Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Burned out

One of those new-fangled twisty CFL light bulbs burned out in my laundry room the other day, and I wasn't sure what to do with it. You're not supposed to throw them in the trash because apparently they contain a smidgen of mercury (another reason to dislike them, in my book). I looked online and found out that Lowe's on Route 41 in Avondale has a recycling bin for them; it's just to the left of the main entrance. As directed, I put the bulb in a plastic bag and dropped it into the slot. Done!


A neighbor passed along his copy of "Farmshine," a weekly periodical for dairy farmers; he told me I would appreciate the strongly worded editorial about politics, which I did. But while leafing through I also noticed that dairy farmers seem to be quite a witty bunch. The newspaper's email address is "," the T-shirt reads "Dairy Farmers Squeeze to Please," and the slogan of the Pennsylvania Holstein Association is "It's as Plain as Black & White."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

After the storm

We totally lucked out with Sandy.
The giant storm brought about 4 inches of rain and some howling winds to Unionville on Monday, but (unlike the Jersey Shore and New York) damage seemed to be minimal. Homeowners will be picking up a lot of sticks for sure, but the downed trees that I saw while I was out and about on Tuesday looked like they had already been dead or pretty close to it (like the big one along Route 82 at Chesterland).
During Hurricane Irene last fall, the little creek in front of my house went way over the road; this time it wasn't even close to overflowing. The Brandywine Creek, of course, flooded at Routes 926 and 100, to no one's surprise.
A lot of people lost power; we did twice, but it came back on promptly, nothing like the week-long outage that was being predicted. A friend in Kennett admitted he was actually a little disappointed he didn't get to use his tiny camp stove. Some friends who live on more remote roads, though, reported extended outages.
A high-school friend who was out of power until Friday reports that her husband was on his way home when an electric company employee flagged him down and said his truck was stuck in the field; did he by any chance have a tractor to pull it out?
"Long story short: David pulled the truck out and then they came and reconnected our power! One good turn leads to another."
Friends with horses were relieved that the creatures fared perfectly well during the storm. One friend said she was so busy preparing for all of her animals' needs that she forgot to stock up on food for the human occupants of her house until the last minute. The Giant, she said, looked pretty much like it usually does on any other Monday morning. (I was there on Tuesday and everything looked pretty well stocked.)
I spotted a few segments of post-and-rail fence that had collapsed, and at one Unionville house along Route 82 a chunk of wooden privacy fence was definitely askew. An East Marlborough friend was concerned that the Buddha statue in her garden might go airborne, but true to his nature he stayed perfectly grounded.
I didn't hear much about flooded basements. One friend was reminiscing about the basement of an apartment house where he used to live: "It was viable frog habitat down there, because there were viable frogs living there."
Our West Marlborough road crew did a fantastic job; in fact,. I took them some cookies on Tuesday to thank them for their hard work and for keeping us so well updated online. Via Facebook they let us know the status of roads and repeatedly asked residents to report any power outages so they could help. Great customer service, guys!
I was reminded of how badly people elsewhere were hit by the storm when a Facebook friend posted that she is weary of seeing campaign commercials on TV. Commented a friend of hers from Branchburg, N.J.: "At least you are seeing ads...we still have no power....wondering how voting is going to happen when we have no electricity and no gas."

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon, but by the time you read it in print, you'll know whether Sandy really was a disaster or was just another over-hyped storm ("Last Chance for Millions to Prepare for Sandy!" the Weather Channel website is screeching). I have every confidence in the performance of our newly installed, all-inclusive generator, although this might be its true first test.
On my way to breakfast at Sinclair's in Kennett this morning I noticed that a lot of people have removed their political yard signs so they don't blow away, and I've taken down my bird feeders and wind chimes for the same reason. Now I think it's time to bake some cookies.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Road to Phoenixville

While idly checking Facebook the other day, I spotted a little ad in the corner for a show by singer-songwriter Al Stewart on Oct. 26 at the Colonial Theater in Phoenixville. Al Stewart, here in Chester County! His "Year of the Cat" album was the soundtrack to my sophomore year in college! I immediately went to the Colonial's website and bought my ticket, and thank goodness I did because there were very few seats left.
Al and guitarist Dave Nachmanoff -- just two very talented guys with acoustic guitars on stage for two hours-- put on a terrific show, including the classics "On the Border," "Lord Grenville," "Palace of Versailles" and "Soho (Needless to Say)." In addition to being a marvelous singer -- that voice is unmistakeable -- Al is so cheerful, amusing and self-deprecating, telling funny stories like how he shared a dressing room with the Rolling Stones in the 1960s and irritated Mick Jagger by asking why the band members weren't wearing uniforms.
Few in the Colonial audience were under 50, and I think we were all not-so-secretly excited at the novelty of staying up long past our usual bedtimes (I didn't get home til midnight!). The couple next to me, Steve and Linda Crane from Methacton, introduced themselves to me as soon as they sat down, and we had a great time chatting in that way that people who grew up in the same era, and the same area, do (suburban Philly in the 1970s).
WHYY taped the show and will air it in January, and somebody has already posted two songs from the show on YouTube.
The Colonial is a great venue, and I was surprised at how thriving downtown Phoenixville appeared on a Friday night. 

Friday, October 26, 2012


In last week's paper one of my colleagues wrote about a neighborhood dispute in Pocopson Township involving the cutting of a resident's bamboo. Bamboo is a plant that is all in the eye of the beholder, I suppose: some consider it to be an insurgent, out-of-control pest and take aggressive measures to root it out, but others see it as providing a graceful Asian touch, a soothing rustle in the wind and an excellent privacy screen for their yards.
What no one can dispute is that it will grow back, and quickly.

Shiny and new

There's a gleaming new guardrail, with orange reflectors, on the northwest corner of the 926/841 intersection, the scene of frequent crashes despite the four-way stop signs. We'll see how long it remains unblemished.
Not long, predicts a West Marlborough resident who lives along Route 82: "A new shiny guardrail was installed last week across from my home. In less than 24 hours a speeding woman bounced off it, shot across Route 82, then nailed my mailbox and the unshiny guardrail in front of it."

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Kinloch Woodworking's annual open house is Friday, Nov. 2, from 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 3, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here's your chance to see the amazing furniture created by owner Doug Mooberry and his team and to meet these terrific craftspeople. Kinloch is on Route 82 in the heart of Unionville.

Time time tickin'

I fear I'm becoming one of those TV-ad characters who is worried about exceeding her monthly allowance for cellphone minutes (more First World problems). With two days to go in the billing cycle, I've used up 397 of my 450 minutes.
450 minutes a month works out to 7.5 hours, which seems like plenty, especially since I also have unlimited night (after 9 p.m.) and weekend minutes, and calls to other Verizon cellphones don't count. But I also have one especially talkative pal who has only a landline phone and feels the need to unburden himself during prime hours.
I didn't give him a hard time when he phoned at 8:50 last night, figuring that it was only 10 minutes until the free period started. Wrong: apparently they bill your call according to when it starts! I was on the hook for a 30-minute call even though most of it was in the supposedly free period. Good to know.
Of course, friendship is priceless. But an upgraded cellphone plan, the one with double the minutes, is really pricey! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Township meeting

The November meeting of the West Marlborough Township supervisors and planning commission will start at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5. Yes, that's a day earlier than usual. It seems there's something else going on at the municipal building on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Get out and VOTE!
I stopped by the township hall yesterday morning to make sure I had this date right, and as I was turning off Route 82, a group of maybe 10 bicyclists were heading the opposite way. I stopped so they could go by, and every single one of them smiled, waved and/or nodded. Excellent behavior! Or maybe it was just being out in the fresh air in our beautiful countryside that put them in such a good mood.

Buckley's to reopen

A lot of people will be very happy when Buckley's Tavern on Route 52 in Centerville reopens. It has been undergoing renovations for some months, but I'm told that when the Buckley's sign goes up out front, it will be officially open for business again! It should be in the next week or so.

Thank you!

An extremely kind reader from Romansville gave me these beautiful equestrian-themed bracelets, which belonged to his late and deeply missed wife, Jane. He told me he knew I would give them a good home, and I promised that I would: I'll start by wearing them at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup on Sunday.
I am profoundly honored.

Modena Rocks

Frankly, I had no idea what to expect. A Tuesday-evening party and open house, at a waste-oil recycling facility and a potting soil manufacturer, in downtown Modena, a suburb of Coatesville.
WELL! I'm so glad I went! It could well be the hippest party I've attended all year.
It seems that a crumbling industrial area in Modena along the west branch of the Brandywine is undergoing a renaissance. Waste Oil Recyclers, Organic Mechanics (they make organic potting soil out of coconut fibers, rice hulls, worm droppings and mushroom compost) and mechanic Fred Sinton's garage all call the flourishing Phoenix Court "home" now. There's a lovely garden between the businesses with Swiss chard, parsley and a fall crop of spinach.
A huge manhole cover that resembles a face now decorates a repurposed cinder-block building that used to house, yes, a manhole-cover manufacturer. 

I met a lot of nice, smart, down-to-earth folks and was struck by the pride that everyone took in their work. Everyone loved explaining what they did; one guy told me that he felt a sense of community energy every day and deeply appreciated how the entrepreneurs he worked with shared their expertise.
In addition to Rob Mastrippolito and Dave Dickens of Waste Oil Recyclers and Fred Sinton and three generations of Sintons, I had fun talking to Claire Murray of Inverbrook Farm in West Marlborough; Jill Benjamin and John Hodges of Unionville; and Michael and Sally Green of Ercildoun.
It was such a great mix of people that I found myself talking about everything from the reconfigured Hunt Cup course, to the proper planting time for broccoli, to the transmission of DNA through generations.
Not to mention: the food was delicious, the artwork on display (paintings, ceramics, photographs, furniture) was wonderfully creative, and the live music by the Modenites (Paul Wilkinson, Rob Mastrippolito and Pat Hughes) was just right for the warm autumn evening.
And then there was the woman who, as dusk was falling, put on an astonishing performance with twirling flaming hoops. It was a great party!

Book Worm

Bayard Taylor Library director Donna Murray passed along the following news:
"The library has a living sculpture in front of the building on State Street, a Book Worm that is devouring books. It’s an adorable monster made out of moss with teeth and a tail and huge glowing eyes, created by library staffer Ivy Weir and her mom, Anne Eder from Chansonette. But people keep picking up the books and bringing them into the library, quite horrified that someone has vandalized library books! The books were selected for the display because they were old and tattered anyway. So no worries folks. No one is destroying library books. Well, no human, anyway; just the moss monster book worm."

"Goodnight Ladies"

"Goodnight Ladies," Christianna Hannum Miller's documentary about her grandmother, Nancy Penn Smith Hannum, will premiere at 5 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester. 
"In Goodnight Ladies, I show the grandmother I remember, speeding down country roads in her battered Jeep," said Christie. "Gran was passionate about her grandchildren, and this film is for them, and for their children.”
Christie told me that after each screening of the 35-minute film, she and cinematographer David W. Leitner will be doing a Q&A. No reservations are needed; suggested donation to the Historical Society is $10. 
Mrs. Hannum was for years the master of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Fox Hounds, which was founded in 1912 by her stepfather, Plunket Stewart. Cheshire is hosting a series of events this autumn to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Samara at Starbucks

I had coffee with Samara last week!
This probably won't mean much to people of my generation, but my hipper readers will doubtless know that Samara is a character in the "Mass Effect" science-fiction video game. The model for Samara's face was a young California woman named Rana McAnear, and last week Rana happened to be visiting her aunt, a dear friend of mine who lives in East Marlborough. We met at the Longwood Starbucks.
Samara is bright blue and odd-looking (she's an alien, after all) but in person Rana is absolutely stunning, with a chiseled face and very long, wavy red hair. She had just worked at the famed New York Comic Convention and told us some funny stories about the not-so-glamorous side of being a "cosplay" participant: wearing the skin-tight Neoprene costume for 12 hours at a stretch, and contracting the legendary "Nerd Flu" that seems to fell so many convention-goers. She said that the character Samara has a very somber personality (she has a lot on her mind, such as a serial-killer daughter), so her fans love it when they catch her in a candid smiling moment.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Scrumptious muffins

I've been baking these muffins for probably 15 years and they're delicious.
Mix 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup shredded carrots, 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup raisins. In a separate bowl mix an 8-oz can of crushed pineapple, 2 eggs, 1 stick butter (melted) and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Fold wet ingredients gently into the dry ones, just until mixed. Spoon into muffin tin lined with cupcake papers. If there are any raisins sticking out, poke them down (otherwise they'll burn). Bake at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes until just brown.

Visitor from the North

James Keelaghan, the Canadian singer-songwriter, gave a delightful concert at Kennett Friends Meeting on Friday as part of the Hadley Fund's 50th anniversary season. I had never heard of him but went on a whim, partly because the Hadley Fund committee's choices are always interesting (who can forget the gamelan orchestra!) and partly because Kennett Meeting has a nice ambiance. I'm glad I did: he was a very talented performer -- he reminded me a little of Tom Waits -- and and his songs were riveting. He's also brave, taking requests from the audience: in one case he was asked to play "Captain Torres," which he confessed he hadn't performed in several years.
The friend I sat with is a notoriously mischievous fellow who had me convinced that he was thoroughly familiar with Mr. Keelaghan's career. He admitted at intermission that he'd Googled him five minutes before he got there "to see what I was getting into."


We can sometimes get tunnel vision living here in horse country.
A friend called last night, roaring with laughter at herself and knowing that this would be a perfect "Tilda item." It seems she and her husband were driving through town when they saw a sign advertising the UPC Kids' Clothing Sale.
"Aw, how nice!" she remarked. "The Unionville Pony Club is having a fundraiser."
Her husband is a kind and patient man, but I am sure he took great delight in pointing out that UPC can actually stand for something other than "Unionville Pony Club" -- in this case, Unionville Presbyterian Church.
(Which, I want to add, is a lovely church with nice people who do lots of good things.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stormy weather

The heavy rain woke me at 3 o'clock this morning, and it was a delightful, soothing sound. I've loved rainstorms as long as I can remember, and I wish the weather forecasters would not say "nice" when they mean "dry and sunny" and apologize and put on a rueful face when they tell us that it's going to rain.
That having been said: I DO work indoors and I don't (yet) have joints that ache when it's rainy.


A pal and I were lunching in Kennett on Tuesday, and it was such a nice autumn day that he proposed a walk in Anson Nixon Park after we finished our tacos. We entered on the path off North Broad Street, where we immediately spotted a handsome garter snake. We walked past the community garden plots and the tennis courts, around the ponds and into the woods.
"I'm going to show you the Kennett Beach," he said.
Well! This was news to me: I didn't realize that Kennett had a beach. I enthused about how much I was looking forward to seeing a nice sandy shoreline.
We walked past the ball field. We heard the traffic from the Route 1 bypass. Where exactly was this little-known body of water? I started to wonder as we continued through the woods.
He stopped abruptly in front of a little sign.
"Here it is!" he said with a gleeful smirk. "Here's the Kennett Beech!"
Yes, OK, it was a very handsome and very big tree, "the largest and oldest tree in this woodland," but I really wanted a beach.
Even so: Anson Nixon Park is a splendid place for a little hike.

Foot pain

Now this is just weird: in the past few weeks, three of my women friends have seriously injured their feet. One woman broke her foot when she missed a step in the dimly lit basement while she was helping somebody move house. She's now in a walking boot and can't participate in a breast-cancer walk she was looking forward to.
Another's foot is quite likely broken from an equestrian mishap, but we'll never know for sure: she won't go to the doctor because it's the middle of fox-hunting season and a cast wouldn't fit into her riding boot.
The third, frankly, I'm a little skeptical about. She said it was swollen and lumpy, the pain had kept her awake, and she wasn't at all sure she would be able to make it through a full set of tennis. That was before she took the first three games off me.

Dinner at Perkins

Here's a win-win situation. The Friends of Avon Grove Library is having a fundraiser at Perkins Restaurant in Avondale on Monday, Nov. 12, from 5 to 9 pm. A portion of sales will be donated to the library if you mention you are there for the Avon Grove Library. 
The poor front-desk people at the Avon Grove Library: whenever I check out a book there, they always have to key in the number off my Bayard Taylor Memorial Library card. Apparently the automatic scanners there don't get along with the cards from the Kennett library!


A member of St. Michael's Lutheran Church reports that the church's "Blessing of the Animals" ceremony on Oct. 14 drew "lots of dogs and cats, some hamsters, rabbits, gerbils as well a couple of lizards and snakes.  No big animals (horses, ponies, cows, etc.)."
In other pet news, a friend shared a story about her apparently paranormal barn cat:
"So, I put the discount shot clinic date on my calendar a month ago in anticipation of getting our new barn cat, "The Great Catsby," his basic inoculations. The kitty has been in our barn every day for almost two months. Last night was the clinic and guess who was missing in action for exactly 24 hours? Yep, he's back this morning. Maybe he had ESP?"

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

End game

Local literary celebrity Mark Bowden has a new book out. "The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden," published by the Atlantic Monthly Press, details the hunt for the terrorist leader that culminated in the 2011 raid on his compound in Pakistan by the Navy SEALs. A review in the "Wall Street Journal" called Mr. Bowden the "dean of covert-warfare journalists." All the copies in the Chester County Library System are checked out, but I have my name on the waiting list.


The Oct. 13 frost pretty much put an end to my garden, although the snapdragons are showing a surprising resurgence. The beautiful blue monkshood is at its peak. From three bulbs bought on a whim at Home Depot a dozen years ago, it has spread throughout the perennial garden and one year even earned me a Best of Show ribbon at the Fair.
The other day I took a bouquet of monkshood to an urban friend (well, he lives in Kennett) and explained that it was also called wolfbane because of its alleged werewolf-repelling properties.
"That's not actually a problem we have around here," he said.


The Chester County Historical Society in West Chester regularly posts on Facebook interesting items from its vast archives. Here's one from the October 17, 1953, edition of the "Coatesville Record": "Approximately 650 persons were served a turkey dinner in three sittings last night at the Annual Community Supper of the Unionville fair and farm show."
I believe this would have been when the Farm Show was still being held at the Unionville Elementary School.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On sale now

A few weeks back I mentioned a wonderful new cookbook, "The Brandywine Book of the Seasons," by Ella and Roger Morris, that features recipes from Bakers at Red Lion, Twelves, and Doe Run Farm. Nancy and Barbara at Red Lion contributed recipes for bread pudding and oatmeal bread.
I just found out that autographed copies are on sale for $30 at the Willowdale Country Store at Routes 926 and 82. Tell Cintra and Judy that Tilda sent you!

Both sides now

Last week I commented that I'm not seeing any surprises when it comes to which campaign signs show up in which yards. But yesterday I passed a Londonderry Township farm that displayed an American flag and both Obama and Romney yard signs! As I drove past a Prius was pulling out; wonder which candidate the driver was backing?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bluebloods or rednecks?

A Facebook friend shared a funny anecdote about the Willowdale Pro Rodeo. At one point the announcer asked the crowd, "Are there any rednecks out there?" and the response was, well, something less than deafening. 
The woman next to my friend commented, "Well, this IS Unionville!"

The Circle Game

Three motorcyclists were behind me northbound on Route 82 Saturday afternoon, but then I saw in my rear-view mirror that they kept going around and around the roundabout. Perhaps they got dizzy, because a few minutes later I spotted them going through Unionville when I was coming out of the post office. Were they practicing for one of those daredevil shows, or is it just a fun thing to do?


Downingtown Friends Meeting's annual plant sale was this Saturday, so I stopped by to visit with some F/friends and took home a very nice pink anemone. I don't often drive on that busy stretch of Business Route 30 -- I usually take the bypass -- so I was amused to notice two businesses next to each other in downtown Downingtown: New Fancy Cleaners and Ancient Auto Service. There's also a sign for the new BYOB restaurant, The Orangery: Tuscan Cuisine at Glen Isle, which has been picking up some rave reviews. It's at 130 South Lloyd Avenue.

Friday, October 12, 2012


A few minutes ago I was in the backyard taking advantage of this sunny afternoon to do some garden clean-up. A gust of wind brought an avalanche of black walnuts clattering down on the roof and my deck, but fortunately not my head. I've lived here for more than 20 years and I can't remember an autumn with more walnuts, or bigger ones. Between the falling walnuts and the Osage oranges, driving along some stretches of Route 842 when it's windy has been like running the gauntlet. I'm not sure what that bodes, if anything, for this winter's weather.


That green Dumpster-like metal bin in the Unionville Post Office parking lot is part of a paper recycling drive being conducted by the kids at Unionville Elementary School. The school will earn money based on the amount of paper collected. (Phone books and cardboard can't be dropped off in the bin, though.)

Behind the scenes

This sounds fascinating! William McDowell III, the man responsible for the day-to-day project management of the new Barnes Foundation building on the Parkway in Philadelphia, will be speaking about the high-profile undertaking in a lecture on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Primitive Hall in West Marlborough.
"Bill will give an unusual backstage insider's look at the logistics and challenges of this monumental project."
Tickets are $35 and reservations are required; e-mail A reception is at 6 p.m., with the lecture to follow.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Did you get your fundraising letter from the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company? I did and promptly sent them a check, and I hope you will, too. These folks are volunteers and they work really hard. If you know any of them personally, you don't need me to tell you how dedicated they are. Check out their website, where they post photos of their firefighting and training activities. It takes a lot of money to run their operation and the contributions from local municipalities don't cover their expenses, which is why they need to send out their appeal letter each year.
(And did you notice that Station 36's post office box is 36? Very cute.)

New Wave

My worlds are colliding. Wreckless Eric, one of the stars of the British New Wave of the late 1970s, is coming to Kennett Square! He'll be performing at the Kennett Flash on November 30, and I already have my ticket. Wreckless Eric toured with Elvis Costello, Ian Dury (RIP) and Nick Lowe when they were all with Stiff Records; perhaps you remember his "Whole Wide World" and "Reconnez Cherie"? He'll be performing at the Flash with his wife, Amy Rigby. Now: what to wear?

Absolute absence

Perhaps only a gym devotee like myself can understand the full impact of the horrible news we got last week: my beloved, unique, inspiring, generous, devoted long-time fitness teacher is leaving us for health reasons. I will miss her workouts as much as I will miss her personality; she was always challenging, to put it mildly, but her irreverent style, her total intolerance for whining, and her bad jokes made the grueling exercises actually fun (or, in the case of burpees and tabatas, almost tolerable). Thanks to her, I am in way better shape than I was 30 years ago, my abdominal muscles and legs are amazingly strong, and I haven't had tennis elbow in years. I would now relish doing those President's Physical Fitness Tests that I dreaded in elementary school.
I'm really not sure what I'll do without her. I'm having to rethink my whole exercise program, and I'm not happy about it.
Yes, I realize that losing your aerobics teacher is not the end of the world, especially since she probably should have cut back on her energetic schedule months ago. But without her there will be a BIG empty space in a lot of people's lives.

More stinkbug stories

The stinkbug stories that readers shared with me this week are really, truly disgusting. They say the essence of good writing is brevity, so here are the only details you need (or want) to know: coffee maker; orthodontic retainer; undies while they are being worn.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I had coffee this morning with a friend who just returned from a late-summer cross-country drive. He stopped overnight in Raton, a town in New Mexico near the Colorado border, and visited the local branch of the gym franchise he belongs to. He set the treadmill at his usual pace and incline and started walking but was alarmed to find that he became winded almost immediately.
He mentioned to another exerciser how easy it is to become deconditioned. She asked where he was from, and when he replied "eastern Pennsylvania," she pointed out that Raton is located nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, and it takes some time to get used to the thinner air at such a high altitude.
He was immensely relieved.
This story solved a mystery that has been niggling at me since 1978, when I was in the French Alps with about 20 other students, sharing a chalet during Christmas break. One night some of us were cooking a spaghetti meal for everyone, but there was one problem: the big pot of water took FOREVER to boil. People kept coming into the kitchen wondering when dinner would be ready. Now I know what the problem was: the altitude!

Eat to Live

Here's hoping that "Eat to Live," the latest weight-loss and healthy-eating plan, gives the mushroom industry a sales boost. Here is what the author, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, says about Kennett's favorite fungus:
"Eat lots of mushrooms all the time. Mushrooms make a great chewy replacement for meat ... mushrooms contain a variety of powerful phytochemicals and have been linked to decreased risk of chronic diseases, especially cancer."
He advises storing them in paper bags rather than plastic (we knew that) and "adding them to beans, seasoned with herbs and lemon juice."
Alas, he doesn't have kind words to say about milk, butter or cheese, which won't do much to benefit our dairy farmers.
Speaking of the mushroom industry, did you hear the story that NPR broadcast about Kennett Square last week? It's called "How a Sleepy Pennsylvania Town Grew into America's Mushroom Capital," and it features interviews with Chris Alonzo, president of Pietro Industries; Jim Angelucci, general manager of Phillips Mushroom Farms; and Noelia Scharon, owner of La Michoacana ice cream shop and grill. You can read the story on

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Remembrance of things past

My observant friend Laura writes: "Wondered if you had seen the old Democratic yard signs on Marlborough Springs Road? At the intersection with 842 is a Hillary for President sign, and the other side of Marlborough Village, at the zig with Lenape-Unionville (?) Rd, there is a Rendell/governor sign."
I drove by on Sunday but alas -- and perhaps not surprisingly -- they were nowhere to be seen.
Campaign signs are sprouting up along the major roads, and I can't say I've been surprised by any of the resident/candidate match-ups. If you're motivated enough to put out a yard sign, you've probably made your political feelings known in other ways. 

Stitched up

Apparently even knitting patterns have to be "run by Legal" these days. The small print at the bottom of one I'm working from now reads: "Knit One Crochet Too Inc. cannot be held responsible for human or typographical errors, variations in individual work or misinterpretation of instructions."
Talk about litigious!

In reverse

My family and friends have always gravitated toward really big adult toys, things like antique cars, gliders, Woodstock-sized sound systems, and horses. Such things require equally big trucks and trailers for transport, and I've always been impressed by people who can maneuver those massive vehicles, backing them up delicately into a garage and parking them on a dime.

This morning I was watching a guy back up one of those long, open-grate flatbed trailers toward the house steps in preparation for removing a cumbersome piece of old ductwork. He stopped at precisely the right spot so the gate could be lowered onto the top step. I remarked to his buddy how impressed I was with his piloting skills.
To my surprise, he explained that the bigger the trailer, the easier it actually is to manipulate: "You have more to work with."

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Some astonishing wild mushrooms sprang up this past week.
These red "Sickeners" (Russula emetica) were in the side yard.

And these were off Route 842 near a local mushroom farm (appropriately enough). I believe they are Parasols (Lepiota procera).

Both were under or near conifers.
(Thanks to my sharp-eyed neighbor for pointing them out.)

Second annual

We had a great time at the Willowdale Pro Rodeo last night. Well, yes, the cowboys and cowgirls had a bit of an "off" night -- none of the bull riders made it to the eight-second mark, the cowgirls kept knocking down barrels, and the steers just refused to be wrestled to the ground. But it was all hugely entertaining anyway, the boy doing rope tricks was amazing, and the sky turned an incredible indigo as the sun went down. The rodeo definitely needs to come back for a third year.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Stinkbug stories

Last week I asked for gross stinkbug stories, and my readers have not let me down.

Having one crawl up the inside of my jeans leg pales in comparison to this nightmarish tale from an Embreeville resident:
"Before a bird walk at a local preserve, I took advantage of the Port-a-Potty. When I pulled down the first bit of toilet paper hundreds of stink bugs came out all over me, the seat and the floor. Being the close confines of the potty and my state of disarray, all I could do was make sure there were none in my pants and get out of there as fast as I could. The final straightening of clothes was completed outside, not caring if anyone was around or not. I never use an outdoor potty now without first checking the toilet paper roll."
Reader Alison reports finding them inside her hair dryer, on the lip of her bedside glass of water ("My disgusted sputtering definitely woke up my husband") and in her chandelier ("130 dead stink bugs in the 8 lights").
An East Marlborough resident reports while making an afternoon cup of coffee, she found one inside the reservoir of her coffeemaker: "I have to wonder...was it there when I made our breakfast coffee too?" And while removing her makeup at the end of the day: "Just before swiping the pad across my eyes...there it was, on the other side, hoping I was too tired to see. What an eye opener."
She also offers some useful advice for stinkbug disposal.
"I heard someone mention during my day around town that we need to give the East Marlborough Sewer maintenance team a break from having to replace so many motors and try not to 'flush' these nasty's down so much.  One alternative catch is a jar with a lid (like a jelly jar ready for the recycling) filled halfway with water & drops of liquid soap.  Open the lid, make the catch, reuse on the next dozen in the house.  I've used this method all week and it's going great." 
Personally I drop them in a plastic bag, either one with a slide across the top or an old bread bag with an office binder clip at the top. I keep one bag in each room where they congregate and just toss the bags when they get too smelly.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Check out this wonderfully exotic little guy that I found under a bit of straw in my vegetable garden! He is a Northern Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber ruber) and was about six inches long. After taking his photo I covered him back up and left him in peace.
When I showed this photo to my mother she noted how funny it was that such a vividly orange-colored creature should appear in the part of the garden where I grew pumpkins this year. More than coincidence?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Healthy foundation

My friend and fellow West Marlborough resident Mark Myers has a new accomplishment to add to his already-full resume: he has been named to the volunteer board of directors of the Brandywine Health Foundation.
Says Mark: "Brandywine Health Foundation is a great organization supporting the needs of many people in our greater community. I have visited the Coatesville based organizations the Foundation serves and I have been amazed at the quality of the services and the commitment of the staff supported. However, the needs remain great and we all are called on to find ways to help out." 
Our township is well represented on the Foundation's board: Annie Jones is also a member.

OK, maybe not

When I go to the post office, Starbucks, the Giant or even West Chester, odds are really good that I'll run into someone I know. This seems perfectly natural to me.
So yesterday, I was watching the Eagles game with the Young Relative and they were showing closeups of the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field.
"Oooo!" said I. "Let's see if we know anyone."
The Young Relative rolled his eyes.
"Tilda," he said with a sigh. "It's Philadelphia, NOT Unionville."
I was sharing this story with a woman who is a transplant from a small town in Indiana to Elkton, Maryland, by way of the Main Line, and she pointed out how valuable and uncommon that sense of community connectedness is these days. She said she misses it sorely and urged me not to take it for granted.
I won't! I felt it when I went to the Denim & Diamonds fundraiser at the Unionville Community Fair on Thursday evening: I knew my "Fair friends" would be there, and it never crossed my mind that I wouldn't know anybody.
Sure enough, D&D was a fun party with great food by Triple Fresh Catering (shots of pumpkin soup, mini crabcakes, terrific vegetables, green salad with blackberries and strawberries, mashed potatoes, cooked-to-order pasta, chicken and pork sandwiches, and assorted desserts). 

Hunt Cup

Regular readers know what a big fan I am of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup races, which is always a great afternoon of racing, eating, drinking and socializing. This year -- the 78th! -- the Hunt Cup will be Sunday, Nov. 4. I already have my parking pass at the ready. The course is west of Newark Road, between Routes 926 and 842. is the website.

On the creek

My outdoorsy pal Dave asked me to give a little publicity to a group he is involved with, Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, which is "dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings." Check them out online.

The Ferm

On Sept. 28 I was walking along State Street in Kennett, on my way to a family dinner at the Half-Moon Saloon, when I spotted my friend and neighbor Claire Murray of Inverbrook Farm. It turns out that Claire was one of the organizers of the Fourth Annual Fermentation Festival, and I had stumbled upon the "Meet the Makers" event that was going on that evening along Sycamore Alley. I was already late for dinner but I assured her I'd be back.
I'm glad I did! There were all sorts of nice folks on hand displaying their fermented food and drink: cheese, wine, spirits, beer and cider. Doe Run Farms from right here in West Marlborough was offering samples of their home-made cheese. I was especially intrigued by an organic ginger spirit called Snap, from Art in the Age.
The event was hosted by Kennett Square Farmers’ Market, Historic Kennett Square's Brewfest, and Talula’s Table. 
One of the press people covering the event took my photo, and wrote down my name, for some kind of a Philadelphia publication. Oh, dear.


I saw a silver Maserati on Evergreen Street in downtown West Grove borough last week. Apparently two pedestrians were as startled as I was to see the fancy vehicle, because they stopped their conversation and stared. One even put out his thumb as if he wanted a ride.
Update: A Facebook friend reports seeing a silver Maserati while she was on Route 926 between Route 52 and 82. I doubt there is more than one around here!

Ignorance of the law

How are West Marlborough residents supposed to know about the township's newly imposed earned income tax?
That was the question raised by Springdell resident Lynn Powell at the October township meeting. No official notice has gone out to residents, and only a handful of people attend township meetings or read the newspaper, so many residents may be ignorant about the tax, which went into effect as of Oct. 1. Although large employers probably have payroll people who keep track of where their employees live and whether their municipalities have enacted earned income taxes, many people these days are self-employed and may well be unaware of their new obligation. In fact, I mentioned it to a neighbor of mine and he had no clue that the tax was even being considered.
Supervisor Bill Wylie said the board members will "do our homework" and see what the best course of action would be to inform residents.

Spent compost

The most exciting thing that happened at this month's West Marlborough Township meeting was a follow-up discussion about the mounds of spent mushroom soil that are being dumped south of Hood Road, near the high-tension wires. (You can see the big heaps if you look to the north while driving along Street Road east of the SECCRA landfill.) Neighbors have told the supervisors they are concerned about the truck traffic, the early-morning noise, and the possible environmental impact of the compost.
Although the person dumping the spent compost, Russell Jones Jr., has a plan to do so that has been approved by the Chester County Conservation District, township regulations define mushroom compost dumping as a "conditional use." This means Mr. Jones must appear before the township supervisors, and they can impose reasonable conditions on the activity.
The township's zoning officer, Al Giannantonio, told the supervisors he has informed Mr. Jones about the township regulation. He has been given 30 days, until Oct. 19, to apply to the township; if he does not, Mr. Giannantonio said he will issue an enforcement notice.