He can't have a restaurant on the site.
8. Outdoor lights must be directed downward.
9. No tractor-trailers are allowed in the creamery area, only smaller delivery trucks.
Mr. Hayne's rep David Ziel told the board he agreed with the conditions but asked them to fine-tune the definition of the size of trucks permitted. The board agreed to reword the condition to allow box trucks "of the type used by" Federal Express or UPS so as not to limit the creamery to only those couriers.
Doe Run Farm has already been issued three building permits by the township this year: conversion of an attic into an office space; a pool and tennis court; and a machine shed/workshop.
And some more good news for Mr. Hayne: according to the Feb. 9 Philadelphia Business Journal, Urban Outfitters "said sales were up 9 percent to $731 million in the quarter that ended Jan. 31. But analysts were expecting more: on average, $741.94 million, according to Thomson Reuters. Urban stock was trading 0.59 percent higher this morning at $27.30."

Complaints Dept.

You just never know what's going to happen at a municipal meeting.
The Feb. 7 meeting of the West Marlborough board of supervisors started out as usual: call to order, approval of minutes from the previous meeting. But then it came time for public comment, and Stuart Allen, who lives in the 500 block of Street Road, stood up and read a fiery multi-page letter accusing the township officials of incompetence and playing favorites when it turned down his request to fell some trees on his property. After his impassioned and sometimes sarcastic 42-minute speech (an audience member timed it), his wife added that all she wanted was to have a pretty front lawn like so many of her neighbors, but the trees didn't allow enough sunshine in for grass to thrive.
The supervisors were taken aback, as they had no part in the denial of his request.

"This is the first we've heard of this," said supervisor Bill Wylie, adding that the board heard his complaints "loud and clear" and wanted to resolve them. "I'm glad you felt comfortable coming in tonight."
"Call me," said the township's zoning officer, Al Giannantonio, "and we can set up a meeting. I want to sit down with you."
As the tension abated, Mr. Allen said he hated being combative but was so frustrated that he felt he had no option other than confronting the board.
"I'm really a nice guy," he explained.
"So are we," quipped supervisor Mike Ledyard.


I got an e-mail today from the company that makes my favorite gym socks, Thorlos (they're the best). Apparently they had a security breach and my credit-card number might have been stolen.
So as directed, I promptly phoned my credit-card company. A nice fellow named Travis looked through my recent transactions to see if anything looked funny.
Nope, just the usual: lunch at Catherine's Restaurant, pizza from Floga Bistro, lunch at The Whip, groceries from Giant, gas at Landhope.
And then one item did catch his attention.
"I'm seeing a purchase at ..." He hesitated."... a Wa Wa?"
I laughed and explained to Travis that Wawa is a chain of convenience stores in eastern Pennsylvania.
"I learn something new every day," he marveled.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Some of us out here in the country tend to be lackadaisical about security, but we really shouldn't be: I know three West Marlborough residents whose homes have been burgled in recent months. That's a scary thought. Please, track down your house keys and start locking up.

Sorry, We're Closed

Some sad customers alerted me to the recent demise of two long-time Kennett businesses: there are For Rent signs at the Liberty gas station/car wash at Cypress and Washington ("Thank you for your business over the past years," reads a sign over the gas pumps) and the Blevins locksmith shop at Cypress and Willow.
I also noticed For Rent signs on the Church Alley side of the American Legion hall, where the Power Place church congregation used to meet, but they didn't go out of business: they moved out to 576 Rosedale Road.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bits and pieces

This week's random items:
1. Saw a Mini Cooper with a sticker on the back window saying "Actual Size."
2. Arrows painted on the pavement in parking lots are there for a reason, people! At the Y the other day a woman going against the arrows nearly hit my car. I pointed to the arrow and mouthed, "One way!" She mouthed, "I know" to me but kept driving. The wrong way. And of course she was on her cell phone. Why? WHY?
3. I'm told that our area was well represented (both in numbers and in high spirits) at the Masters of Foxhounds Association's annual meeting at the Union Club and the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan last week. (BTW, visit Foxypong's channel on YouTube for some terrific "helmet-cam"-style videos.)
4. Without comment, I will note that I just received an email from one of our elementary schools reminding parents that pupils aren't allowed to give out candy with their Valentine's Day cards.


If the Facebook gods ban me for this, so be it.
There's a photo of a living room going around on Facebook that has the caption, "This is creepy!" (and they're not talking about the ugly furniture). Then it warns you sternly NOT TO SPILL THE BEANS when you spot what's so scary about it.
I'll tell you: There's a face superimposed underneath one of the sofa pillows. It's not creepy, it's just a stupid time-waster.


The other day I was paging through an old math book of mine called "Litton's Problematical Recreations" to see if the problems might be challenging enough for the budding math genius in my family.
But I found myself focusing more on how sex roles have changed since 1971, when it was published. In the book, each word problem has a little woodcut illustration, and guess what? All of the doctors, professors, scientists, athletes, computer programmers, travelers, salespeople, and Scouts are men (granted, there are only male prisoners and safecrackers, too). The only females pictured are a student, a girlfriend, a bad driver, a palm-reader, hopscotch players, an angel, a bride (and later a surly wife), a little girl whose father owns a yacht, and a librarian. There are both male and female hippies and card-players. A group called "League Against Restrictive Diets" contains an equal number of fat men and women, as does a group of six random people (you have to prove that "either three are mutually acquainted or three are mutually unacquainted") and a group of tea drinkers.
It was really quite startling.

No mat needed

Though I don't do yoga, I'm on the mailing list for a yoga retreat place. Usually their brochures resemble catalogs for upscale yoga wear, full of young, great-looking, incredibly flexible folks practicing their asanas in idyllic settings. But this season it seems the organization is pursuing a different demographic: the brochure I received last week shows a middle-aged person wearing billowy clothes, relaxing in an Adirondack chair, listening to an iPod and doing what looks like a Sudoku puzzle.

Friday, February 3, 2012


A friend of mine is a hardy, active, very hard-working soul and was therefore quite peeved to discover that he had contracted a second sinus infection only 6 weeks after he got over his first one. He had the good sense to visit his doctor before his symptoms got too debilitating. She told him there is "nasty stuff" going around, and many of her patients have not only sinus issues like his but also a persistent cough.

I Did Not Know That

If you're looking for an excellent bedside book, try "The Book of General Ignorance: Everything You Think You Know is Wrong," by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. I received it as a Christmas present ("How could I resist that title?" explained the gift-giver). It's divided into 230 chapters, each only a page or two in length and each offering a surprising answer to questions like "What are violin strings made from?" "What effect does alcohol have on brain cells?" "How was Teflon discovered?" "Is French toast from France?"
And the answer to "What's the largest living thing?" might be of interest to many farmers in the Kennett Square area. Hint: it's a fungus.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I just got an email from my friend and fellow Unionville resident Paul Sapko, who is the reference librarian at the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library in Kennett. He's going to be offering two seminars entitled "I Got a Kindle or a Nook for Christmas! Now What?" Paul will teach you how to "access and search the library's collection of electronic books. You will learn how to check out and download library eBooks" to your device.
The programs will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14, and at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the library. You can call the library (610-444-2702) to reserve your spot (space is limited) or email

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Few things are more humbling than performing some household task that should be easy but somehow isn't. I learned this for the umpteenth time in my life when tinkering with my Aladdin oil lamp tonight.
I've had this lamp from, I believe, the very first winter I lived in West Marlborough. It produces not only a nice light but also a great deal of warmth, so it's very useful in case of power outages.
Aladdins are pretty sturdy (except for the extremely delicate mantle, the part that glows), and for the first time ever I needed to replace the wick. I ordered it from Lehman's, an old-fashioned hardware store in Kidron, Ohio, which stocks all things Aladdin (and off-the-grid).
When it arrived, I cleared off the table top, took the new wick out of the box, propped up the box so I could read the instructions, and started dismantling the lamp, trying to fix in my mind what piece belonged where.
One of the first steps was to remove the old wick, naturally. Easier said than done: It had been there for 20 years, and it was perfectly happy. But I managed to dislodge it, millimeter by millimeter. Then came the challenge of installing the new one. The instructions referred to lamp parts by name, but there were no illustrations.  This was a problem.
"Pull tabs until bottom of tape INSIDE wick is just below top edge of center tube."
"Turn winder anti-clockwise slowly until raiser arms engage with wick clips."
(Yes, "anti-clockwise.")
Guess what? There's not a YouTube video showing how to install a new wick, and the only online instructions simply repeat the ones on the box. But somehow the raiser arms DID end up engaging with the wick clips, with a very satisfying "click," and everything went right back into place.
Fortunately I remembered how to reassemble the whole thing, and now the new wick is soaking in the oil, ready for tomorrow evening.