Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen

I love hearing about these father-daughter dances being held this spring by many of our local Girl Scout troops. What a great idea, showing elementary-school girls how they deserve to be treated by a date! The photos just melt your heart: grinning girls in pretty dresses or leggings, hair in barrettes or a French braid, and their proud, good-sport Dads in a jacket and tie or a blue sport coat and khakis. Everybody is just beaming.
A friend of mine who just won a Pulitzer prize for his newspaper photography even made a charming little video of his daughter's dance, edited to the tune of "What Makes You Beautiful" by the boy-band One Direction.


Here are the top 15 finishers from the "Run for Our Sons" 5K race
held at Patton Middle School on April 21, which I wrote
about last week: 
1. Johnathon Ganly 
2. Derek Brogan 
3. Paul Elsen
4. Erick Marklund
5. Jennifer Welsh
6. William Jeppe
7. Debbie Pelegrin
8. Meg Rosato
9. Michael Reath
10. Alan Horowitz
11. Matt DiPaolo
12. Dewey Atkins
13. Connor Schilling
14. Cole Walker
15. Susan McMahon
Winning time was 18:41. The ages of the top 15 runners ranged
from 10 to 51, and their paces ranged from 6:08 to 7:20 per mile.
There were 284 finishers in all. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012


In the past few weeks Asplundh workers have been making their periodic rounds of state roads, lopping off tree limbs that might fall on power lines. The staging area for their army of orange trucks has been behind the old Red Rose Inn in Jennersville. It's not difficult to identify the roadsides where they have been working. In particular, Street Road (Route 926) near the London Grove intersection now has some distinctly asymmetrical trees.
A reader said she could never figure out to pronounce the name, so I looked it up. Apparently many customers are curious about that, because it's the first FAQ on their website:
“AH - splund”. The final “H” is silent. It is a Swedish family name meaning “grove of aspen trees”.
Now you know, Linda D!

Too much information

Visitors to the Unionville post office on Saturday were greeted with a wet carpet and the following warning sign:

Whether the fluid was in fact water or not, what an ingenious way to keep people away from that part of the lobby!


I was just checking my blog statistics and came across this mercenary little announcement:
"When you share your words, thoughts and photos on Blogger, you are sharing your passions with the world. Sometimes, you’re passionate about brands or products. Starting today, you can make money by promoting relevant products in your posts, gaining income for each new customer you introduce to your favorite brands."
Yuck! I assure my readers that I do no such thing. I don't mention products or stores so that I can make money; that would be wrong and it would ruin any credibility that I have. Nor would I ever accept free meals, ice cream, cider, pedicures, bread or chocolate milk in return for mentioning the merchant in this column.

Friday, April 27, 2012


I'm told that Mark Bowden gave a fascinating talk at the Foxfire Restaurant at the Stone Barn on April 18 in an event sponsored by the Cheshire Hunt Conservancy. Mark, who lives near Oxford, spoke about his adventure-packed career as a journalist and author. Boy, did I make the wrong choice: I attended a zoning meeting instead of going to hear him.
My friends who attended said he was an excellent speaker and told riveting anecdotes, including an amusing one about covering an Apollo rocket launch. And the dinner was excellent, too, I'm told.
I'm sure you've heard of Mark: he wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer for years, and his books include Black Hawk Down, Killing Pablo, and Guests of the Ayatollah.


There was a minor crash at Routes 841 and 842 on Wednesday morning. That evening I asked a nearby resident what had happened, and she said that judging from the frequency of accidents there, it seems some people just don't understand the concept of a four-way stop.

In passing

I see that the old Barnwood Restaurant on Baltimore Pike, west of Kennett, has been painted twice this past week: first a base coat of rusty orange, and then olive drab.
What a great spot the Barnwood was! I can't count the number of times when suppertime would roll around and we'd head over there for a relaxing, tasty and reasonably priced meal. And remember Sandy, the friendly barmaid?
Also, I also noticed that a new ice cream shop is going in at the former Citgo gas station at the intersection of Baltimore Pike and Route 41. A man was inside painting this morning as I drove by, and there are two large banners announcing that the new store is "comming."

Life is good

A friend of mine just became a grandfather for the first time, and in our long and event-filled friendship I have never for one moment seen him at a loss for words -- until now. He told me he simply could not describe what it felt like to hold the precious little boy in his arms, less than 12 hours after he was born. The first photos of this wonderful new person went out immediately via text message.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Out of town

Some locals are not happy about the imminent move of Unionville Feed to its new site in Pocopson. One friend said that because of the increased distance from her farm she is now going to have to make a list of what she needs instead of popping in spontaneously for whatever her horses, dogs, cats or chickens need.
"I'm actually going to have to think!" she said, only half in jest.
I stopped into the feed store for pet food this morning and Ed was behind the counter catching up on the "The Horse of Delaware Valley"; unfortunately, his cat had decided to take a nap on top of the very article he had been reading. 


A trolley line used to run along the east side of Route 82 into Kennett, and you can still see part of its path near Willowdale and the Kennett Country Club. I learned this and many other interesting things about early-20th-century trolley lines at a wonderful talk given by Ray McKay to the Southeastern Chester County Historical Society on April 25.
He showed photos of the trolleys operating in downtown West Chester, Lenape, Downingtown and Kennett, with then-and-now comparisons of what the sites look like today. There was a trolley barn on South High Street, near Market Street, in West Chester; a power plant to keep the trolleys running where Lenape Forge is today; and another barn on Birch Street in Kennett. The arched bridge that crosses the Brandywine near Lenape Park didn't exist when the trolleys were running; they used a bridge just north of it that no longer exists. 
He said it's a tricky business tracing the old routes because the lines have been pulled up, stations have been torn down and in some cases roads have even been moved.
He said that originally the trolley cars were not labeled with signs, and they all looked alike, causing confusion as to which car was going on which route.
In the more-chairs-needed audience at the Kennett Friends Home I saw Mary Dugan, Marjorie Kaskey, Karen Halstead, Baz Powell, and former Kennett Square borough residents Janice and Dick Taylor, and Mary Sproat introduced Mr. McKay.
After the talk my friends and I walked down the street and had a tasty supper at El Ranchero, a Mexican restaurant in the little West State Street shopping center where the card shop Papier used to be.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I am very glad this Wall Street Journal story didn't carry a Unionville or Kennett Square dateline.
It seems that Rita Crundwell, the comptroller for Dixon, Illinois, is accused of embezzling $30 million from the city, using it to pay for her horse farm (she breeds and sells quarter horses), a $2.1 million motor home, a $60,000 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, and $2.5 million in credit card charges, including $339,000 for jewelry. The photo that accompanies the story shows Ms. Crundwell, wearing a white cowboy hat, with one of her horses at a competition. The fraud, which allegedly stretched back to 2006, came to light when a city worker filling in for Ms. Crundwell "raised questions about the city's bank statements."
"The funds Ms. Crundwell is accused of misappropriating amount to nearly $2,000 for each of Dixon's roughly 15,700 residents," the WSJ reporter calculated.


The structures at Dick Hayne's Doe Run Farm are beautifully designed and built. His artisanal cheese wins awards for its high quality. His workers are meticulous about keeping the estate grounds in impeccable condition. And I'm told that he is a very hands-on owner, involved in every decision.
Why, then, is the company he founded, Urban Outfitters Inc., continually being accused of selling tasteless and offensive products?
Just today a friend forwarded a Philadelphia Inquirer story about how UO was selling a $100 T-shirt with a six-pointed star on the pocket that resembled those that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany.
According to the Inquirer story, the Philadelphia chapter of the Anti-Defamation League "last week sent a letter to Urban Outfitters chairman and CEO Richard A. Hayne demanding `an immediate apology'.”
The company "said Monday it never stocked or sold" the T-shirt and the shirt’s "Danish manufacturer said a photo featuring the embroidery on Urban’s website `must be an early sample' of a prototype that was never, ultimately, made."
Philadelphia newspapers have previously reported that UO got in hot water for selling St. Patrick's Day T-shirts invoking offensive Irish stereotypes. Not to mention the Christmas-tree ornaments in the shape of guns, and the "Ghettopoly" game...
"Another day, another Urban Outfitters controversy," observed the website "Fashionista."

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Race day

It was an outdoors weekend for me. Saturday I was weeding in shorts and sunscreen; Sunday  I spent in the downpour at the Fair Hill Point-to-Point in Maryland. Yes, we certainly needed the rain, but what a shame that it had to choose Sunday.
Still, I saw lots of nice die-hard and still cheerful racing fans (it was as if Unionville just relocated south of the Mason-Dixon Line for the day), watched Ivan Dowling on Sally Reed's Monsooned Malabar win the very exciting Roy Rector Memorial Heavyweight Race, and had an excellent lunch prepared by Buck's Restaurant/Blue Marlin Catering of Rising Sun, MD (crab bisque, crabcakes, chicken marsala, pasta salad, green salad and chocolate mousse). So sad that the carriage parade got rained out, though.
One friend put it perfectly: "We are wet, but we are proud supporters of Fair Hill Races and all the people who work so hard to put it together and ride in the pouring rain!!"

Saturday, April 21, 2012


A Newlin friend said she heard that seven houses in the same Embreeville neighborhood were broken into last week. I'm not sure if "broken into" is the right wording, though: apparently the burglar didn't have to force entry into a single one. Believe me, I know it's a nuisance to lock up, but it's the smart thing to do and it could avoid a really embarrassing session with your insurance agent.

Prom season

I just saw on Facebook the first prom photo of the season, and it was a stunner. The Unionville girl was beautiful, wearing a one-shouldered, intricately wrapped shades-of-blue ombre gown with a turquoise pendant and light-blue nails. Her handsome, well-groomed date wore a dark suit with a tie and pocket square that matched her dress. Both looked wholesome and classy, not like those thuggish, scruffy and/or barely dressed celebrities that young people have as role models these days.
Then again, my prom gown was a hippie Indian batik print in blue cotton, so I guess I don't really have room to criticize anyone's taste du jour.

Coming clean

A pal of mine had accumulated some farm-related laundry to do that she didn't want to inflict on her own washing machine, so on Friday we headed into Kennett Square to the laundromat across from the borough police station. We got out quarters from the change machine (it sounded like a slot machine paying out), packed two big machines full and then headed out for a delicious lunch a few blocks away at the Michoacana Grill at Union and Cypress Streets (salad bowl for her, chicken burrito for me; her treat in return for my participation in this laundry trek!). By the time we finished, the laundry was done, too. It was such a warm day that she decided to take it home and let it dry outside rather than putting everything in the dryer.
The laundromat was busy with customers, some of them doing really significant loads, and my friend commented that for people with kids and no washing machine at home, doing laundry has got to be a major expense.


Hood's in Unionville had its big BBQ grill running in the front lot this morning, wafting the delicious smells of chicken out to passers-by. A friend said whenever she and her husband drive past on a BBQ day, he leans halfway out the window like a dog to savor the aroma. What a great sales tool!

On the run

Two members of the Tally-ho family, father and son, competed in the "Run for Our Sons" first thing this morning at Patton Middle School -- and I was there with the rest of the family to watch and cheer them on. The 5K course, which turned out to be surprisingly hilly, wound through the developments across from the school complex. The finish and start line was on the north side of the middle school.
Both father and son were close to the front of the pack the whole time, finishing in about 22 minutes, and the younger athlete said he was delighted to hear some much older runners far behind him saying, "Oh my gosh! Those kids are in elementary school!"
His runner number was the same as my Unionville post office box number, so I suggested that he run up to the post office and collect my mail. He gave me his "are you out of your head, Tilda?" look, which he has perfected.
Beautiful morning, wonderful turnout, well-organized race and a great cause: fighting Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The third annual event is in honor of two boys with the disease, Elliott and Henry Johnson, sons of Unionville High School Spanish teacher Mrs. Johnson. Proceeds benefit Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, the largest nonprofit organization in the United States focused entirely on Duchenne..

Thursday, April 19, 2012

In the coop

Last week I quoted a wise West Marlborough resident as observing that "the hens have come home to roost" with regard to the township's serious financial problems, which might require the supervisors to enact a 0.5 percent earned income tax.
Several readers have said they don't understand that old country saying. The online Free Dictionary gives a good explanation:
"If you say that chickens are coming home to roost, you mean that bad or silly things done in the past are beginning to cause problems." 
As Sherlock Holmes said in "The Empty House": The parallel is exact.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In the mud

A truck from Weaver's Mulch ran off Route 842 east of Byrd Road in East Marlborough on Tuesday afternoon. I was passing just after the accident happened, and the driver was standing outside his vehicle surveying the sorry scene. I'm told it was quite a messy business pulling the truck out of the mud. Could have been much worse, though: the truck stopped just short of the bridge railing, and the driver appeared unhurt. I went by the scene later that evening and this is what it looked like (looking west on 842).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Body and sole

A new fitness program geared to women has a few people up in arms at one of our local gyms.
The promotional flyer for the program shows a drawing of a pink high-heeled, pointy-toed shoe and reads, "Strong women wear their pain like stilettos: No matter how much it hurts, all you see is the beauty of it."
A friend objects to this stereotyping and complained to me as vigorously as she could after a grueling Extreme class.
"This is what we fought back in the Sixties!" she said. "Women don't have to wear those things anymore."
She said she proudly wore Teva sandals to her daughter's wedding and intends never to don heels again.

Off the cuff

Quick thinking is de rigueur for an elementary-school principal, but Hillendale Elementary's Steve Dissinger was truly impressive when Hillendale hosted the school board meeting on Monday, April 16.
"Where's the Husky?" demanded district superintendent John Sanville at the beginning of the meeting. (The Husky is the school's energetic mascot who shows up at all special events.)
Mr. D didn't miss a beat.
"The Husky is in training," he replied. "For the Iditarod." 
Mr. D went on to honor Hillendale students who participated in the Reading Olympics and in the before-school running program.
After which I departed; I left Wm. Shawn Weigel listening attentively in the front row, like the good reporter that he is, and his article about the meeting appeared in last week's paper.

Water Jump Ball

The people who are organizing the Willowdale Steeplechase (Sunday, May 13) kindly sent me an invitation to the Water Jump Ball they are holding at the Yellow House on Friday, May 11. This year's theme is "Havana Nights," with "Latin-inspired cuisine by Jimmy Duffy" and music by Edgardo Cintron. The dress code calls for "Old Havana Chic" and tickets cost $195 per person.
There should be some fun party photos posted on Facebook late the following morning.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On course

I had a great day today at the Plantation Field Horse Trials. This is a two-day, three-part event where horses compete in dressage, stadium jumping and cross-country. I was what is called a "fence judge" for the latter part of the competition, which means that you sit out on the course and report in by walkie-talkie on whether each horse clears the jump to which you are assigned.
Pick up a walkie-talkie and immediately you start sounding like you're in a war movie: "Roger that," I heard myself saying at one point. And I've noticed that each judge has his or her own style of reporting in: some sound like excited sports announcers; others end every announcement with a rising tone of voice, like they're asking a question or are not quite sure.

Fortunately, I had absolutely no problems at "my" jumps: all the horses cleared them with no refusals or falls. It's fun to hear the riders praising their horses after a clear jump: "Good boy!" And the people who run the competition have it down to a science so that everything runs very smoothly.
And the weather was lovely, which is not always the case: one of the organizers recalled that last year it was 40 degrees and raining so hard that they had to cancel the final day.

Daffy for daffs

I know a lot of people think that White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut, is overpriced for bulbs, but I am still reveling in their "The Works" daffodil mix. You may pay more upfront ($62 for 100 bulbs), but the  bulbs I planted last fall are blooming prodigiously: I have been getting a vase full every day for a few weeks now.  It was a good choice, especially since I used a gift card to buy it. (WFF's nicely written catalog is a delight to peruse, as well.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Up all night

Because of construction at the high school, this year's Unionville High School after-prom party is going to be held at the ACAC gym, 1130 McDermott Drive, West Chester, from 11 p.m. May 19 to 5 a.m. May 20. The parents who are organizing the event are looking for volunteers to fill a variety of shifts and assignments throughout the night, as well as people to help with the pre- and post-party decorating and clean-up chores. Blackjack dealer from 2:30 to 5 a.m., anyone?
For more info visit the Facebook page "UHS After Prom 2012."
(Thanks to Sheila Himes for passing this news along to me.)

Gardening workshop

Nancy Sakaduski of Kennett Township asked me to give her April 28 Master Gardener event a little bit of publicity: "Even people who don’t have large yards can grow an amazing amount of fresh produce by using the right techniques. ... Master Gardeners will teach attendees how to select the best types of vegetables to grow, care for the soil, set up and maintain a successful vegetable garden, and get maximize yields of great-tasting vegetables." Also on the schedule: "workshops on container gardening, attracting birds, lawn care, gardening in the shade, and more." The cost is $25. Date is April 28, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Location: East Goshen Township Building, 1580 Paoli Pike, West Chester. For more info: e-mail Nancy at 

Next in line

It was great to see my chiropractor, Jenna Fitchett Ennis, back at work. She took a few months off after having her first child, Sam, in January. Both mother and baby -- I met him! -- seem to be flourishing. Dr. Jenna and her chiropractor father, Mike Fitchett, have offices at Willowdale and Jennersville.

A classic lunch

Last Thursday somebody posted online that it was National Grilled Cheese Day -- which immediately settled my lunch choice. I took a break from work and headed to Lynn Sinclair's Sunrise Cafe in downtown Kennett Square, where Lynn made me a grilled Gouda sandwich on her own tomato-and-jalapeno bread. Delicious!
While I was there Lynn mentioned that the Kennett Square Borough Historical Commission is already busy looking for houses to put on its Candlelight Holiday Home Tour, which this year will be on Sunday, Dec. 9.

In color

I hope you saw the amazing rainbow over Unionville on Wednesday a little after 7 p.m. It was one of those odd evenings where it was cloudy and menacing when you looked in one direction -- but in another direction the sun was so bright reflecting off the yellow side of a barn that you almost had to squint. The rainbow lasted only a few minutes, but from my vantage point (driving east on Upland Road toward Unionville) it certainly looked like the eastern terminus was right near the high school and middle school. Goodness knows the school district could find a use for a few pots of gold.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In black and white

I see that Walmoore Holsteins has put up some lovely new signs at their dairy farm along Route 41. The farm, owned by the Moores, was established in 1909 and is one of Chester County's "Century Farms," which means it has been in the same family for more than 100 years.

Near miss

Another traffic menace! Last week I wrote about a woman who blew through the stop sign at London Grove (Street and Newark Roads). And today I was pulling out of the Jennersville Y when a woman heading east on Baltimore Pike ran the red light. I mean, the light had been green on my side for probably five seconds. It wasn't even close. If the guy in front of me hadn't braked he would have been T-boned.
I followed the elderly woman (there was a handicapped placard on her mirror) as she pulled into the Jennersville shopping center and went up to her as she got out of her car, telling her that she had just nearly caused an accident.
She looked at me blankly. "I ran a red light?"
Perhaps some people should consider handing over their car keys?


I just put in the mail checks for my federal and state taxes for 2011 and my state estimated taxes for the first quarter of 2012 (I pay my estimated federal taxes online via There was a certain cognitive dissonance as I affixed pretty "love" postage stamps onto the envelopes.

Gotta Meet Mitt

First of all, no, I didn't get to shake hands with Gov. Mitt Romney. But I was in the same room as he was, along with the 350 other people at the annual Republican Committee of Chester County fundraiser at the Mendenhall Inn on April 10.
We got there at about 6:30 and saw a bunch of protestors standing along Route 52 holding signs. I recognized a few of them from Quaker events and previous civic disagreements, and I waved. (A friend told me her mother was among them, and she warned her mom that she would NOT post bail were she arrested.)
Finding a parking spot took 15 minutes. The lot is always crowded for the Kennett Symphony Fashion Show Luncheon each autumn, but this was much worse. A state trooper (there were lots of them) told us that the Secret Service had commandeered the entire back parking lot for its own purposes, putting a premium on parking. We spotted Kennett Township Police Chief Albert McCarthy on duty and stopped and said hi to him.
Once we got inside the banquet hall, it was packed full of people in suits. Even though I made a special effort for the evening and put on heels, I felt especially short. We worked our way through the crowd, chatting and shaking hands (I'm not going to name names because I'll miss somebody), managed to get some appetizers and beer and soon enough found ourselves in the ballroom for the speeches.
Sen. Pat Toomey was supposed to give the keynote speech, but the day before the event Gov. Romney signed on to speak. And the very day of the event, Rick Santorum dropped out of the race, leaving Gov. Romney as THE Republican candidate for all intents and purposes. What great timing for us dinner-goers!
As soon as Mitt took the podium everyone who had brought their cell-phone cameras pulled them out and started taking pictures and videos. I wish I could have brought mine, but my outfit didn't have pockets and I didn't bring a purse: I dislike having to tote something extra around when you already have to juggle food, drink and handshakes.
I enjoyed watching the media at work with their cameras and laptops. I saw one reporter interviewing people and taking notes in a long spiral-bound notebook -- I could have told him the short notebooks are much easier to handle. I saw one of the TV cameramen gazing longingly at my bottle of Yuengling.
After Gov. Romney's speech we finished up our chit-chatting and got out onto Route 52 without a problem. Who knows? We could have just seen the next president of the United States.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Here comes the sun

A few months ago, I wrote about Stuart Allen, a West Marlborough resident who was upset that the township wouldn't let him cut down trees on his property at Route 926 and Big Spring Road.
After he complained, the township engineer decided that he was actually within his rights to cut down the trees he wanted to, as long as he didn't exceed 20% of the trees measuring more than five inches in diameter on his entire property. He also agreed to plant some replacement trees.
As soon as he was issued a permit, Mr. Allen went ahead with gusto. I drove by the other day and the front yard of his property is now practically bare (in fact, township planning commission chairman Josh Taylor described it as resembling "clear-cutting"). There was a big stack of good-sized tree trunks by the driveway.
Mrs. Allen will certainly have enough sun for the garden she said she wanted.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Turducken is what we had for Easter dinner, and it was delicious. It's an elaborate nesting-doll arrangement in which a turkey is stuffed with duck, which is stuffed with chicken, which in this case was stuffed with Andouille sausage. My sister-in-law bought this one at the store, but she is very ambitious in the kitchen and wants to try making her own next time.
What a delightful Easter: beautiful weather, a great dinner, and good family time. And a hearty "welcome back" to the senior Tally-hos, who just returned Easter morning from their winter-long stay down south!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sound familiar?

I swap local newspapers with my friend George, who lives on the south coast of England, and I was struck by this oddly familiar account of the parking woes in Havant Borough in the March issues of "The Hayling Islander" and the "Ems Valley Gazette."
The borough council wants to increase parking meter fees to bring in more revenue, and businesspeople in the towns fear their customers will desert the downtown shops to go to shopping centers with free parking.

Marie Telford, the vice-chair of the Mengham Business Group, is quoted as saying, "Some customers tell me that they drive into Mengham looking to see if one of the free parking spaces is available. If not, they won't go and pay in one of the car parks. Instead, they  just go and park free of charge at the Co-op -- or they may decide to drive on to one of the free car parks in Havant, where there is a much bigger choice of shops."
The proposed increases range from an extra 10 to 20 pence per hour, representing about a 25% hike; on Sundays and holiday a flat one-pound charge would be introduced, and free parking would be eliminated at several lots. 

The council decided to keep the fees as they are pending further study.
There's another story about workers in the town of Langstone who park on residential streets.  "The streets are filled with cars every weekday as workers are forced to park there due to a lack of parking in the area. The problems started three years ago with the opening of Southern Electric's call centre, which employs 2,500 people and has 860 parking spaces."
A council member is quoted as saying that workers are still parking in the neighborhood streets even though Southern Electric has started running a bus for its workers: "People will be people. That's the problem."
Now there's a universal truth.


I got some nice responses to last week's item about London Grove Friends Kindergarten.
"Thanks for putting in about Teacher Cindy retiring ... she certainly has touched the lives of so many kids," wrote one friend. Two other moms shared some fond memories about the time their children spent at the kindergarten.
And a retired Unionville teacher told me that he taught the new head of school and half-day class teacher, Deni-lyn Lane, and said that "she is an outstanding choice for this position."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

As long as you lend a hand

Saturday, June 2, is the date for the annual Home & Garden Day tour to benefit the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library.
Last week I spent a delightful evening with a few of the ladies on the library's Special Events Committee, the volunteer group that runs the tour. I had earlier committed to buy an ad in the tour program: not only does the money go to a good cause, but I also assumed it would release me from any obligations of a tour-guide nature on the day. 
Hah! I should have known better.
One of the ladies served me an ample portion of her homemade apple crisp with cranberries, topped with vanilla ice cream. It was delicious. Help yourself to more, she said graciously. I did so.
Then: WHAM!
"So where are you working at the garden tour this year?" she inquired point-blank.
I was ambushed. I hemmed. I hawed.
"I can see you're trying to make up an excuse," she observed, quite correctly.
Another of the ladies, no slouch herself when it comes to recruiting volunteers, shook her head at these take-no-prisoners tactics. She pointed out that issues her summonses via email to give her friends a chance to say no gracefully.
Long story short, it looks like I'll be seeing you at whatever house I'm assigned to on June 2. Fingers crossed for good weather!
(I am, of course, exaggerating just a bit: being a tour volunteer is good fun. And actually, I think they are still looking for parkers...)

Devices and desires

One of the downsides of our increasing reliance on our smartphones is that if something goes wrong, we're at a total loss. On Tuesday afternoon, just after receiving an email with a giant attachment, my email app started acting up: about a second after I clicked on an email, the screen would turn black and I'd get an error message.
What to do? The young people I know were all away on spring break.
I waited to see if it would resolve itself, and I tried a couple of remedies I found online. But when neither course of action helped, I called Verizon at 6 a.m., when their troubleshooting line opens. To diagnose the problem, they said I'd have to contact them from another phone. But like many people these days, I don't have a landline anymore (I miss my old 869 phone number).
So I stopped by the Verizon Wireless store in the London Grove Village shopping center (across from Perkins on Route 41), and an enormously helpful young man solved the problem in under 3 minutes. I promised to bake him some cookies.
Now, once again, I'm available by email at home, at the gym, in my car. What a relief -- sort of.

On the radar screen

Saturday afternoon I made a left onto westbound Route 926 at Willowdale and found myself behind a driver who applied her brakes every time she hit 30 m.p.h. It was a painfully slow trip out to the London Grove crossroads. As we approached Newark Road I was eager to see if she was going to continue west on 926 or head north on Newark Road; I was going to do the opposite.
Much to my surprise, she blew through the stop sign, not even braking and probably reached her highest speed in miles. She headed west on 926. I went north on Newark Road, so I can't say if she ran the stop sign at 841 as well. You just never know.

Smiling, having fun

On Friday I had dinner with an old school friend who was in Media visiting his parents. I see George only once or twice a year, so we always have a lot of catching up to do.
So we were having a very leisurely dinner at a renovated old tavern in Springfield, and there was a lively party going on in the banquet room next door. One of the partygoers, carrying a beer bottle, passed our table en route to the bar, and I asked her what they were celebrating. She said it was her brother-in-law's 50th birthday.
"Can I ask you something?" she said. "Are you two married?"
No, we said, but we've known each other since the sixth grade; why?
She said she had seen us three times throughout the evening, and we were constantly smiling, laughing, and talking and clearly engrossed in each other's company. Apparently to her mind that was wholly incompatible with a marital relationship. She then proceeded to deliver a slightly tipsy but nonetheless sound defense of long friendships.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Congratulations to Jeb Hannum and Jake Chalfin, the newest members of the West Marlborough Township planning commission. The township supervisors agreed to enlarge the commission from five members to seven members so that it would be easier to obtain a quorum of the group at meetings.
"Seeing they work for free," quipped supervisor Mike Ledyard about enlarging the commission, "I don't see much of a downside."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Billable hours

This is serious stuff, folks.
At their April 3 meeting the West Marlborough Township supervisors announced they are considering enacting a 0.5 percent earned income tax on township residents because of the skyrocketing legal and engineering bills that the township has had to shoulder.
If you read my column you'll remember the multiple zoning hearings last year brought by the actions of a group of Springdell residents (Joe and Cathy Huston, Gus and Linda Brown, Lew and Lynn Powell, Bea Cassou, and George Strawbridge) who are waging a vigorous campaign against the Whip Tavern, saying it has a negative impact on the village.
During each of those evening-long hearings the zoning hearing board had a lawyer present as well as a court reporter. The township had its own lawyer. The township's engineer was present for many billable hours.
All of these well-paid professionals were on the clock, and who picks up the tab? We, the township residents, do.
Ask the "Springdell 8" if they think this is fair, and they'll respond that they are township residents, too, and they also have their own attorneys' fees to pay. They say that they just want the zoning rules to be enforced equally, and if the township officials had done their job they wouldn't have to take all of this legal action.
The township in recent months hosted two closed-door meetings between the residents and the Whip to try to put an end to the dispute. Unfortunately, "it's apparent there is little opportunity to reach some sort of settlement between the parties," as Supervisor Bill Wylie announced at the April meeting.
"Something needs to be said about the financial condition of the township," Wylie went on. He said that for many years the township has run "a bare-bones operations" that required low taxes, but things have changed in the past few years.
"Professional fees have increased dramatically," he said. "We've had to borrow from other accounts. Our financial condition has declined, and now we need to look at other sources."
He said the biggest expense was the legal counsel for the zoning hearing board, which in 2011 was "close to $50,000 alone."
"We don't know how to budget for that," he said. "We have no control over that."
He said the earned income tax would raise an estimated $110,000 for the township each year.

"Our back is against the wall," agreed Supervisor Mike Ledyard. "This has made us look like California in terms of our bottom line."
Mr. Ledyard added that in past years legal expenses have been minuscule; in fact, in some years the zoning board did not have a single hearing. "So it comes as a real shock going from zero to 50,000."
(One might fruitfully ask what has spurred such an increase in the number of these hearings, and whether anything could have been done to prevent the situation from going so far.)
There will be a public hearing before any decision on the earned income tax.
As a sage longtime township resident said to me, "The hens are coming home to roost."

Monday, April 2, 2012


So many flowers are in bloom this week out in the fields: the wild mustard (yellow), the garlic mustard (white), the purple violets, the dandelions. And it's so weird to see skunk cabbage and May apples flourishing next to each other; usually the former are shriveling in the heat by the time the latter pop up.
On the way home from the gym I stopped along my road to take a photo -- and I had one of those wonderful breathtaking "a-ha" surprises: there in the woods were two trout lilies (Erythronium americanum), a beautiful yellow flower with a green and brown mottled, orchid-like leaf.

Unfortunately, a few steps beyond was a discarded tire. Yuck.

In the mix

I happened to be in Kennett Square on a recent Saturday morning and noticed what an absolutely bustling place it was. Folks were breakfasting or having coffee; men were waiting for haircuts; the library staff members were getting refreshments ready for a music program; shops were just opening up.
I mentioned this to a friend and she offered an interesting theory. Kennett, she said, is thriving because it has finally found the right mix of businesses. She said she doesn't mind driving around hunting for a parking spot because it's well worth it: she knows she's going to be spending more than just a few minutes buying clothes or jewelry or artwork or having a nice meal.


The Chester County Library System is looking for your feedback in its annual customer service survey. The deadline is April 15 (hmmm... somehow that date sounds familiar).
"We in the Chester County Library System are always looking for ways to improve our services and to ensure that you are finding everything you need for work, education and leisure. . . This year we are asking you to tell a story about how the library has helped you or your family in some special way. If you have an experience you would like to share, we would love to hear about it."
I intend to take the survey when I get a minute -- I can't say enough positive things about our library system. I love how you can reserve a book online and have it shipped directly to your local library for pickup.
The survey is online at


Long-time and much-loved London Grove Friends Kindergarten teachers Cindy Leahan and Jan Slough will be retiring at the end of this school year. Starting this fall, Deni-lyn Lane will be the new head and half-day class teacher, and Kerry Harper will be the new all-day class teacher.
The new teachers will have no trouble finding their way to work in the morning. Deni-lyn Lane attended kindergarten at London Grove; Kerry Harper is active in London Grove Meeting and her two children attended the kindergarten. Both have a master's degree in elementary education.
For more information about the school and its programs, look online or on Facebook. Telephone contact is 610-268-8466 and email is I know a lot of young people who have extremely fond memories of the time they spent at this wonderful kindergarten.
There's going to be an open house at London Grove Meeting on Saturday, June 2, to honor the retiring teachers.

Tree down

On Monday morning West Marlborough made the early traffic reports on the Philadelphia TV stations, which reported that a downed tree was blocking the intersection of Newark Road and Route 82. They were almost right: it was actually along Route 82 between Newark and West Roads. The tree caught fire and the firefighters from Po-Mar-Lin were out there before dawn extinguishing it. When I drove by at 10 a.m. on Monday, only a charred log remained.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Easter was always a great holiday when I was growing up. We'd have Easter baskets with jelly beans and chocolate eggs in colorful foil, with a big chocolate bunny. We'd dye hard-cooked eggs and then our parents would hide them around the house. I remember that a faint hint of the color would always show up on the white of the eggs when you'd crack them open and eat them.
And we always made a beautiful Easter-egg tree, saving half-shells and decorating them with ric-rac and ribbons, filling them with little chicks (not real ones) or flowers and hanging them on a carefully chosen branch. With a little Easter grass around the base, it made a spectacular dinner-table centerpiece.
My mother would bring out from its hiding place, for its once-a-year appearance, an old purple egg with elaborate pysanky decorations. You could shake it gently and hear the mummified yolk rattling around inside.
We also had these wonderful hollow sugar eggs (actually I think they were plastic) with a little viewing window at one end so you could peep inside and see the charming little diorama of an Easter bunny and his helpers. (You can replicate them, sort of; do a search for "panorama Easter eggs.")
One whiff of hyacinth and I'm back to those long-ago Easter Sundays.

A meal to remember

Had an outstanding dinner at The Whip on Saturday. The West Marlborough tavern tweeted that it was serving liver and onions this past weekend, and knowing how much a pal of mine likes that dish, I suggested we head over there. We got there just before 5, and it was perfect timing because the place (and the parking lot) really started to fill up after that. The liver and onions, I'm told, was wonderful, and my striped bass was just perfect. Highly recommended!
Voice of experience: If you are meeting friends for dinner at The Whip, I suggest carpooling. When we left, there was a fellow waiting eagerly to take our parking spot.


Sending best healing thoughts and prayers out to champion jockey Paddy Young, who took a tumble in the Carolina Cup in Camden, S.C., on Saturday, got stepped on by the horse and suffered a broken ulna and radius. Paddy underwent surgery and sent out a reassuring post on Facebook first thing Sunday morning. We hope to see him back at work soon.