Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What's hot!

In a story on decorating trends, the Dec. 28-29 "Off Duty" section of the Wall Street Journal declares that "The use of blinky owls, Machiavellian foxes, timid deer and, most recently, mushrooms as decorative motifs in artwork and textiles is verging on kitschy."
Are you kidding me?! Obviously this doesn't apply to Kennett and Unionville, where mushrooms and foxes are and always will be cherished decorating icons. In one of my father's favorite maxims, "Consider the source": The same decorator states that 1970s macramé wall hangings are now "in" again.
I rest my case.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


My friend Chris Barber, the editor of the "Avon Grove Sun," was shooting a girls' basketball game at her alma mater, Unionville High School, on Friday night when "this weird thing happened... the announcer said all the basketball team alums should gather for a picture after the game. But all the alums were like class of 2010, -11, etc. So I told the announcer I was embarrassed, but I was on the basketball team, class of '61. And he kept saying, "I can't believe it. I wasn't born in '61." Then the women taking the picture said, "Hey, we've got a '61 here." And the girls cheered and surrounded me for the picture."
Chris is an honoree on UHS' Wall of Fame.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Keller's hiatus

A distraught reader wrote to tell me that Fran Keller's Eatery will be shut from Dec. 30 through Jan 10. "Not sure what a lot of us will do without the weekend omelettes, the Mexican Tuesdays, crab-cake Fridays and daily camaraderie, but it'll be a tough adjustment," he wrote. "A tough adjustment, too, for the staff, who are getting 12 days' unpaid vacation."
My good-karma suggestion: Slip your favorite Keller's staff member an extra-large tip, before or after the break.

For the birds

The snow on the ground not only brings the wild birds to our backyard feeders and suet-holders but also makes them a little easier to spot. A West Grove pal who keeps a tripod-mounted camera at the ready, pointed out his kitchen window, captured a marvelous Christmas Day shot of a red-bellied woodpecker with a seed in his beak!
Some people love to post these bird photos on social media, and I've noticed that bordering-on-contentious disputes will arise among enthusiasts about a bird's exact identity: Which type of wren or woodpecker is it? Male or female? What's your evidence? When they start using Latin names, you know there are some serious birders involved.
I'm reminded of that amusing passage from Jay McInerney's "Bright Lights, Big City," in which the hero is a fact-checker at a highbrow magazine: "Just last month an innocuous sketch on birdfeeder activity raised a storm. Readers protested that a certain type of finch couldn't possibly have been at a feeder in Stonington, Connecticut, when the writer claimed to have seen a pair. The letters are still coming in."

End of the year

As we say good-bye to 2013, I want to thank you, readers and contributors, friends and family, for your wonderful support. It is heartwarming when strangers come up to me (even better, to my family members!) and say how much they enjoy my little column and how it keeps them up to date with what's going on and who's doing what.
I started writing this blog a few years back because I thought there was just plain too much faux-hip snarkiness, meanness for the sake of meanness, and juvenile name-calling in our world, online and off. I think we should and can do better, and without being saccharine I keep that goal in mind with every item I write. Let's pay attention to nature and the beautiful countryside we live in. Let's notice and express gratitude for a good meal or a neighbor's kindness. Let's celebrate the little family moments, businesses that do what they say they'll do, "ordinary" citizens who help their community.
Am I ever tempted to slam a lackluster or a poorly organized local event? Sure I am; but I don't. Even the Young Relative knows that if a local restaurant serves me, say, a gluey, lukewarm cup of mushroom soup, Tilda will simply not mention it (in print, at least).
However: rude drivers, litterers, bad parkers, people who spit on the sidewalk and incessant Verizon solicitors? You're still fair game.
Readers, if you ever want to comment or offer a story idea from your neighborhood, club, church, or whatever, please feel free to contact me at uvilleblogger@gmail.com or PO Box 293, Unionville, PA 19375. Thanks!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hey, Mom!

A friend's son bought the house next to hers in Embreeville this fall, and given that he is a grown and responsible adult, she resolved to give him his privacy, mind her own business and not officially notice his comings and goings.
The son? Not so much. At their family's Christmas Eve party, she told me she was out three nights in a row this past week -- and not only did he notice, but he also gave her a mock-hard time about what exactly she thought she was up to.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Jess from the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County sent me an email about a fundraiser that her group is conducting with the Half Moon Restaurant & Saloon, 108 West State Street in Kennett Square. On Tuesdays from Jan. 7 through Feb. 25, the restaurant is going to donate 10% of your check to the Land Conservancy. Just bring a pine cone to the restaurant or write "Marshall Mill House" on your bill.
"Gather your friends and family for a wonderful meal and libations while supporting land conservation efforts in southern Chester County. Each purchase is helping TLC blaze trails, preserve natural habitats, build a greener community, and instill curiosity and appreciation for the natural world in future generations." 


Christmas Presents

Coolest gift: The Young Relative's Dr. Dre earbuds (Dr. Dre, pronounced Dray, is a rapper who lends his name to these high-tech headphones). I was skeptical until I plugged them into my smartphone and started up Adele's "Skyfall." Oh my gosh. I'm no audiophile, but they produce truly astonishing sound!
Brainiest gift: A T-shirt that my college professor sister sent the Young Relative that read, "ACL: Amateur Crastination League." The whole family stared at each other in silence, baffled, for probably 30 seconds until we figured it out ("AMATEUR-crastination" as opposed to "PRO-crastination." Get it?)
Most flexible gift: Gift cards. Love them! Starbucks, Foxy Loxy, Lowe's, L.L. Bean, Floga Bistro, Half Moon.
Most observant gift recipient: My country friend who identified the blue ribbon encircling my present to her as -- yes, a length of baling twine.
Proudest moment of the holidays: My dear friend and former colleague Paul Souders won National Geographic's Grand Prize for wildlife photography for his amazing shot of a polar bear peering up from beneath the melting sea ice on Hudson Bay in northern Canada. The photo has been all over the Internet; maybe you've seen it. I mean, really: National Geographic! Grand Prize!!
Best gift, as always: Spending time with family and friends. And even strangers: I was on Apple Grove Road the morning of Christmas Day and a Prius had pulled over to the shoulder. I noticed that the driver had her window rolled down, so, thinking she might be lost trying to get to somebody's house, I stopped. After the two of us -- perfect strangers -- wished each other an enthusiastic Merry Christmas, the driver said no, she wasn't lost, just enjoying the view. Perfect.

Holly Jolly Christmas

Thank you to all the local hosts and hostesses who fed and entertained me during this past week! For me this year's celebrations, parties and open houses seemed compacted into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and I've eaten far, far too much rich food, lasagne and chocolate. Our family luncheon was at the Greathouse at Loch Nairn for at least the third year in a row and it was once again superb; the place never disappoints in terms of food, service and atmosphere.


What a wonderful little snow squall we had on Christmas Eve afternoon! My family and I had set out the luminaries that line the cul-de-sac where my parents live (a wonderful Christmas Eve neighborhood tradition) and were inside opening gifts when my brother noted with surprise that it was snowing, heavily! The wind was whipping the white flakes around and howling down the chimney. The storm was quite intense while it lasted.
The poor luminaries: last year the flames were quenched by the snow; this year a lot of them were blown over. I even saw one paper bag engulfed in flame.
I enjoyed the unexpected little snowstorm we had on Boxing Day morning as well. I was having breakfast at Perkins in Avondale with two friends when one of them looked out the window and noticed the flakes. The little boy at the next table noticed the snow at the same moment and, to everyone's amusement, cried, "YAY!"

Roast Beast

This year's Christmas family debate -- this year's suitable-for-the-newspaper family debate, that is -- was whether the original animated "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" is superior to the Jim Carrey film. The obvious and correct answer is that the cartoon is vastly better, but sadly it turns out that some family members vehemently disagree. I can only shake my head. Others of a more conciliatory bent, however, suggested that comparing the two films was like comparing apples to oranges, and perhaps there is some truth to that.
By the way, did you know that Boris Karloff did NOT sing the classic "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"? It was the uncredited  Thurl Ravenscroft, who also did the voice of Tony the Tiger ("They're grrreat!") in the Frosted Flakes commercials. 

Remember Jim?

It was so nice to receive a Christmas card from our former Unionville Postmaster, Jim Robinson. He reports that he took early retirement from the U.S. Postal Service after 27-plus years, and he and his partner sold both their Evergreen house and their small house in Denver, replacing it with a high-rise in Denver. When not doing real-estate transactions, they also managed to get in some traveling, visiting 11 states and trailering their Harleys to their condo in Phoenix so they can use them while they are there.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Windowsill gardening

What do you do with your avocado pits? In our family, we always poke toothpicks in them (the pits, not family members) and suspend them over jars of water, with just the bottom end touching the water, in the hopes that they'll be inspired to sprout and become new avocado plants. Sometimes they do, which is a fun mini-miracle, but most of the time they're duds and just get moldy. Which is why you see so many attempts on my kitchen windowsill above.
The plant on the right is not an avocado; it's one of those hydroponically grown basil plants you buy at the supermarket. Put it in a glass of water and it stays fresh for lots of pesto batches.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nice people!

I want to mention three instances of above-and-beyond service that I experienced in the past few days, even in the thick of the "Christmas rush."
1. The clerk at Staples ran out into the parking lot after me to give me a $5 rebate form that I didn't even know I was entitled to. He totally didn't have to do that.
2. I asked the waitress at the Half Moon for a large glass of water because I was donating blood the next day and needed to ingest lots of fluid. Not only did she bring me a huge glass, but she kept it topped off throughout the meal.
3. When she brought my chicken Caesar salad, the waitress at Perkins apologized because the kitchen was out of croutons. I told her no problem, I'd just snitch some of my dinner companion's bread instead. She wouldn't hear of it and brought me two rolls instead.
Well done, all. Thank you.

New signs at London Grove

New traffic signs went up at the London Grove intersection (Route 926 and Newark Road) on Friday, Dec. 20. This wasn't a surprise: West Marlborough Township supervisors have been talking about the new signage for a few months. Motorists can no longer make left turns from southbound Newark Road onto eastbound Route 926 (heading toward Willowdale). And there's a sign warning westbound Route 926 motorists that if they continue straight, they will hit an embankment at Newark Road.

The liberal arts

When I got home from college on Christmas break in the late 1970s, after days of intense studying and exams, I was always a zombie, barely able to defeat my brother at Pong (then the height of video game technology). So I was impressed the other day to chat with a current college student who had just arrived home on break but still showed amazing enthusiasm for her anthropology coursework on Amazonian tribes, just hours after taking her exams and completing her final essays. It always took me weeks of recuperation after semester's end to be able to even think about Hegel or eutrophication or "The Aeneid" without gibbering.

Cabela's is coming

Hunters, anglers and campers -- really, outdoorsy people of all types -- will doubtless be delighted to hear that a 110,000-square-foot Cabela's outdoor store will be opening next spring near the Christiana Mall. The nearest Cabela's is currently in Hamburg, up in Berks County. Cabela's is looking to hire some 250 staff and will be holding a job fair Jan. 13 to 17 at the Sheraton Wilmington South Hotel in New Castle.
According to a press release from the company, here's what the new store is going to look like: "The store will be built in Cabela's trademark style with an exterior of log construction, stonework, wood siding and metal roofing. Large glass storefronts will allow customers to view much of the store's interior as they approach the building."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Road crew

A fellow who is just learning the ways of West Marlborough is surprised at how well our township road crew treats us, compared to his more populous municipality. Not only do our road guys salt and plow the roads, but they also keep us posted via Facebook about the latest road conditions (good and bad), downed limbs (there was one at Springdell in the last storm), power outages, black ice and so forth. Greatly appreciated!
Speaking of sloppy weather, the Mr. Wizard Car Wash on Mill Road was the place to be on Friday afternoon. Extra attendants were there to help with traffic flow as motorists like me descended on the place to get rid of  the encrusted salt and mud on our vehicles. (On the way home I even avoided taking my usual unpaved roads so that I could keep the car clean for as long as I could.) I'm told the DIY car wash in Toughkenamon was so busy on Sunday that an inch-thick sediment of salt, gravel and debris had accumulated around the drain.

Middle School

The teachers at Patton Middle School continue to present an excellent challenge to the Young Relative and his fellow students. He's studying mutant cells, polynomials, the Revolutionary War (they're staging three scenes, including the Boston Tea Party) and Nobel Prize winners (about whom he has to write a report in the form of a newspaper article -- YAY!) as well as surprising his Secret Santa recipient and serenading his classmates with Christmas songs.
Over dinner the other night he repeated that oft-heard complaint about algebra: "When am I ever gonna use this?!"
"On your next test," replied his father immediately. Snap!
Our united front on behalf of algebra, however, was lessened considerably when neither his father nor I could remember the long-ago-memorized Quadratic Formula and had to look it up online. (OK: can YOU remember it?) The Young Relative said that when he becomes a world-famous Nobel Prize winner himself and writes his autobiography, he will note how he had to overcome the handicap of having such mathematically challenged family members.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Carols

I had a great time at West Grove Friends Meeting's Carol Sing on the evening of Dec. 16. Maybe 20 people gathered in the candlelit meetinghouse, and we started with a period of silence in the manner of Friends, which is always a welcome break from the daily chatter.
Mary Sproat read aloud the traditional verses from the Book of Luke about Jesus' birth, and after another time of silence (broken by an occasional, and adorable, coo from one of the babies), one man got the singing started with "Silent Night." After the first words we all joined in, and after that, another person started another carol, and so forth.
I was ashamed of how many words I'd forgotten. I could get through the first verses of the songs pretty creditably, but after that my memory gave out. I wanted to start "Do You Hear What I Hear?" but I simply couldn't remember how it started!
It was such fun singing, and the room's great acoustics made even my off-key voice sound passable -- although singing skill isn't the least bit important at this event, enthusiasm is. Afterward we chatted and enjoyed Christmas cookies and cake and fellowship.
Because of the iffy footing (mud, ice and snow), the decision was made to hold the Carol Sing at the meetinghouse in West Grove proper rather than its traditional site, the tiny old State Road meetinghouse, which has no electricity or heat other than a woodstove. It has great atmosphere, but I think it was a smart move.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Indian Hannah

A huge thank you to "Unionville in the News" reader John, who was nice enough to alert me to a forthcoming book about Indian Hannah entitled "A Lenape Among the Quakers: The Life of Hannah Freeman." It's by Dawn G. March, an assistant professor at Purdue University.
According to the blurb on Amazon, "A Lenape among the Quakers reconstructs Hannah Freeman’s history, traveling from the days of her grandmothers before European settlement to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The story that emerges is one of persistence and resilience, as “Indian Hannah” negotiates life with the Quaker neighbors who employ her, entrust their children to her, seek out her healing skills, and, when she is weakened by sickness and age, care for her. And yet these are the same neighbors whose families have dispossessed hers. Fascinating in its own right, Hannah Freeman’s life is also remarkable for its unique view of a Native American woman in a colonial community during a time of dramatic transformation and upheaval. In particular it expands our understanding of colonial history and the Native experience that history often renders silent."
"A Lenape Among the Quakers" will be published March 1, 2014, by the University of Nebraska Press.
Indian Hannah was a Lenni-Lenape woman who lived in Chester County in the late 18th century. There are several historical markers in her memory, including a recently dedicated monument at the Embreeville Center, where she spent the last years of her life. Newlin Township has a road named in her honor.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shopping in the Square

After a week of 20-chapters-a-day editing to meet a tight deadline on a book about coma, I gave myself the day off and decreed that Saturday would be devoted to Christmas shopping in Kennett.
Fortified by a lunch of quesadillas at La Pena Mexicana, we ventured uptown to The Mushroom Cap as our first stop. Kathi Lafferty, the owner, couldn't wait to tell us the latest about the Mushroom Drop, scheduled for New Year's Eve. On her iPad she showed us a photo of the seven-and-a-half-foot tall, 700-pound stainless-steel mushroom, which will be lowered from a crane at midnight in the middle of town. Kathi's unsure how many people will attend the celebration, but to her delight and surprise it has attracted national media exposure. She's heard people are planning their New Year's festivities to include it.
Kathi's enthusiasm is contagious: I usually stay home on New Year's Eve, but I hope to be there to witness it, even if requires an afternoon nap.
Our next stop was the Market at Liberty Place, which since my last visit has added an organic fruit and vegetable vendor, Terra Foods. Their produce looks lovely, and if you need quail eggs, now you know where to go.
Also at Liberty Place there was also an impressive display of artwork by the Kennett High School Arts Honor Society.
A few blocks east, we stopped in at the Bayard Taylor Library and watched a demonstration of the library's new 3D printer, the Maker Bot.
After all this excitement, feeling the need for caffeine, we went to the new coffee shop, Philter Coffee, at 111 West State Street. The place has a friendly Seattle vibe to it (tempered perhaps by the Jim Graham photos of the Cheshire Foxhounds on the wall), and it seems to have developed quite a loyal following already. The House Blend coffee was hot and delicious, and we were fortunate enough to get a seat at the front window, a great spot for people watching. We had a front-row seat for watching motorists trying to parallel park their really large vehicles. The parking enforcement officer was vigilantly patrolling State Street checking meters (just as one couple left Philter, they spotted the meter guy approaching their vehicle and raced over).
As we walked back to the car (we took advantage of the free weekend parking in the garage), we actually saw a few flakes of snow. I'm glad we -- and lots of others -- didn't let the ominous wintry forecast discourage us from enjoying a pleasant day in town.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Guac for me, please

Some people see their exercise classes as a chance to zone out, and they prefer a solemn, hushed atmosphere without music or joking around. Not me. Yes, I take my time at the gym very seriously, but it also needs to be fun.
In one class this week our instructor was describing a hip stretch that involved moving your leg down and around.
"I like to think of it," she explained, "as a dipping a tortilla chip into the salsa. Go ahead: dip, and scoop!"
It was actually a perfect description -- and what a memorable visual!

Tough guy

This afternoon I was chatting with a party-rental guy delivering tables, chairs, dishes and so forth for a dinner party. He said it had been a busy week -- he already had put in 55 hours and was pleased at the thought of how much OT he was racking up.
As he was wheeling in a dolly stacked with six chairs (cushions attached), I noticed with surprise that he wasn't wearing gloves (it was 24 degrees out).
"Noooo," he explained. "Never do."
He showed me his hands, which didn't appear blue with cold.
"Gloves," he said with disgust. "Ya can't get a grip!"
Speaking of big Christmas parties, on the way home Friday night I passed a house that is normally hidden way back in the woods. Not tonight: it was all lit up, inside and out, and I could see cars parked all over the yard. Flanking the driveway out at the main road were two torches, and not just little tiki torches or flares; they were major flambeaux, like the Ghost of Christmas Present carries. Any bigger and they would've needed a township permit.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


It was a complex transaction, the planning of which required several texts and emails.
A Unionville friend accidentally ordered two big boxes of Staples copy paper when she meant to buy only one. Undoing the order would have been more trouble than it was worth, so she asked if I'd take one box off her hands. At only $14.54, and with all the proofreading projects I've had to print out, I was glad to oblige.
The paper was delivered within a few days, during which time I made two batches of Christmas cookies and realized I was running dangerously low on the eggs from her hens.
Time for some barter!
We arranged to meet for lunch between her blacksmith appointment and her hair appointment (busy lady). The critical swap of loot, we agreed, would take place at the parking garage.
I was already there on the ground level when she pulled up in her massive red pickup. Without delay, she loaded the copy paper and a dozen eggs in my trunk. I handed over an empty egg carton and a full bag of ginger snaps.
Business concluded, we went off to an excellent lunch at the Half-Moon (which never disappoints). I picked up the tab -- her lunch was more or less the cost of the copy paper. If only everything worked out so efficiently and harmoniously!
These transactions where no cash actually changes hand reminds me of that wonderful passage from "Little Women," where Jo starts selling her Gothic short stories: "By the magic of a pen, her `rubbish' turned into comforts for them all. `The Duke's Daughter' paid the butcher's bill, `A Phantom Hand' put down a new carpet, and the `Curse of the Coventrys' proved the blessing of the Marches in the way of groceries and gowns."

Top ten of 2013

As the year draws to a close, I like to take a look back at some significant events. I paged through my 2013 schedule book and came up with the following, in no particular order.
1. We lost Mary Dugan, Mary McKay, Jack Singer, Susie Buchanan, Dr. Eckman, Barbara Wilson, Mike Langer, Nina Donohue, Thistledown Sheridan ("Danny"), Fennel and "That Tree." But we gained a rejuvenated (well, temporarily) Blow Horn and a replacement sugar maple.
2. We've gotten more snow in the past week than we did all last winter.
3. The long-running dispute over Whitewing Farm has ended (for now). The East Marlborough zoning board ruled this fall that the Shortts cannot continue holding wedding receptions and large parties at the Valley Road farm because it's not zoned for that use. Neighbors had complained about noise and traffic.
4. Foxy Loxy, Jerry Brown's new coffee shop and ice cream store on Route 82, finally opened after months of eager anticipation. It was worth the wait. (Trivia: Dudley Moore addresses Goldie Hawn as "Foxy Loxy" in that classic 1970s movie "Foul Play.") Another terrific new addition to the community is the Market at Liberty Place on State Street in Kennett.
5. West Marlborough's new earned-income tax raised considerably more than the township supervisors had anticipated, raising hopes that perhaps it won't be a permanent obligation for residents and employers.
6. Newlin Township supervisors found themselves on the receiving end of much wrath when they proposed adding new regulations for small horse farms that take in boarders. The last I've heard, cooler heads seem to be prevailing and a compromise is being hashed out.
7. The Lenfest Center, the new headquarters of the Natural Lands Trust at the ChesLen Preserve, opened in June with a splendid outdoor gala honoring benefactors Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest. (The hot-air balloons drifting by from Plantation Field were a bonus.) A few months later, a blood drive at the Center was cancelled because the Red Cross objected to the significant number of stink bugs in the donation room.
8. The major expansion at the Kennett Y was completed in September.
9. Beer and mushrooms make a great combo. The Two Stones Pub opened at the site of the former King's Island Chinese restaurant; Victory Brewing is coming to the Magnolia Place development being built on the west side of Kennett; and the Kennett Brewing Company is expected to open in downtown Kennett.
10. Tilda's life featured a considerable variety of excitement this year (as my regular readers know!). She got her vehicle beached at the Kennels. She grew some awesome pumpkins. And on a first date, your always-graceful blogger tripped over a step at the Kennett parking garage and sprained her ankle. Not too many dates later (yes, with the same guy), she tumbled once again -- this time headlong and joyfully into that crazy, intoxicating state called love.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The anti-Scrooge

Things have changed since those long-ago childhood days of poring through the Sears Roebuck Christmas catalog and making a meticulous, lengthy, no-regard-for-the-budget Christmas list, complete with catalog number, size, color and price. (Indeed, I've helped the Young Relative do the same on the Lego website.)
This year my mother, bless her, simply handed me an LL Bean catalog and told me to pick something out for Christmas. I obeyed: my choice is very cozy and involves quite a lot of goose down. I told her that it cost far too much money for her to spend on me, so I would split the cost with her.
She dismissed that suggestion immediately.
OK, I said firmly; then it's the ONLY thing you're getting for me!
"Oh," she said in amusement, "so now you're telling me what to do?!"
But, hey ... maybe I'll finally end up getting those olive-green double-knit bell bottoms! (Just kidding. But they were all the rage in the fifth grade, when we were finally allowed to wear pants to school. In the winter only, mind you.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

News from the art world

Those of you who use salt licks on your farm will be interested to learn that Los Angeles artist Mark Hagen put the "salty chunks in front of horses or cows. Then he let them lick until he was satisfied with the scoop-like craters their tongues created. Several of the resulting blocks sold for $8,000 apiece" at the prominent Art Basel show this past week in Miami Beach. (This according to a Dec. 6 story by Kelly Crow in the Wall Street Journal.)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Open Studio

Artist Jill Beech held her annual open studio at her East Fallowfield home on Saturday, and I was fortunate enough to hear about it (thanks for the tip, Laura!). Jill, a world-renowned veterinarian who recently retired from New Bolton Center, works in ceramics and copper, with tribal, equestrian, anatomical and nature themes, and I enjoyed wandering through the three rooms full of her work. I bought a stunning mobile of dancing copper leaves that I plan to hang in my office, and I saw several people buying bowls and plates with pine-needle motifs.
I also had a great time catching up with Chuck Ginty of Unionville -- he told me about the fun and the challenges he's having renovating the old hotel at the corner of Route 82 and Wollaston Road. He is converting it into two large apartments.


On Saturday, as part of the Chadds Ford Historical Society's Christmas tour, I visited Rosewood, a spectacular Victorian home set on 36 acres off Route 842 in Unionville. The original part of the brick house (built in 1861 by Thomas Seal) featured lavish heavy draperies, chandeliers dripping with prisms and ornate wallpaper, and the newer portion had a huge kitchen, with hand-planed pine cabinets and a commercial-grade espresso machine, and a comfortably lived-in family room. There were masses of perfectly blooming poinsettias throughout.
I enjoyed seeing the two original N.C. Wyeth paintings of Robinson Crusoe, both purchased from the Delaware Art Museum, and the beautiful mahogany sideboards, bobinga-wood family-room table and other pieces by Unionville woodworker Doug Mooberry.
Several homes in Marlboro Village were also on the tour, as well as the Galer Winery, the Sanderson Museum, the Yellow House at Willowdale, and St. Michael Lutheran Church. I wish I could have visited more of the locations, but I only had enough time to get to Rosewood, which I've always been especially curious about.
I was reminded how much the quality of the parkers and guides affects the visitors' experience on a tour like this.

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's open!

Foxy Loxy, the coffee shop in "downtown" Unionville, has finally opened, and I predict it is going to make a wonderful addition to our town. I also predict I will be spending a lot less time at Starbucks.
It's a great community meeting spot and looks a lot like an inviting, cozy country living room, with comfortable leather chairs, a fireplace, shelves of foxhunting and local history books and memorabilia, and Oriental rugs on hardwood floors. Old-timers will remember the disrepair that brick building had fallen into, with its rickety-looking tacked-on porches; it's totally renovated and beautiful now.
As far as food goes, they offer way more than just ice cream (although manager Jayne Shea told me her arms were aching after scooping out lots of servings): they've got quiches, soup, muffins, scones and other baked goods, and serve-yourself penny candy.
I met a friend there for coffee on the third day it was open (it was already her third visit!), and we knew almost everyone in there, including Jerry Brown (sporting a big smile and a Foxy Loxy baseball cap; he's the store's mastermind) and Doug and Pat Mooberry (who own the property).
One patron from Newlin Township has one arm in a sling after he suffered an accident while doing his after-dinner horse chores a few weeks ago. He was browsing through the equestrian books and -- with his one good arm -- held up one entitled "Risk in the Afternoon." In his case, he said ruefully, it should've been titled "Risk in the Evening."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hay there!

At the Unionville post office I ran into my friend Susan's trainer, who had just come from Susan's farm and passed along the news that she had wrenched her back while unloading 23 bales of hay that morning. I was upset to hear this -- not so much for the back injury but for the fact that she didn't call me to help with the hay (I actually enjoy it).
I promptly sent Susan a mock-resentful message: "Like you didn't think I'd hear about this??!!" She called me laughing (despite her sore back), and once again we marveled about the amazingly efficient communication system that flourishes here on the island of Unionville.


This morning I was out early in the dense fog. Houses were completely hidden in the mist. School buses appeared only as disembodied red flashing lights. I made the correct turn onto a back road purely thanks to muscle memory, because none of the usual guideposts were visible. Along Route 842 near Ryan Road a fellow had pulled off (with his flashers on) and was taking a photo of the treeline shrouded in fog.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Marshallton events

On Monday I got to catch up over a very nice Whip lunch with my pal Linda Kaat, who is one of the busiest people I know. Linda asked me to share the schedule of upcoming Christmas events in Marshallton, the village where she lives:
1. Holiday Bazaar at the Village Blacksmith Shop, Saturday, Dec. 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
2. Christmas in Marshallton House Tour, hosted by the Marshallton United Methodist Church, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 (visit www.marshalltonchurch.com for tickets).
3. Christmas Carol sing at historic Marshallton Friends Meeting, Sunday, Dec. 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Earned income tax

In its initial year, West Marlborough Township's 0.5% earned income tax raised $83,000 -- significantly more than the township supervisors had expected when they enacted the tax last December.
At the Dec. 3 township meeting, during a discussion about the proposed 2014 budget, supervisors chairman Bill Wylie said tax consultants had estimated that the tax would bring in $100,000, but the supervisors thought it would be closer to $50,000, given that the household budgets of many township residents involve unearned rather than earned income.
Mr. Wylie said the money raised by the tax is being used to replenish the township's equipment fund, which had been transferred to other accounts and became seriously depleted over the past few years.
The proposed budget calls for no tax increase or decrease for 2014. Mr. Wylie noted, however, that if the township can avoid the extraordinary expenses it faced in recent years (largely unexpected legal and engineering fees), the supervisors might "reconsider" the need for the earned income tax.

West Marlborough planners

At its Dec. 3 meeting, the West Marlborough Township Planning Commission learned that Denise Richmond has withdrawn her plan to tear down the house at 409 West Street Road (just east of Vince Dugan's equestrian facility), combine three small lots and build a new house and a stable and paddock. She presented the plan this spring, but back then the planning commission advised her that per the township ordinance, she would need to have at least two acres per horse. Because her site is only 1.64 acres, she would have needed to seek a variance from the township's zoning hearing board to proceed.
Township secretary/treasurer Shirley Walton said Ms. Richmond has been billed for the expenses the township incurred in handling the proposal.
Also at the December meeting, chairman Jeb Hannum thanked his fellow planners for spending many extra hours this fall working on the Act 167 stormwater management ordinance that all Pennsylvania townships must enact by the beginning of 2014. Many of the requirements in the document have been dictated by the state, but the planners customized the language to meet West Marlborough's needs as best they could.
Mr. Hannum quipped that the work on the new stormwater regulations was "somewhat dry" at times -- "no pun intended."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ginger snaps

I got a request the other day for my ginger snap recipe, and I'm glad to share it. These cookies are easy to make and very, very tasty. I have some mellow friends who normally go along with any suggestion for where to eat dinner ("Perkins? The Farmhouse? Sure, whatever!") or what DVD to watch ("Mystery Science Theater 3000? Downton Abbey? Hey, you decide!"), but when I ask what kind of cookie they want me to bake, these easygoing souls immediately, and emphatically, specify "your ginger snaps please!"
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a small bowl mix 2 C flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 2-1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp ground cloves.
3. Melt 1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter. Using electric beater, add to 1-1/8 C granulated sugar. Beat in one egg, 1/4 C molasses, and 3/4 tsp vanilla extract.
4. Add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly (there should be no flour showing).
5. Drop the cookies, about 1 T each, on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper (THIS IS VITAL!). They spread, so allow plenty of room.
6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on how chewy or crunchy you prefer them.
I get the best results using only the top rack, but that might be just a quirk of my oven.
Reader Pat from Chadds Ford posted a comment on Sunday saying that she had tried the recipe and   "They turned out great! Your advice to cook them on parchment and leave plenty of room was perfect - they do spread! Thanks so much and I plan on adding your recipe to my usual Christmas cookies list!"

Monday, December 2, 2013

Does he know me or what?!

A friend and I spent Sunday afternoon at the Delaware Art Museum (there's free admission on Sundays, but please leave them a donation anyway) and after leaving the marvelous Pre-Raphaelite galleries he and I found ourselves in front of an early-20th-century illustration showing an overdressed middle-age woman at a highbrow restaurant, triumphantly announcing to her horrified kin that she and her much-younger beau (clearly a gold-digger if there ever was one) were heading to Stamford to get married THAT VERY NEXT DAY.
A few tables away from this tableau, the artist had drawn a woman leaning back in her chair and avidly craning her neck to overhear the action.
"Look!" said my friend. "It's Tilda!"

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Readers occasionally ask me to give them a heads up about local musical events of the folksy sort that I sometimes write about. Here are a few in the near future. On Friday, Dec. 6, the April Verch Band will be performing as part of the Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music series; it'll be at 8 p.m. at the Unitarian church in Newark (brandywinefriends.org). And on 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 13, "Celtic balladeer" Charlie Zahm will do a Christmas concert at the Oxford Friends Meeting, 260 South Third St., as part of the Friends Folk Club series.
And there is nothing quite so heartwarming as ringing in the Christmas season at an historic Quaker meeting house: West Grove Meeting's annual carol sing is at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 in the "New" West Grove Meeting on State Road, and Marlborough Meeting's community sing is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 22 (12th Month 22nd, in the traditional style) in Marlboro Village.


A Duane fan

Hey, Kennett Paper readers: don't miss Duane Campbell's gardening column, which runs in one of the back sections of the paper each week. I find him to be funny and practical, and he offers really good, non-hifalutin' advice. We are very often on the same page with our gardening tasks, whether it's where to store dug-up bulbs over the winter, which bulbs to buy for forcing, or which garden tools aren't worth spending money on.

The Hungry and the Hunted

This week marks the opening of deer season, and an avid hunter friend who lives in Cochranville sent me some information about the venison-donation programs that provide nutritious, high-protein meals to less fortunate people. Hunters can turn over their excess meat to one of the agencies, who distribute it to food banks and shelters. Check out the "Hunters Sharing the Harvest" website for information about Pennsylvania agencies. (My friend also earmarks a portion of his venison each year for a local disabled Vietnam vet.)

Saturday, November 30, 2013

When Black Friday Comes...

Seen out and about on "Black Friday": cars with Christmas trees roped down on top of them; motorists queueing up on Route 1 for the Longwood Christmas lights displays; lots of out-of-state tags (other than Delaware and Maryland) at the fuel pumps at Landhope; and lots of out-of-state college sweatshirts at the Y. What is it about young men's metabolism that they can nonchalantly wear their basketball shorts in even the coldest weather?
I didn't do any Black Friday shopping, but I'm told there were quite a few pilgrimages down to the shopping centers on Concord Pike, and I saw lots of pedestrians in downtown Kennett.
The latest holiday contretemps seems to be whether stores should be open for business on Thanksgiving Day itself. One side argues that forcing salespeople to work on a holiday means they can't enjoy dinner with their family. The other side points out that those holiday shifts, with their double- and triple-time pay, are often highly coveted by salespeople. Given that I worked in journalism and my brother was an airline pilot -- both occupations that involve mandatory working on holidays -- my family doesn't sweat celebrating holidays on the actual official date.


OK, now, I'm really tired of people I know getting into car crashes: enough already! My folks have been in two of them in recent weeks, neither one their fault, and fortunately they were not hurt (cars can be repaired). A few weeks ago I wrote about a young friend who spent a few days in the hospital after a crash on Route 322, and she is still hurting. A couple of pals have had deer simply run into their cars while they're driving.
The emergency personnel who handled my parents' accident told them they have been very busy recently with a lot of crashes. And we haven't even had any icy roads yet!
My parents' crash was at Routes 52 and 926 on Thanksgiving morning, when an oncoming motorist tried to make a left turn in front of them. My parents are unhurt, thanks to my mother's quick reflexes and the German engineering and thick sheet metal of their vehicle. My parents reported that the emergency crews were there almost immediately, and they had high praise for the professional and efficient state trooper who handled the accident. They were also grateful for the witness who pulled over right away and gave them his business card if they needed corroborating evidence.

Floga Bistro

Floga Bistro, the Italian restaurant on Route 1 east of Kennett, was one hopping spot on Friday evening. I was with a party of 10, enjoying a 5 p.m. dinner with a dear friend and his family for his birthday, and several groups apparently had the same idea of dining on the early side. The restaurant is a BYO, and we saw several people carrying in full soft-sided coolers. By the time we left at 6:45 the place was in full swing.

My chicken parmigiana with cappellini was delicious; I split my portion with the Birthday Boy's sister and we both had an ample meal. One of the Birthday Boy's sons, sitting next to me, ordered the lobster ravioli with crabmeat and let me have a taste (well, he didn't have much choice in the matter) and it was very good. The dessert tray looked tempting, but we had no room left.
Because of the dinner I missed Kennett's Christmas parade, but over the weekend I heard all about the Lofting-versus-Hicks rivalry in terms of their illuminated farm equipment entries. A lit-up combine escorted by an Olympic equestrian sporting an ear-of-corn costume? The bar has been set very, very high for next year, gentlemen.

Over the edge

A certain Unionville woman (whom you all know) is utterly mortified as we speak.
She drove over to see the Cheshire Hunt "move off" from the Kennels on Saturday morning, chatted with her pals among the riders, spectators, and photographers and decided to return home as the Hunt crossed Route 82 and headed off to their day. A tiny little embankment was the only thing separating her 4WD Honda CRV from the northbound lane of Route 82, so she decided to skip the "Unionville traffic jam," take a shortcut and head down the slope.
Alas, her perception of the vehicle's ground clearance did not match its actual ground clearance, and she found herself most definitely stuck, unable to move forward or back.
Meanwhile, basically every single person in the world she knew (whether they'd been at the Hunt Meet or not) was driving by on Route 82, pointing, roaring with laughter, and -- worst of all -- taking photos of the scene.
"Bet you wish you had a wig you could put on!" commented one cheerful bystander, clearly enjoying herself.
Fortunately a guy from the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company -- they were there to direct traffic -- saw her plight and radioed in to his coworkers the humiliating but entirely accurate description "Lady Stuck on Embankment." Several of his colleagues motored over immediately in their Gator, assessed the situation and concluded that the best thing would be to for them to try to push the car back up the slope.
Four burly guys in their bunker gear pushed and --  presto! -- the car was back on level ground.
"You might want to use the driveway to get back on the road," one helpful fellow advised the relieved woman, whose face was as red as her fleece jacket.
Of course, the news was all over on Facebook immediately, with calls for the incriminating photos to be posted on the front door of the post office, Primitive Hall and the Whip.
If you'll excuse me, I now have a great deal of cookie baking to do for my rescuers. I'm told the weekly Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company meeting is on Monday evening at 7 p.m.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Hunt

The cancellation of this year's traditional Thanksgiving Hunt of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds was met with much dismay, but I can fully understand why the decision was made: we'd had two days of steady rain, the ground was very soft and there was a greatly increased risk of damage to property, horses and riders. It was the first time in the Hunt's 100-year history that the Thanksgiving Meet wasn't held. The response on social media was utter disappointment from equestrians and non-equestrians alike; I didn't realize so many people made going to watch the Thanksgiving Meet part of their holiday tradition.
I'm told that some folks, including some of the offline Amish neighbors, didn't get the word and showed up on Thursday morning anyway.
I stopped by the slightly delayed hunt meet, held Saturday morning at the Kennels, and there was still a good crowd. Just before the foxhunters "moved off," Michael Ledyard, one of the Masters, greeted the spectators and welcomed them to "the first Thanksgiving Hunt ever held on a Saturday." He thanked everyone for coming and gave a special shout-out to the landowners who allow the Hunt on their properties.
I enjoyed hearing the comments from people from outside of Unionville who were visiting the area for the holiday. "Do they know how elegant they look in their red coats?" asked one woman, eyeing one hunter. "They must!"
The kids loved watching the excited hounds being released from their kennel at the beginning of the hunt. With one crack of the huntsman's whip, the Cheshire Beauties instantly focused on their job and were ready for action: seeking a fox!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Un-Glamour Shots

I see that the Kennett Paper has started running mug shots in its police blotter column each week. They're definitely grim-looking.
Then again, I remember the day I got my mug shot taken. It was back when I was a reporter, and one police department I covered had just purchased some software that allowed them to broadcast detailed alerts for wanted persons over the then-newfangled Internet. The cops wanted to try it out, and I was "volunteered" as the model. I was told to stand in front of a cinder-block wall and not to smile.
In a lifetime of hanging around photographers, I've had my photo taken a lot, and this was possibly the least flattering shot ever. The lighting was awful and I'd swear it was retouched to add wrinkles, jowls and blotches that I never see in the mirror each morning. Even the chic little 1950s silk scarf I was wearing looked totally inappropriate.
I forget what crimes they accused me of committing on the fake rap sheet that accompanied the dreadful photo, but if they're still on my permanent record I have zero chance of gaining political office.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving around the world

We had our Thanksgiving celebration a few days early, and I hope your family has as terrific a time as we did. After a classic dinner (the turkey was delicious despite some early issues with the cook-convection oven interface) with some always-festive Veuve Clicquot, we watched football. Because of the repeated complaints that the penalty-laden Dallas game was "awful" ("overpaid" and "incompetent" were other adjectives used), I suggested brightly that instead we should all watch "Pride and Prejudice" (the Colin Firth version). My motion was soundly denied; predictably, the vote was on strictly gender lines.

I was also introduced to The Young Relative's new favorite app, an especially cold-hearted one called Plague. In this gruesome game you create and name a plague ("Zombie"), define its symptoms (abscesses, pneumonia, anemia, paranoia are just a few of the choices), set its mutation and resistance levels, decide on a starting place and then let 'er rip. Day by day the infection rate mounts as planes and boats carry it from country to country. Relevant headlines pop up occasionally about nations that are investing in medical research ("Oh no! Indonesia is already working on a cure!") or less fortunate ones that have had to declare a public emergency ("YES! Cold resistance! I got to Greenland!").
"Who comes up with this stuff?!" exclaimed my mother in disbelief.
At one point, just as the virus had reached the UK, I received a text from my friend George, who lives on the south coast of England. "Tell him to stay indoors," cautioned my brother.
Despite the goriness, though, I have to say that it provides some pretty good lessons in geography, medicine, pharmacogenomics, and epidemiology. I certainly didn't know the words "zoonosis" and "bioaerosol" in the sixth grade.

Best Society

A faithful Newlin Township reader wrote a kind note to me about last week's "Newlyweds" item, thanking me for following the traditional etiquette of offering "best wishes" to the bride and "congratulations" to the groom. Her note attracted some comment when I posted it on Tilda's Facebook page. One reader wondered what she should say to a newly married gay couple (we agreed that a hearty "mazel tov" was highly suitable for all occasions and wouldn't tie up the receiving line).
Continuing the etiquette thread, another reader noted with frustration that people don't seem to RSVP to invitations anymore, which makes it really difficult to be a well-prepared hostess in terms of food, drink, seating and such. I've heard this from many hostesses. One woman I know is married to a prominent businessman and they socialize and entertain a great deal. She told me once that her practice is to respond to invitations, accept or decline, as soon as she receives them. It's kind of like the "touch each piece of paper only once" advice that organizers swear by.

What's your sign?

What's with all those new real-estate signs? Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett is the chairman) bought Fox & Roach, which has become part of "Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices." Seemingly overnight all those blue-and-white Fox & Roach "For Sale" signs have been replaced by maroon ones. This must've been a boon for sign-makers, printers of stationery and business cards, and press-release writers.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

We need more like him

We knew he'd retire sooner rather than later, but every election cycle that he didn't, I for one breathed a sigh of relief.
Well, the time has come: as doubtless you'll read elsewhere in this week's Kennett Paper, State Rep. Chris Ross has announced that he will not run for reelection when his term ends next year.
I've known Chris for 20 years, not only as my state representative but as a valued friend and neighbor, and if we had more people like him in government the world would be in much better shape. In the toxic atmosphere of political extremism that pollutes Harrisburg as well as Washington, Chris has kept to a moderate, thoughtful, reasonable, sensible, ethical course. I haven't always agreed with him, but more often than not, when I'll ask him about his vote (the poor man; he probably dreads seeing me at parties), his well-reasoned explanation makes sense and touches on broader ramifications I hadn't even considered.
Unlike so many ego-crazed politicians, Chris is always friendly, down-to-earth and approachable and is such a good sport about taking part in community events and parades. His appeal crosses partisan lines, and how refreshing is that kind of unity! When I posted on Facebook the news about his forthcoming retirement, the response was sad and swift from friends far left and far right on the political spectrum.
Whoever replaces him has some big shoes to fill (metaphorically speaking). Thanks for your unselfish, truly public service, Chris; and happy retirement!

Steel Rails and other hits

This week's musical adventure took us down to Newark for a bluegrass concert by Johnny & Jeanette Williams, Louisa Branscomb and Joe Zauner as part of the Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music series.
Among my varied popular musical experiences, I've seen in concert megastar arena-rock bands, feminist singer-songwriters, folk groups, reggae bands, a New Age flute player, and the uncategorizable chainsaw-wielding Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics, but until Friday night I can safely say I had never seen a bluegrass band. I'm glad I finally remedied this sad shortcoming: they were wonderful! Johnny played the guitar; his wife Jeanette played a novel upright electric bass; Louisa played mandolin and guitar; and Joe (whose day job is an attorney) played one mean banjo. They did a lot of their own original songs, as well as some country classics, gospel tunes and even a bluegrass version of the disco standard "I Will Survive." One song I particularly liked, "Dear Sister," was written by Louisa and was based on Civil War letters written by some Confederate ancestors of hers.
It was a great Southern-tinged evening (at one point the band asked if Newark was north of the Mason-Dixon line) with sweet harmonies and much foot-tapping among the audience.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wild Birds

It's not your seed, or your feeders, or your yard: the wild birds just haven't been coming to our feeders much this autumn until the past week. I noticed the unchanging levels of seed in my feeders and thought perhaps it had gone stale, even though I opened the bag only recently.
But no: when I was shopping at Wild Birds Unlimited in Hockessin on Thursday, owners Kathy and Charles Shattuck told me that everyone has reported the same situation. They had no explanation. Fortunately, I have noticed a lot more chickadees in just the past few days.
By the way, I know I've said it before, but it's worth repeating this time of year: Wild Birds is a great, locally owned, community-supporting nature store with lots of tasteful, classy gifts for humans and birds. I especially love their cards and ornaments. And be sure to say hi to West Marlborough's Risa Herman, who works there!

My 15 minutes

So now I guess I can add "model" to my resume! My trainer asked me if I'd demonstrate some Pilates moves for a workshop she was giving at the Jennersville Y, and I cheerfully agreed. Obviously she selected me for my "everywoman" body rather than asking one of the incredibly flexible teenage girls we have in class.
Modeling was fun and challenging. While I was demonstrating each move, the instructor would go around my body pointing out to the audience what I was doing right (back straight, legs straight, body stretched out, hands under shoulders for pushups), so I had to make sure that every detail of my form was perfect. No slacking off or breaks!
Doing it "wrong" was fun, too. To illustrate bad form, she asked me to deliberately plunk down from a crunch instead of inching down vertebra by vertebra. And once I got to let my stomach sag down and then pull it in to demonstrate how important our "powerhouse" abdominal muscles are.
I got a good workout -- and I hope I inspired some of the folks in the audience to try this excellent form of exercise.

In the movies

Movie director M. Night Shyamalan, who lives on the Main Line, is planning to shoot yet another one of his films in these parts in January and February. According to an email I received from the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau, the production team is searching for an "older stone/wood farmhouse,  on wooded, secluded property with outbuildings (barns, spring-house etc…). Will shoot a lot at this site, so will take over for about 6 weeks or so" (which means the owner has to vacate the premises). The property should be "in reasonable condition but not newly restored." Location fees to be negotiated.
Nina Kelly at the Visitors Bureau is the one to contact; 484-770-8550 ext. 201.
M. Night shot "The Village" in Chadds Ford and parts of "The Happening" and "The Last Airbender" around Unionville. It's great fun watching the movies on DVD and spotting friends' fencelines and properties and the famous "Road to Nowhere" that he created at the intersection of Scott and Powell Roads in Newlin Township.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

3-D Printer

The Bayard Taylor Library in Kennett has just acquired a MakerBot Replicator 2, a super-duper 3-D printer, and on Monday afternoon I got to watch it in operation.
Although it's called a printer, what this thing actually does is to lay down not ink, but thin layer on top of thin layer of molten plastic to form a shape, the exact dimensions of which are set by a computer program. What it reminded me of was a high-tech, more precise version of a pastry bag or a hot glue gun.
Library employee Ivy was kind enough to walk me through how the printer works. First the machine heated the biodegradable blue plastic filament (it looked like weed-whacker line) to 230 degrees centigrade ("Please wait while I heat my extruder," it informed us).
Ivy selected "Shark" as the product to be made. The machine's little platform rose (like Igor hoisting Frankenstein's monster up into the thunderstorm) and the "printer" started forming the shark, layer after layer, moving in a delicate zigzag to create the creature's teeth. As it worked it made beeping noises ("rather C3PO-ish," commented Library Director Donna Murray).

I stood there gawping in amazement during the 15 minutes it took to form my little shark (you can see it being formed right under the "hot surface" sign). The experience reminded me of the injection-molding machine that enchanted my brother and me at a Florida amusement park 30 years ago (we had it make a Yeti) -- except there's no mold involved in this; the product just forms before your eyes.
Ivy said that, being self-described geeks, she and her boyfriend first experimented with programs to make "the nerdiest things we could find," like robots and "Star Wars" and "Dr. Who" characters (Donna proudly showed me her blue Tardis, the time machine from the "Dr. Who" series). But imagine the possibilities: this thing can create customized cookie cutters, or tools, or toys, or Christmas ornaments.
I've included a photo of the completed shark next to my guinea pig Binnie for size comparison.
An anonymous benefactor donated the $2,800 machine to the library -- "he told me, `Buy one and send me the bill,'" said Donna -- and Ivy is planning to hold several introductory classes for the public. Patrons will be able to bring their own premade programs on a storage card or transmitted wirelessly or "mess around with something they've found," she said.
Bayard Taylor is the first public library in Pennsylvania to have a 3-D printer, and she hopes it will attract new patrons. Anybody interested can email her at btmlteens@gmail.com

Embreeville rezoning

The Newlin residents leading the fight against the proposed multi-use development at the former Embreeville State Hospital want you to mark Tuesday, Dec. 10, on your calendar; that's when there's going to be a key meeting of the West Bradford Township supervisors.
"The attorney and land planner for the developer are tentatively scheduled to make the pitch for rezoning of the Embreeville site at the December 10 supervisors meeting," reads an email I received. "They are still seeking 1,100 dwelling units. For those of you who have not attended a supervisors meeting to voice your opposition or just show support, THIS IS THE ONE TO GO TO! The meeting starts at 7:30 and will provide a period for public comment after the developer presents its rezoning plan. If you cannot go to the meeting, please email your detailed views to the West Bradford supervisors at www.wbradford@westbradford.org. The December 10 supervisors meeting will be at the Township Administration Office at the corner of Marshallton-Thorndale Road and Poorhouse Road."
The residents are concerned about the possible impact of such a large development on our rural roads and countryside. There's a multitude of information about the controversial plan on the West Bradford website.
Also, I'm told a third iteration of the anti-development sign is in the works and doubtless will be coming to a yard near you.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


If you're in the mood for creating Venn diagrams, imagine how the sets "motorcycle enthusiasts" and "dog lovers" would overlap. I'd wager that the vast majority of motorcyclists are also dog lovers. And my high-school classmate Greg is hoping that, like him, they'll want to take their dogs along with them on their motorcycle jaunts, ideally using his invention the DogSaucer.
This clever product is a little wheeled dog trailer with a clear top that reminds me of one of those personal space ships in "The Jetsons." A friend said she spotted a dog riding in one in Lancaster County and he looked "very happy."

The photo, taken on Greg's Chester Springs farm, shows his best friend Nova, who has logged more than 30,000 miles in the DogSaucer.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Spirit Wing

On Saturday a friend and I traveled to the Oxford Friends Meeting to listen to a quartet called Spirit Wing as part of the Friends Folk Club series. It's hard to describe Spirit Wing, which hails from Phoenixville: the bulk of the show was Native American-inspired music, but they also played country music, bluegrass and reggae. It blew my mind just a little when the group who had just done a traditional longhouse social dance segued into an impassioned version of George Gershwin's "Summertime," a tropical steel-drum number and a very funny song called "Counting Coup on the Highway" (let's just say the band isn't fond of Volvos).

No matter what the musical genre, though, the group's message was a wholesome one of respect for nature (they talked about how exciting it is to see crawfish back in the Schuylkill River after a long hiatus) and the importance of keeping traditions alive and expressing gratitude for peace, family and friends. They did a fun show (including a sing-along that involved the audience members making crow noises -- yes, of course I joined in!) and kept both kids and adults entertained.
Oxford Meeting is a nice venue (sorry about tracking in all those yellow gingko leaves!), though I'm not sure the benches were designed with the human body in mind. At intermission they had excellent baked goods and I browsed through a book called "Quaker Economics."

Fire company fundraiser

Earlier this year I heard some folks kicking around some ideas about holding a fundraiser for the local volunteer fire companies, but I had no idea that from these casual conversations would come a party as successful as the one at St. Michael Lutheran Church on Saturday night. Thanks to the dedicated, hard-working committee members, it was an absolutely rocking evening, with a terrific turnout of uniformed firefighters and emergency personnel (fire trucks, too) and people from just about every circle of the Unionville community you can think of. I'd start listing them, but I'm sure I'd forget somebody; suffice it to say I was losing my voice after about 90 minutes. All the money raised from admission tickets, the raffle and the auctions will be split among the Po-Mar-Lin, Modena and West Bradford fire companies.
It was hard to believe that the party was a first-time effort, it was so well organized and successful. And did I mention fun!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

30 mph

So how's the new 30-mph speed limit working out in "downtown" Unionville? I've asked a few people who live or work along Route 82 and opinion seems split. Some see a definite slowdown; others don't see any difference.
At an East Marlborough Township meeting the other night, one fellow commented dryly that pulling out onto busy Route 82 simply isn't a problem anymore; with the new lower speed limit, "we're all safe now!"
Hearty laughter greeted his quip.

Roses and thorns

The other day I went out to harvest bittersweet from along a back road here in West Marlborough (yes, I had permission from the landowner) so that I could weave a autumnal wreath for the door. I quickly realized that intimately intertwined with the bittersweet along the fencerow were multiflora rose vines, thick with both rose hips and prickers. My leather rose-pruning gauntlets would have been ideal for the situation -- had they actually been on my hands, instead of languishing uselessly in my gardening work basket back home. My hands got a little scraped up, my barn jacket has a few snags -- but I got a lovely and more-or-less circular wreath out of it!

Friday, November 15, 2013


Remember Jessica Latshaw, the charming singer/songwriter/dancer from Landenberg whose ukulele talents on the New York City subway "went viral" on YouTube in January 2012? Well, she was back in her hometown on Nov. 9 to wed TJ Taormina, who hosts "The TJ Show" on 103.3 AMP Radio in Boston. The two, who met in New York and had been dating for two years, tied the knot after a two-month engagement. Jess' parents are Bruce and Lynn Latshaw. I know Jess (who is an utter sweetheart) from the Jennersville Y, where we used to take the same exercise class.
Best wishes, Jess, and congratulations, TJ!

Quaker events

This morning I went to London Grove Friends Meeting's used-book sale (frequent readers know it would be easier just to list the used-book sales that I actually pass up) for the benefit of the Meeting's wonderful kindergarten. Meeting member Leona Provinski greeted me warmly and told me she estimated that the volunteers collected 2,500 books.

I bought a bag full -- not that I really need more books in my house, but just because I thought some of them would interest friends or family, and others might come in handy if we get really snowed in this winter. I also found an old John Thompson primer that took me right back to my piano-lessons days in the 1960s. I simply had to buy it, if only to revisit the quaint and well-remembered 1920s illustrations.

Another Quaker event is coming up on Saturday, Nov. 23. The Quaker Fair at Kennett Friends Meeting, a local tradition, will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. As always, there's a used-book sale, home-made crafts, a rummage sale and lunch. Proceeds benefit the American Friends Service Committee.


There's a photo of New Bolton Center in a Nov. 6 "Wall Street Journal" article about improving the quality of eggs by altering the hens' diets. According to the article, written by Sarah Nassauer, the egg distributor Eggland's Best, headquartered in Jeffersonville, keeps about 120 hens at New Bolton "to test how changes in chicken feed affect nutrients in eggs." Kevin Burkum, senior vice president of marketing for the American Egg Board, is quoted as giving instructions for making the perfect hard-cooked egg: "cover it with cold water in a pan, bring to a boil, then turn off the burner and let it sit covered for 12 minutes."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Class clowns

Last night at dinner at Giordano's I was telling the Young Relative how important it is to make friends with a broad range of people. He said he understands, and counts among his pals all sorts of people, including athletes, a few rowdy youths, and the class clowns.
"Class clowns?!" I said, and began to describe with disapproval the annoyingly raucous jokers of my own junior-high days. Suddenly I realized that the two wildest boys had not, in fact, ended up in the gutter but had turned out to become a high-ranking Army chaplain and a well-known local orthopedic surgeon.
The Young Relative picked up on this immediately, of course. Another nail in the coffin of my credibility.

Hood's expansion plans

Hood's BBQ & Deli received permission on Nov. 13 from the East Marlborough Township Zoning Hearing Board for its expansion plans, and now needs to seek approval from the township supervisors.
The expansion would double the size of the Unionville restaurant and the number of seats, would replace the parking spaces in front of the restaurant with a terrace for outdoor seating, and would add parking out back.
Larry Hood, who owns the restaurant along with his parents, Dawn and Larry, told the board he hopes to "clean things up and make things a lot nicer."
Eliminating the parking in the front of the restaurant would also remove a safety concern, he said. Although the number of parking spaces on the site would still be limited, he said that patrons can easily park just across the street in the URA ballfield lots, where currently customers with large trucks, vans or horse trailers often park.
After hearing an hour and a half of testimony about the site and the proposal, the zoning board left the room for a brief executive session and then returned and voted to approve all the variances and special exceptions the Hoods had requested.
The Unionville restaurant needed the zoning board's permission because of the numerous size and topography constraints imposed by its half-acre lot on Route 82.
This sketch of the proposed expansion is courtesy of the architect, Brad Bernstein of DesignData Associates:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Goat Kitchen & Bar

I got a tip from my pal Ivy that her father, restaurateur and chef David Weir, has signed a lease and plans to open a new restaurant this winter in Hockessin: the Goat Kitchen & Bar at 1216 Old Lancaster Pike (the former Lake's Country store). "The vibe will be casual and the food uncompromisingly delicious," he writes on the restaurant's website -- and offers a hint of the forthcoming menu by giving a recipe for Jalapeno pesto. Mr. Weir has served as executive chef at Buckley's, The Four Dogs Tavern, and the Marshallton Inn.the food uncompromisingly delicious. I come from a long line of Irish bar owners who instilled in
me the secrets of a successful bar: great food, friendly service, fair prices, and strong drinks.  vibe will be casual and the food uncompromisingly delicious. I come from a long line of Irish bar owners who instilled in me the secrets of a successful bar: great food, friendly service, fair prices, and strong drinks.

In the lobby

If you've visited the Kennett Y recently, I'm sure you've noticed in the lobby the giant mural of historic downtown Kennett Square. It shows two trolleys, one to West Grove and one to West Chester, at the northwest corner of Union and State Streets (known as the Unicorn Block). The scene is from a 1909 postcard (which is shown in Joseph Lordi's postcard book, "Kennett Square").

Speaking of Kennett history and postcards, it was so nice to see Dolores and Leon Rowe at dinner at Giordano's on Wednesday night! They were there celebrating a friend's birthday.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Art Gala

At the Unionville Art Gala on Nov. 8, I had a great time meeting a lot of perfectly charming high-school kids. We read a lot about how Digital Age kids spend their entire lives online and don't know how to interact with actual people anymore: not true, at least in this case. Working in pairs, the kids were responsible for greeting the guests, working the crowd, distributing programs and serving the wonderful hors d'oeuvres, and their social skills and courtesy seemed unimpeachable.
I enjoyed meeting the student artists as well and seeing their work: again, even in our digital world, it's a nice chance for youths to see that experiencing art live, in a gallery, with people around, is a worthwhile way to spend an evening.
As a veteran of organizing fund-raisers, I can only imagine how many hours and committee meetings it took to pull together this event. One of the craftspeople even went out of his way to tell me how well he and his fellow artists were treated by the organizers -- which, he says, isn't the case at all the shows he attends. Well done to the dedicated committee members!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Perfectly Fowl Week

Who knew? Chickens love to eat pumpkins, and the seeds even contain a natural de-wormer. Now that it's well past Halloween, I took my largest pumpkin over to a friend's hutch and something of a poultry frenzy ensued, with the hens and roosters clucking with excitement, pecking at the pumpkin flesh, and gobbling the seeds. My friend reports that nothing was left but the stem!

And on Saturday I stopped by Baily's Dairy in Pocopson for milk and had a great time watching the ducks strutting around.

Whitewing Farm decision

The East Marlborough Township zoning hearing board has ruled against Lance and Sandra Shortt's bid to continuing to hold wedding receptions and parties at their Whitewing Farm property on Valley Road (formerly owned by the DeSetas).
Some neighbors had complained that the events brought unwanted traffic and noise to their neighborhood, and a legal battle ensued that eventually led to a series of zoning hearings. The Shortts argued that they had the right to continue holding the events because the township's zoning ordinance didn't allow "private assembly uses" anywhere in East Marlborough.
In its 30-page ruling, the members of the zoning board (Tom Simpers, Richard Pratt, Gerald Hoover, John Laffey and Steve Davidson) disagreed with the Shortts' argument and in fact found that "the proposed Private Assembly Use is encompassed and permitted under several use categories in the Zoning Ordinance." They also found the evidence presented by the township's expert witness "to be more credible" than that presented by the one hired by the Shortts.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Red Lion Road

"Unionville in the News" reader Beth emailed to ask me if knew anything about the little house that's being rebuilt along Red Lion Road in Pocopson Township
"I have always loved that house and often wondered about it.  It is obviously going to be used as there is much construction and quite a few people around the place," she wrote. "Just wondering ... and am happy that someone cares enough to save yet another piece of local history."
I didn't know anything about it, but happily enough The Kennett Paper's editor, Fran Maye, did. He told me that the former tenant house was built in 1780 and is one of the oldest houses still standing in Chester County. Under the direction of Sam Wickersham, it's being rebuilt exactly the way it was. The masons are using fieldstone from nearby and have reused all the brick and added old brick from other places nearby.

Beaver lodge

The other day I got a tip that there was a beaver lodge off a back road nearby, and I traipsed through some high weeds and a marsh and located it. It's huge! They've also built a dam, and there's now a lake where there wasn't one before.
(One local wag asked if the beavers had secured zoning permission and a building permit from the township before building the structures.)
A friend recalled that at the school where she teaches, beavers dragged away the boards that had been laid down over the wet areas along a nature trail. "It was kind of funny to imagine them strategizing tossing them into the dam they built, which is exactly what they did," she said. "Would love to see them at work but they're so secretive."

Book Sale

There's going to be a used book sale at London Grove Friends Meeting from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, and from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17. Donations of books, movies and CDs are welcome (except for textbooks and musty books, reasonably enough) and can be dropped off at the meeting house at Newark Road and Route 926. Proceeds benefit the meeting's kindergarten.
If you stop by the sale, make a point of taking a few minutes to appreciate the magnificent Penn Oak.

Semi-feral ponies

I love seeing the adorable semi-feral ponies as I'm driving past the New Bolton Center campus, and equine behavior specialist Dr. Sue McDonnell gave a fascinating lecture about them on Nov. 5. In her slide-illustrated lecture, she explained some of the research that she and her colleagues have done on the ponies over the years, including measuring the extraordinary distance they travel around their pastures using pedometers, GPS trackers and helmet-cams (the helmet-cam footage doesn't sound very thrilling; there's a lot of grazing involved). She outlined her "top ten important observations" about the ponies' behavior that "are known or suspected to be important factors underlying the extraordinarily good health, fertility and freedom from injury of these horses compared with domestically managed horses" and explained how horse lovers can improve the health of their own equines by using some of these principles.
One point I found especially interesting was that turkey buzzards and foxes seem to know when a mare in the herd is about to give birth; the researchers have noticed that both are seen hovering around with increased frequency as the time approaches.
The lecture was packed. I think I heard additional chairs being set up at the back of Alumni Hall to accommodate more people, but I didn't want to turn away lest I miss any of the slides of cute foals.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

London Grove signs

London Grove village is going to get some new traffic signs at Route 926 and Newark Road. From what the West Marlborough Township supervisors have been told, PennDOT will shortly install (1) a double-pointed arrow to alert westbound motorists that if they continue going straight on Route 926 they'll run smack into a hill and (2) a "No Left Turn" sign on Newark Road to discourage southbound drivers from turning left directly onto 926 instead of taking the little jog and stopping at the stop sign.
At the Nov. 4 township meeting, Supervisor Hugh Lofting used a map drawn on a piece of old cardboard by his son, road crew supervisor Hugh Lofting Jr., to illustrate where the new signs would be located. (There was a great deal of hilarity and good-natured ribbing about the younger Lofting's distinctly low-tech -- but effective -- artwork. And friends wonder why I refuse to miss a single township meeting.)

Fireworks fallout, continued

Repercussions from the widely criticized Sept. 7 fireworks display at the Stone Barn continued at the November West Marlborough Township meeting. Cindy Weymouth, whose farm is adjacent to the Stone Barn, told the supervisors at the October meeting that the fireworks had terrified her horses (she was only one of many who expressed similar concerns), and she returned to the November meeting to ask if the board had made any progress on changing the fireworks ordinance.
Bill Wylie, who chairs the Board of Supervisors, said they would be working with the township solicitor to try to tighten up the rules, perhaps limiting fireworks to certain parts of the township or certain times of the day, and establishing a more formal process by which neighbors would be notified of an upcoming display.
"You have three supervisors up here who would be just as happy never to have fireworks again," he explained, "but it has to be legal."
Supervisor Hugh Lofting agreed, saying that in a rural area like West Marlborough with many valuable horses, a loud fireworks display "just doesn't work."

Hay fire donations

The special fire company account established by the West Marlborough Township supervisors has grown to $2,150 thanks to contributions from the public, township secretary/treasurer Shirley Walton reported at the board's Nov. 4 meeting.
All the money raised will go to the 14 volunteer fire companies that helped to battle the huge hay fire Sept. 14 at the Hicks Brothers' Meadow Springs Farm on Newark Road: Avondale, Christiana, Cochranville, Goodwill, Hockessin, Kennett, Keystone Valley, Longwood, Modena, Po-Mar-Lin, Union, West Bradford, West Grove, and Westwood.
All donations will be tax deductible; checks should be sent by Dec. 15, 2013, to West Marlborough Township, P.O. Box 94, Unionville,. PA 19375; email westmarlboroughtownship@verizon.net with any questions.


At the November West Marlborough Township meeting, the township's police officer, Bob Clarke, reported that he wrote seven speeding tickets in October (and one stop-sign violation). He said he nabs most speeders on Newark Road, as well as some on Route 926. He also warned motorists that the speed limit along Route 82 through Unionville has been lowered from 35 to 30 mph, and it is being enforced (Officer Clarke also works for the police force in East Marlborough, where the town of Unionville proper is technically located).

Internet safety

I just signed up for a lecture about Internet safety for kids ("Social Media Awareness: Your Child in the Digital World") that's going to be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Unionville High School auditorium. It's free and open to the public; register at www.socialmediafocus.eventbrite.com.
I'm constantly amazed at how fluent the Young Relative is online, but I really shouldn't be: computer games and the Internet have been around his entire life. He informed me recently that Facebook is officially passé because all of us old folks (i.e., people my age) are using it now. He wouldn't tell me what has replaced it.
When registering for the talk online I got an error message with a red X symbol warning me that the site's web certificate had dubious origins. Ah, well played, I thought; the organizers are giving us an example of effective Internet security. How clever!
Then I realized I mistyped the URL.