Thursday, May 31, 2012

Grammar police

Weekly, it seems, we are told that grammar standards are falling all over and we should just give in.
Nope. Not here!
1. "Hopefully" does not mean "I hope." It means "with hope." As in, "Tilda, you're going to bring those lemon cookies, aren't you?" the Young Relative asked hopefully.
2. "Impact" is not a verb unless you're talking about a bomb exploding; "impactful" is even worse. Use "influence" or "affect" and "influential" or "meaningful."
3."Is comprised of" does not make sense. "Comprise" means "consists of"; the whole comprises its parts. As in, "Downtown Unionville comprises the post office, the elementary school, the fire house, Catherine's, and the feed store (for a little while longer, at least)."
4. Sensitive readers may want to skip over this final one (I know at least two English teachers who are Tilda readers). In an editing project yesterday I came across this sentence: "In this chapter I shall attempt to center-stage the argument that..." I suggested to the author that "center-stage" is not really a verb, and perhaps "highlight" or "focus on" or "develop" might be better?

One serving of litter

The residents of Brandywine Creek Road, Brandywine Drive and Harvey's Bridge Road in Newlin Township are being tormented by somebody who deposits empty plastic bottles of V8 juice along the roadside nearly every day. Is it a bicyclist? A jogger? A rider? My sources tell me that despite their best efforts, no one has spotted this litterbug. One Brandywine Drive neighbor went so far as to put out a box conspicuously labeled "V8 bottles here," hoping to shame the person into breaking this habit, but it didn't work.
"Whoever it is," said township supervisor Janie Baird, "drinks a lot of V8."

All about image

There's a Federal Express drop-off box at the West Grove post office, and yesterday I saw the FedEx guy on his rounds. After picking up the packages, he went back to his truck, got a spray bottle of cleaner and thoroughly wiped down the drop-off box -- which was pretty clean to start with. I was impressed.


I've come across TWO mentions of the Wyeth family in the national press in the past few days.
1. As part of a "Wall Street Journal" story about notable attractions in the Philadelphia area, novelist Lisa Scottoline recommends a visit to the Brandywine River Museum: "Right outside the city, this museum is our temple to the Wyeth family. You see the work in the settings where they were painted." (She also suggests visiting the 9th Street Italian Market and two Philadelphia bakeries: Isgro Pasticceria and Termini Brothers.)
2. In the May/June issue of "The Magazine Antiques," there's an article by Yale art professor Alexander Nemerov about Andrew Wyeth's 1944 painting "Night Hauling," "showing a lone man on the ocean at night, furtively stealing from a lobster trap amid twinklings and gleaming pours of phosphorescence." Analyzing the wartime painting by reference to sources as varied as natural history, Jackson Pollock, Winslow Homer, Virginia Woolf,  and the movie "I Walked with a Zombie," Professor Nemerov concludes: "The war years enter Wyeth's art and he consents to be bent by them, letting the strangeness come precisely from this willingness to paint the old dreams in a world where there are none."

Monday, May 28, 2012

Chocolate-covered strawberries

I'll warn you right now: there is a lot about food in this week's column. I didn't plan it, honestly. And I really need to share this strawberry recipe with you while they are still in season.
In a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, put 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of corn syrup. Melt in the microwave (a minute or so) and stir until perfectly smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of Kahlua and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and mix well. Let the chocolate cool and thicken for a bit.
Set out mini-size paper baking cups on a platter. Holding them by the stem, dip the strawberries in the chocolate (the depth is just right in the 2-cup container) and place them in their little cups, with the stems all facing the same way for neatness. Keep the platter in the fridge til it's time to serve.
This makes enough chocolate for about a pound-and-a-half of strawberries.
Every time I bring these to a party, people love them. They look really fancy, but in reality they could not be easier to make.

World class

On Monday afternoon I stopped by Phillip and Evie Dutton's open house at their training facility, True Prospect Farm, in West Marlborough. Phillip, as you probably know, is a world-class event rider and trainer who is going to compete in this summer's Olympic Games in London.
Phillip said one reason for holding the open house was to thank the community for its support after the devastating barn fire at True Prospect last May that killed six horses and displaced some young people who lived and worked there. Phillip introduced the guests to several of his magnificent horses, describing their bloodlines, histories, particular strengths and personalities, and then tacked up one of them and demonstrated some dressage moves and took him over a few jumps.
"This is an easy horse to ride," he said.
"Yeah. An easy horse to ride if you're Phillip Dutton," wisecracked the guy next to me.
It was so interesting to get to see the beautifully kept stables and the indoor arena, and I had fun catching up with some neighbors. And I liked the lettered dressage cones they used to block off one driveway -- a nice touch.


The other day I was taking my recycling over to the SECCRA landfill on Route 926 and noticed with some surprise that there's a drop-off box for used needles and syringes. This gave me pause for a moment -- until I remembered that many people use needles to give themselves daily injections of insulin and heparin at home. Pet owners, too, sometimes use needles to administer various treatments. So now you know where you can safely deposit your "sharps."

The parade

I just got home from another wonderful Memorial Day parade in Kennett Square. I'm sure you will see lots of great photos of it elsewhere in these pages. Fire trucks, Scouts, tractors, military vehicles, antique cars, high-school bands, bagpipers, military re-enactors, politicians, church groups, youth groups, service clubs, local businesses, the Ferko string band from Philadelphia, motorcyclists, penny-farthing bicyclists (it was so cool to watch them dismounting!), a unicyclist, an Uncle Sam on stilts, and most importantly: veterans.
I spotted the Young Relative marching with his Scout group and went out to give him a hug and say hi.
"Oh, I'll bet he liked that," one of my companions kidded me. I told her I had no choice; it's in my job description.
My friends got there early and saved our traditional spot along the sidewalk on the shady east side of North Union Street, a great vantage point. They brought flags for all of us to wave.
Although there was a heat warning in place, it was perfectly pleasant throughout the morning -- for us spectators, at least; I'm sure the military re-enactors in their wool uniforms would disagree.
Two of my pals got especially jazzed up seeing the giant military vehicles with heavy-duty tires, which would have no problem getting up or down their vertiginous driveway even after an ice storm.
"This," declared one friend, "is the best small-town parade in America." And she may well be correct. Huzzah to the organizer, Bill Taylor!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I was at a terrific Unionville party this afternoon where at first I knew only the host, the hostess, and one other person. Keeping everyone's names, spouses, jobs and dogs straight was like one of those logic puzzles: "The state-store employee does not own a corgi." "The medical malpractice lawyer is not married to the German shepherd's owner."
The subject turned, naturally, to the abruptly hot weather, and those of us who don't have central air conditioning grumbled about the hassle of installing our window units. I asked if anyone had experience with those newfangled portable A/C units that you can wheel around from room to room as needed.
One guest said she had indeed been "eyeballing" them -- but then she went on vacation to Texas last week and instead splurged on a pair of Lucchese cowboy boots.

She sent me this photo when she got home. Not everyone would have made that choice, certainly, but you have to admit, they are pretty darned good-looking.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Perfect Preview Party

What a fabulous party the Brandywine River Museum volunteers threw on Friday evening to kick off the annual antique show! But we reporters are supposed to supply readers with telling details rather than just giving our opinions, so here goes:
1. The food: Mini-Reuben sandwiches and crab cakes. Bacon-wrapped scallops. Turkey, roast beef and sushi stations. Fingerling potatoes and green beans. Meatballs. Grapes with gorgonzola and walnuts. Spinach triangles. Mini-quiches. Honey cake. Peanut butter and chocolate brownies. Cherry cheesecake.
2. The people: I think it's safe to say that I have a wide variety of social acquaintances, and my date for the evening pretty much makes a living by knowing lots of people. We found ourselves in conversations about everything from the perils of historical research to the joys of mid-life romance. I didn't realize that so many of my friends were River Museum volunteers; it was so nice to chat with some ladies I hadn't seen in ages!
3. The antiques: They were, of course, exquisite. There seemed to be a lot of Rose Medallion pieces for sales, including a couple of stunning punch bowls. There were two foxhunting prints that I really liked. In one of them a woman in a green habit, riding side-saddle, was looking back with disdain at a fellow who had just come off his steed. The other was a post-hunt scene, and an exhausted-looking male rider was mopping his brow; the woman still looked perfectly fresh and mud-free. Perhaps the most unusual piece was an Italian cross-bow with beautiful inlay work; I can't say I've ever seen a cross-bow at an antiques show before.
Add in a warm evening, cold beverages, amazing flowers (done by the volunteers!) and an exquisite setting -- What do you think? Have I made my case?

Bring out the Hellman's

Planning a summer BBQ? Apparently you do NOT need to worry that your guests will come down with food poisoning from spoiled mayonnaise if you serve potato salad or egg salad on a hot day.
This morning a few of us met to decide on the menu for a July picnic for our nonprofit group. Someone suggested potato salad, and predictably someone else raised a concern about food safety. The certified food handler in the group then surprised us all by saying that, yes, back in the old days when people whipped up their own mayo with raw eggs, safety was a concern. But modern commercial mayonnaise, because it contains vinegar, won't spoil in the sun in a few hours.
I did an Internet search and found an excellent interview on NPR's website about this topic with Michael Doyle, a professor of microbiology and direction of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.

Friday, May 25, 2012


I have a blue Polarfleece pullover from L.L. Bean that I wear pretty much every day from fall until summer. It's cozy. It's soft. It's warm. It has a spacious zippered pocket for my phone. I can get dirt or pet hair on it or spill things on it and the stains wash out perfectly.
Halfway through the winter a friend who I see often noticed my fondness for the jacket. 
"How many of those do you own?" she asked curiously. (Only two.)
Alas, familiarity breeds contempt: she now gets close to apoplectic when she sees me wearing it for the umpteenth time. She is threatening to burn it, or to bury it, or to use it in some arcane ritual.
I think I'd better stash it in the closet til September.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Via a historical charity I'm involved in, I received a promotional postcard from "Levram the Great, Colonial Conjurer." Levram, who lives in Exton, dresses up in old-fashioned garb and puts on an "authentically appointed" 18th-century magic show: "Levram is a simple-minded conjurer who has performed for heads of state (as well as their feet)."
I have to say, it looks like it might be fun -- and from a business point of view, I have to commend him for having a mailing list extensive enough to reach me. Those of you who are in charge of organizing events might want to take a look at his website:
Speaking of entertainment, I was at a Cinco de Mayo business-association party a few weeks back where they had a psychic reader. Three of the women at my table bolted their food and then got in line to consult this woman. Me? Not so much: all I needed to know was that my future included some excellent Mexican food and Corona.


For months a pal has been raving about the kale smoothies at the Produce Place, which is in the Country Butcher shopping center. So when we were out running errands this morning and she suggested I try one, I agreed. I'm glad I did. Wow, was it tasty! The guy behind the counter mixed it up fresh in a blender: kale (which gives it its green hue), apple cider, agave, ice, whey powder and a few other healthful ingredients. They have several other fruity varieties that I am eager to try as well.


This will not be news to those of you who work in the Great Valley Corporate Center or frequent the malls at King of Prussia, but the latest phase of the Route 202 construction involves channeling the two eastbound lanes between concrete barriers with no shoulders, starting at about the Route 29 interchange. It's a tad claustrophobic, and the guy in front of me this afternoon seemed to be testing how close he could get to the barrier. The speed limit through the construction zone is supposed to be 45.
(If you're up that way, I recommend the Kabab Cafe in the Gateway Shopping Center. I had their falafel platter, with rice, pita bread, a grilled tomato and fruit salad. Tasty and inexpensive, and excellent service.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Yesterday I went to the young relative's elementary-school spring band concert. I really enjoyed the Stomp-style number, where the percussionists pounded away on trash cans and buckets, and the cute baseball piece performed by the whole ensemble.
But what also struck me was the obvious rapport and warmth between even the smallest children and the school principal. He knelt down and chatted with some of the kindergarteners; he joined in the laughter and applause; he congratulated the musicians for their hard work. In contrast, I remember my elementary-school principal being a formidable presence who NEVER interacted with us and only rarely left his office. I think this is a welcome change!

Monday, May 21, 2012

An important meeting

Tuesday, June 5. If you are a West Marlborough resident, please put it on your calendar. It's the monthly township supervisors' meeting, and if you read my column regularly you know they are thinking about imposing an 0.5 percent earned-income tax on township residents to help get the township out of its financial hole. Come to the meeting and let the board know what you think. 
The township planning commission meets first, at 7 p.m., and the supervisors meet afterward, usually around 7:45 p.m. Hope to see you at the township building in Doe Run.

Feel the burn

The college kids are home for the summer, and three of them stood behind me in my gym class today.
After a half-hour abdominal workout, we started the cardio and strength training portion by doing lunges, squats and frog jumps across the room, followed by squat-thrusts, plank pushups and jumping jacks.
The young ladies, all college athletes judging from their team T-shirts, were clearly getting more than they bargained for and exchanged looks of disbelief, much to the delight of our instructor.
"Horrible pain!" one exclaimed.
Afterwards I asked them what they thought of the class.
"That was so ... intense," one said in amazement. "And we were the youngest ones there!"
Gotta say, that boosted my spirits.

Prom night

A young friend of mine is more than ready to put UHS behind him and head off to college in the big city. He originally had no intention of going to the senior prom on Saturday night, but then a friend asked him to be her date, and his mother told him he'd regret it if he didn't go, so he reluctantly agreed.
On Sunday I saw Facebook photos of him grinning broadly and posing with a series of stunningly beautiful Unionville girls. I asked his mother how things went.
"He came home and said, `It was one of the best nights of my life,'" she reported. "This from the kid who didn't want to go!" 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fast times

I was heading north on Route 82 at Blow Horn earlier this evening and a vehicle was starting to pull out from Route 841, also headed north. I observed this with mild irritation, as I tend to get stuck behind vehicles that go rather slowly up those hills. But as the car pulled out into the intersection, I realized I needn't have worried. It was a black Mustang. A black convertible Mustang. A black convertible Mustang driven by a young guy without a shirt on. I think he was already blowing through Coatesville by the time I hit Rokeby.

Get this boy an agent!

Growing up in a family of avid sports fans (mostly Steelers supporters, alas), the young Tally-ho has perfected the art of the post-game interview with the press even though he is still in elementary school. He and his father ran in the Kennett Run on Saturday.
"I did really well," he said. His time for the 5K course was ten seconds off his all-time best -- BUT, he was quick to add, the course was a hilly one, the weather was "very warm," it was crowded (more than 2,600 runners), and his allergies were acting up. He ended up winning a third-place medal for his age group, which all of us think is mighty fine. He said his legs were still hurting the next day.

Buck and Doe

It was a picture-perfect day for the annual Buck & Doe Trust Chuckwagon Breakfast on Sunday: bright sun and a cloudless blue sky overhead, and the stunning landscape of the Laurels preserve. The traditional menu for the "Spring Fling" is strawberries, pancakes, doughnuts and sausage -- this year with the addition of monkey bread! -- and as always everything was scrumptious. There were lots of Unionville neighbors on hand and plenty of dogs and children.
It always feels odd to drive down the gravel road to the Twin Bridges where the brunch is held; normally the road is open to hikers, bicyclists and riders only.
Amy McKenna, president of the Trust, stood on a bench to give a speech about the group's activities this past year, and David Shields of the Brandywine Conservancy was on hand to sign his new book, "Catalyst for Conservation," about how the Laurels came into being. I've heard David give his talk about how the Conservancy preserved the former King Ranch land, and it is a truly fascinating story. His 112-page book, cowritten with Bill Benson, is available for sale at $24.95 at the Brandywine River Museum's shop and online.

Love a parade

Monday, May 28, is Memorial Day, and the parade kicks off in Kennett Square at 10 a.m. It's always lots of fun. I'll be there with two friends who absolutely love attending parades (in fact, that's one of the first things I learned about them).
As the Facebook listing says: "The town's largest parade includes marching bands, fife and drum corps & color guard groups, antique military vehicles and vintage convertibles, Civil War & Revolutionary War re-enactors, bagpipers, Little League teams, and much much more." I mean, really: what's not to like!
Hooray to Bill Taylor and his helpers for organizing this wonderful small-town event.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


My pal Cathy reports that she came across a huge snapping turtle in the middle of Allerton Road. She pulled over, picked up a big stick and did her valiant best to relocate the creature to the side of the road so he wouldn't be hit. "Took me 15 minutes to try to get him moved. He kept spinning to attack .. Finally, a guy in a truck came by and helped." Good for Cathy!
In other snapper news, I came across this in the classified section of a local paper: "Snapping turtles: need them trapped out of pond in New London area." Wow. And you think YOU have problems!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Not even close

The direct-mail advertising people need to take a lesson from their online colleagues.
The minute I post on Facebook that I'm enjoying breakfast at Perkins with a friend, ads will pop up on the screen for pancake mix, or egg recipes, or other businesses near Avondale. Facebook has an algorithm that suggests "people you may know" with amazing accuracy (whether I want to be friends with them, however, is another matter).
But not so with an advertisement that just arrived in the mail. It's from a well-known national charity inviting me to participate in a fundraising run and asking me to attend "an information meeting near you": namely, in Towson, Bel Air, Timonium, White Marsh, and Baltimore, Maryland.
No thanks!

Open space

Congratulations to my friend John D. Snook and his fellow East Bradford Township officials!
East Bradford was one of two Pennsylvania municipalities that received 2012 Government Conservation Leadership Awards from the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association (the other was Broad Top Township in Bedford County). The honor was given "for their demonstrated leadership in the conservation of our special landscapes and critical natural resources." The award was presented at the 10th Annual Pennsylvania Land Conservation Conference in Harrisburg.
In addition to Mr. Snook, the East Bradford supervisors are Vincent M. Pompo and Thomas A. Egan, and the township manager is Michael P. Lynch.

Nature notes

I foolishly left my car windows open yesterday and came out later in the day to find a sulfur-yellow layer of dust coating the black dashboard. It's pollen from the pine trees and the walnut, and between that and the pungent multiflora rose just coming into bloom, allergy sufferers must be miserable.
I noticed a mound of sawdust near my garage door and saw this carpenter bee hard at work, drilling a perfectly round hole in the wood siding. I haven't had much of a stink bug problem this spring, but one friend reports that they are as bad as ever at her Newlin farm. 
My hummingbird feeder is out and ready in the back yard. I spotted one hummingbird at it last week, and while tying up the daffodil leaves yesterday I heard another, that unmistakeable quick buzzing noise, but didn't see him or her.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dinner at 8

Last night at about 7 p.m. I was picking up dinner at one of my favorite sub places and commented to the guy behind the counter that his take-out business seemed to be hopping. He agreed, but said if I wanted to see it really busy, I should stop back at about 8 p.m.
"Wow," I said, surprised. "People really eat that late?"
He told me that his theory, developed after decades in the restaurant business, is that when it stays light for so long, and there are so many outdoor chores to be done, people don't realize that it's dinnertime until much later than usual.

One-lane bridge

I made a little gardening-related trip out to Lancaster County today and found that the Route 472 causeway over the Octoraro Reservoir at the Chester/Lancaster County line has been reduced to one lane -- literally. What used to be the right lane (if you're headed north) simply doesn't exist anymore. Signs warn vehicles wider than eight feet to take a detour, for obvious reasons. The workers have installed red lights in the middle of the bridge to control traffic flow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Strong enough

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about a flyer that some found objectionable? It was for the "Toughest Woman" competition at a local gym and showed a pink high-heeled shoe, as if that was the epitome of femininity. Well, the flyer has been redone and now shows an arm making a muscle, like on the old Arm & Hammer logo. I showed it to one of the women who complained to management, and she was delighted to see an image she considers to be more appropriate.


The senior Tally-hos are getting ready to move into an absolutely adorable smaller house, which means getting rid of a huge amount of stuff they, and their children, have accumulated over the years. They are being very efficient: I was told that either I remove my dusty boxes of stuff from the 1980s pronto or they will go into the trash. And on Sunday my mother informed me that she had just given away to charity Rosie, our childhood rocking horse.
Mum assured me Rosie got a good send-off.
"I gave her a hug and told her she would have new children to play with," she said.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

At the races

Could the weather have been any more glorious for the Willowdale Steeplechase on Sunday? It was in the high 70s and so sunny that people had a hard time checking their smart phones: there was just too much glare on the screen. As a photographer friend said, "Today was a hard day on getting the exposures correct. Bright, harsh light."
It was a fun afternoon. The Willowdale course is set up so nicely that you can see most of the race from almost anywhere. The tailgating was great but there was a different "feel" from the other steeplechases of the season. As a friend of mine put it, there were a lot more "civilians" in attendance, not just the foxhunting and racing set who are regulars at the other races.
Opera singer Martin Hargrove did a fantastic job performing the National Anthem, and I was happy to see so many people remove their hats as a mark of respect during the Anthem (I'm old-fashioned that way).
Thank you to everyone who fed and watered me, and to the organizers for sending me a press pass! Much appreciated.
Later that day I was at the Four Dogs Tavern in Marshallton, and between the post-race partiers and the Mother's Day crowd, I've never seen it so crowded. "Kind of busy, huh!" I said to a worker who was taking a break in the alley outside the kitchen. He turned to me with a battle-weary stare. "It was insane," he said slowly. 
Postscript: It's the morning after, and I can tell you that Banana Boat SPF 100 sunblock really works.

Little foxes

I spotted Unionville Equine Associates veterinarian and wildlife photographer Steve Berkowitz parked alongside my neighbors' driveway Saturday evening taking photos of a family of five fox cubs who live in their field. He said he visits the spot regularly, morning and evening, and has found that the cubs are anything but shy. Judging from the terrific photos he showed me, they even seem to mug a little for the camera. Very cute. You have probably seen Steve's beautiful work in the local equine press.

An old house

Three cheers for the people who are renovating the long-vacant and shuttered-up stone house on Parkerville Road near the old Parkerville Friends Meeting. The newly visible date stone reads 1860. Hope the owners don't come across too many unexpected and unbudgeted-for problems during the project.

Feats of strength

A hard-core gym acquaintance hosts an annual Power and Strength competition at his West Grove home. I have so far avoided competing, and it's a decision I'm glad I made after hearing an account of the day's events.
I'll let my friend Kevin describe them:
1) The "much-feared" shuttle relay, which consists of "sprinting up and down the driveway carrying a variety of HEAVY objects."
2) The water bearer: "Each filled water jug weighs 60 lbs. The band around the ankles limits your stride length to take away an advantage for taller competitors. Whoever carries the jugs the greatest distance before one drops wins."
3) The 20-lb over-the-head sandbag toss. 
4) The obstacle course: "How long can you last walking through a tricky obstacle course while holding a 35-lb kettle bell overhead in one hand and a 35-lb bent curl bar in the other? Whoever walks the greatest distance before dropping one or both weights wins."
5) The snatch-the-pebble feat: "Every time a competitor jumps over the Bosu, he/she must transfer one stone at a time from one side of the Bosu to the other. Whoever moves the most stones in one minute wins." (A Bosu is a half-globe-shaped piece of exercise equipment.)
6) The "dreaded" 20-lb wrist curl, which appears to be akin to curling onto your spoon a very long and very heavy strand of spaghetti as fast as you can.
The winner gets bragging rights in the weight room for the year.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

London Grove

I just got home from the annual London Grove Friends Meeting Plant Sale. It's a highlight of my year. Not only do they have wonderful plants -- I can't find Rocket Mix snapdragons anywhere else -- but I get to catch up with so many nice people from different circles of my life, from my Unionville neighbors to my kind doctor to my younger friends. There's always a wonderful relaxed atmosphere of fellowship and tradition. (And I have to say, it was very gratifying to hear people say how much they enjoy reading my little column!)
I got there just after 7, the official start time, and the parking area across Route 926 already had row after row of cars in it. I snagged some wonderful red geraniums for the window box, a hanging basket for my mother, some herbs, the aforementioned snapdragons ... and on and on. Time to do some planting!

Band Jammed

I would venture to say that a significant proportion of the families in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District descended on the high school on Friday evening for the "Band Jam," a district-wide concert performance with UHS student Meg Boeni as mistress of ceremonies.
First the fourth-grade musicians from Pocopson and Chadds Ford elementary schools played two pieces; then the fourth graders from Hillendale and Unionville. Then the fifth-grade bands took the stage, then the middle school, and on up to the high-school jazz band and combined band. Judging by the elementary-school performances, there will be no shortage of percussion talent in the high-school marching band for some years to come.
Conductors were Ken Miller, Ryan Fegley, James O'Rourke and G. Scott Litzenberg.
What a great idea to have all the schools performing together.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Tom Cummings, a history buff who lives in Mortonville, keeps me supplied with fascinating stories about what life used to be like around here. When I visited him a few months back he showed me a wonderful 1950s-era photograph of the old Highland Dairy Products creamery, now a ruin on Highland Dairy Road here in West Marlborough.
According to a 1929 story in the "Daily Local News," the first business on the site, in the early 19th century, was a woolen mill run by James Barton and then his son Joshua. After it burned down, Pusey Buffington bought the ruins in 1898 and built a three-story public hall. In 1904 M. Darlington's Sons rented the first floor as a branch creamery, and four years later Alfred and Maurice Darlington bought the entire building to convert it into a milk-condensing plant to make evaporated milk. Albert Hoopes of West Chester bought the business in 1921 and renamed it Highland Dairy Products Co.: "This concern retails about 4,000 quarts of milk and 200 quarts of buttermilk per day on routes to Kennett Square and Coatesville by way of their nine trucks."
Local historian Don Silknitter adds that "the large milk delivery truck, to the right, was driven by former West Marlborough supervisor Landis Hess. He picked up milk from local farmers for Al Hoopes."

Yellow journalism

Remember my story a few weeks ago about that sign at the Unionville Post Office warning that those wet spots on the lobby carpet were "not water"? Turns out that somebody urinated on the carpet, and not just a toddler who couldn't make it to the potty in time. The suspicion is that it was an idiotic teenage prank.
I'm told that the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company, which owns the post office building, is planning to replace the entire carpet (which was aging anyway).

A hot time

A friend of mine who leads a fully countrified life was putting up some out-of-town guests for the weekend. She told them what her schedule would be, mentioning that she planned to go into town and do some errands in the morning. As the words came out she realized how quaint she may have sounded to her cosmopolitan guests.
"I felt like I should be hitching up the buckboard," she said. "Ma! We're goin' into TOWN!"


My friends are an opinionated lot, and I received renewed proof of this, as if I needed it, while eating ice cream at La Michoacana on Sunday evening. It was chilly so we sat in my car, and I plugged in the smart phone to play some music. The fellow next to me, who has a serious grown-up day job investing people's money but also plays guitar in a band, scrolled through my music list and started critiquing it.
"Down to the Waterline" by Dire Straits and "Waiting on a Friend" received high marks ("best song the Rolling Stones have done in 30 years"); George Harrison post-Beatles drew a frown; I was informed that Rod Stewart just cannot sing, whether it's "Handbags and Glad Rags" or the Great American Songbook; he had heard good things about the Canadian singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith and the late Amy Winehouse and would have to investigate further.
But then he came across "Uptown Girl" by Billy Joel. Judging by the look of contempt on his face I thought my poor Android was going to be hurled out the window.
"That's not music!" he cried.
I tried to mollify him by downloading a song by the Bonzo Dog Band (you can crib off the library's Wifi in the parking lot!) but I'm not at all sure that it worked.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Did you notice the recent change in the cover style of "The Chronicle of the Horse"? The magazine previously used an old-fashioned, hand-drawn-looking font for its "flag" (the title on the front cover) and featured a piece of equestrian artwork. Now there are little fewer drawings of tack and carriages, just the magazine title, and instead of a painting there's a photograph.


The West Marlborough road crew, with able assistance from their East Marlborough colleagues, were out patching Newark and Wilson Roads last week. Here they are, hard at work on the latter on the morning of May 8. Thanks to the guys for posting Facebook updates on where they would be working so we residents knew which roads to avoid!


On Saturday I was driving past The Stone Barn and saw a bunch of folks awaiting the start of an outdoor wedding. A guy laden with cameras along the side of the road was signaling traffic to slow down, and I quickly saw why: a horse-drawn carriage was coming down the road, bringing the bride, all in white, and her father.
I waved to them and immediately felt myself getting utterly choked up. By the time I hit the Newark Road intersection I blinking back tears.
Are we hard-wired to cry at weddings? Is this some kind of instinct?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cleanup crew

A longtime reader wrote to me, praising a man who walks around the Kennett area picking up litter. She said he wears an orange vest, walks with a stick and carries a flag and trash bags. She said she sees him daily while making her rounds as a school-bus driver: "I have seen him walk down Old Kennett Road from Nine Gates, I think, and I have seen him next to Walmart sometimes. I have also seen him walking down Walnut Street picking up trash. I think that's a great township citizen, cleaning up around town."


That was a jolly little thunderstorm we had on Friday night, but up towards Embreeville it was an absolute gully-washer. One friend reports getting an inch and a half of rain, and even hail. I was on a back road in Newlin on Sunday and saw that gravel had been washed onto the road. And even almost two days after the storm a friend's paddock was still a "muddock," as she called it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Some of my faithful readers have told me they feel as if they've come to know my wonderful family and delightful friends -- so please help me to congratulate my high-school classmate George on his promotion to Full Professor in the Department of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. I will do my best to grab the check at our next dinner.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Oops, I did it again: I waited to fill my gas tank until Saturday, the day that the Giant gas points expired. And predictably, the gas station in the New Garden Giant shopping center was packed, to the point that an employee had to stand there directing traffic.
The man in the truck behind me said it was so crowded earlier in the day that vehicles were lined up clear out into the shopping center parking lot. He decided to do some other errands and come back later.
The maximum number of gallons you can get using your discount points is 30, and people told me they planned carefully so they could pull into the station "running on fumes" to get as much cheap gas as possible. I saw one guy filling three plastic gas cans in addition to his truck. I didn't plan very well, so I got to buy only 9 gallons rather than the 14-plus that my vehicle holds.
The next gas promotion ends June 23. I'm marking it on my calendar.

Noli me tangere

My mother disagrees, but I think it's unusual to see both Virginia creeper and poison ivy growing on the same tree. This photo, taken along one of West Marlborough's beautiful gravel roads (long may they remain unpaved!), provides a nice lesson in plant identification. Virginia creeper has five leaflets, and it's green. Poison ivy has three leaflets, and it's shiny and greenish-brown.

Mea culpa

I misspoke in last week's column, and it jumped out at me as soon as I saw it in the paper rather than on the screen. The four-way stop that motorists can't seem to quite get the hang of is at Routes 926 and 841, not 841 and 842. Duh! Although, now that I think about it, it would be nice to have a four-way stop at 841 and 842, as well as at 926 and Hood Road.
Thanks to one of my many sharp-eyed readers for keeping me on my toes and not letting me get away with a geographical error!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Earned income tax

Leave it to my fellow West Marlborough residents to find creative solutions to financial woes.
As I've reported before, the township is in dire fiscal shape because of a series of unexpected zoning hearings, for which it has had to fork out upwards of $70,000 in legal and engineering fees (most of the challenges were brought by the small group of Springdell residents -- "the Springdell 8" -- who contend the Whip Tavern mars their quality of life). To prevent township checks from bouncing, the supervisors have had to borrow from other accounts and are now considering imposing a one-half percent earned income tax, which they estimate would raise $110,000 to $120,000 a year.
Who would pay the tax? People who live and work in West Marlborough (your blogger included) or who live in West Marlborough and work in a community that doesn't have an earned income tax. Many residents already pay the tax at their workplace, and if the tax were enacted, those residents wouldn't see a tax increase; rather, the money they already pay would come back to West Marlborough Township rather than staying in the municipality where they work.
One resident asked if the supervisors had considered any other taxes, such as a gross receipts tax or an amusement tax.
"No, we haven't," responded supervisor Bill Wylie, "because they don't represent much of a source of revenue."
Another asked if a tax was really the way to go, because the sky-high expenses might not be ongoing if the Whip situation is resolved. Would the tax be repealed if the money was no longer needed? he asked.
Mr. Wylie said professional expenses are impossible to budget for, and the township also needs to pay back the accounts it had borrowed from. "You don't have to worry about us socking money away," he said.
Another resident suggested asking citizens to make voluntary contributions to the township rather than having to pay an ongoing tax. Mr. Wylie raised a problem with that: what would happen if not enough money was raised voluntarily, and a tax had to be imposed anyway?

The best idea I heard was that we hold a series of fundraisers, with money going to pay the township's expenses.
Where would these parties be held?
Why, where else: at the Whip.

Sine qua non

At their May 1 meeting the West Marlborough supervisors were quick to quash a rumor that reportedly was circulating around the township. No, the township is NOT recommending using eased land as a sorely-needed parking area for patrons of the Whip tavern in Springdell.
Any township regulations "are trumped by a conservation easement," said Supervisor Michael Ledyard, emphatically. "That's the whole sine qua non of a zoning easement." (My Latin professor would have approved of his pronunciation.)
The rumor being spread in local conservation circles was that the township was considering allowing parking on a piece of land adjoining the Whip even though it has a Brandywine Conservancy easement forbidding such use. The township has been working, so far unsuccessfully,  with the Whip's owners and some disgruntled Springdell residents to resolve the parking problems, and the supervisors said they just received a zoning ordinance amendment submitted by the Whip's owners that deals with parking.

Crown jewel

Elinor Thomforde, who recently retired from the West Marlborough Township Planning Commission, was honored by the township at its May 1 meeting. The township held a reception with refreshments in between the meetings of the planning commission and the supervisors, and as a retirement gift the township bought her a magnificent pink dogwood tree in full bloom.
Supervisor Bill Wylie commended Mrs. Thomforde for her long years of dedicated service. And she responded with a gracious speech expressing her love for the township, which she called "a crown jewel," and urging all the current township officials to work diligently to preserve its rural character.
The photo shows Mrs. Thomforde with Josh Taylor, the current chairman of the planning commission.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

For shame

The good folks at Marlboro Mushrooms pile the extra spent compost from their mushroom houses in a small area alongside Route 842 near Route 841 in West Marlborough, and gardeners from all over the area come equipped with a pickup truck and a shovel to take home this wonderful garden fertilizer and weed-discourager. For free! It's a terrific public service.
But someone has taken advantage of the situation and TWICE dumped their horse manure here. Very bad and unneighborly behavior. Keep an eye out, if you would.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thinking ahead

While reviewing the monthly tax collector's report at their May 1 meeting, the West Marlborough supervisors noted that one resident had prepaid her $10 per capita tax through the year 2015. With his characteristic dry humor, supervisor Bill Wylie encouraged other citizens to follow this forward-thinking taxpayer's lead.

Did I mention...

Retired Unionville schoolteacher Don Silknitter was not a happy citizen at the May 1 West Marlborough supervisors' meeting. Mr. Silknitter told supervisor Bill Wylie that he should have informed residents that he spoke with his East Marlborough counterparts about the possibility of "taking back" control of Route 842 from the state.
Mr. Silknitter said the only way he found out about Mr. Wylie's visit was an online account of the public meeting.
"That really ticked me off," he said.
The supervisors were taken aback by his displeasure and denied that the visit was covered up in any way.
They told him they had discussed the possible road turnback at several previous West Marlborough public meetings, and mentioned that they would need the cooperation of neighboring East Marlborough to make it happen. Mr. Wylie said his discussion with East Marlborough about the project was "purely an informal request."
"I didn't think there was anything to report," he said in his own defense. "It's all very preliminary."
"Not everything we do is newsworthy," agreed supervisor Michael Ledyard.

He's back

It was great to see Bernie Langer sitting in his usual spot in the audience at the May 1 West Marlborough township meeting. Bernie, a longtime Springdell resident, has had some medical issues recently, and he says the plentiful maple pollen in the air isn't helping the situation.


My friend Alex was in high dudgeon yesterday morning:
"Noticed today (while reviewing my bills for the impending end of my 2-year FiOS Triple Play contract) that an unexpected $5.99 charge for "Internet Security Suite" was on the bill ... In fact, after review of my bills for the last many months (naughty me for not doing this earlier!), it appears I've been paying for "Internet Security Suite" since August 2011 (but, of course, nothing appeared on my bill until 3 months worth of charges appeared in November 2011?!) Not interested in their "Internet Security Suite" (been buying and installing my own computer security for YEARS without "renting" products from Verizon, thank you!), never ordered it, never downloaded it, never installed it."
He realized that he was in an excellent bargaining position as his contract was almost up. He called Verizon customer service immediately; they assured him they'd take it off his bill forever and they even credited him more than he expected.
Moral of the story: Keep an eye on your utility bills and make sure you're not being charged for anything you haven't ordered.

Only in Unionville

Some friends were going to be away for the whole day, so I offered to help out with the farm work. When I arrived I was greeted by a full-page, typed list of chores, divided into sections for dogs, cat, horses and chickens. In the "horses" paragraph was a sentence that gave me pause: "Just throw it over his stall door -- do not open his door even if it means throwing the hay into his head!" Fortunately it didn't come to that: all the animals behaved beautifully.