Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Debt ceiling

A friend and I stopped off for a cup of coffee at Landhope yesterday. I hadn't brought my purse, so she treated, and I thanked her at the cash register. The cashier said something like, well, isn't that nice of her! I agreed, and remarked that not only was she paying for my coffee, she had treated me to lunch the week before.
The cashier looked at me and then pointed up to the ceiling of the convenience store.
"That's your level of debt," he said.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I picked up my car this afternoon after its two-day stay in one of our local auto-body repair shops. They provided stellar customer service, not a single delay or glitch. I asked the office manager for the name of the owner, because I wanted to write a letter singing their praises.
She thanked me, gave me the name of the fellow to write to and then handed over my key and told me where my car was parked.
"You probably won't recognize it," she said. "We washed it."
The other person in the office looked over at her.
"There goes that thank-you note," he said.

No reason

I'm convinced that a lot of collisions are caused by drivers doing unexpected things.
While running errands I was westbound on Route 926 at the Willowdale crossroads, turning left toward Kennett. The green arrow appeared, and the guy in front of me started turning left. Then, in the middle of the intersection, he stopped for some unknown reason and gestured to oncoming eastbound motorists that they could cross the intersection. I guess he thought he knew better than the traffic light.
Why would you do that? WHY? A tailgater would have rear-ended him for sure! 

Sorry, wrong number

This morning I received a message that a reporter from a national newspaper is looking for "avid women gardeners who are sartorially smart and can nimbly talk about the different garments they favor, from boots to jackets. For this story, we are channeling a sort of English Countryside look (think Barbour Jackets; Dubarry boots, etc.). Sound like you or someone you know?"
I'm still laughing out loud at this. In no way do I qualify! Yeah, I can certainly "nimbly talk" about any subject under the sun, and OK, I do have the boots. But other than that, I seriously doubt the reporter would be interested in hearing about my distinctly functional and non-luxury shorts, socks, T-shirts, bandanas, work gloves, ball cap and sunscreen.
Too funny!

Safe and sound

Perhaps you remember my item from a few weeks back, in which a friend of mine spotted a loose yellow Lab in the parking lot of the Unionville post office, alerted the owner by phone, and took the dog into the lobby. She was prepared to wait until he arrived, but Postmaster Bill volunteered to keep the dog behind the counter with him. 
The owners were kind enough to send me an update:
"Thanks to Bill and all who helped our dog, Tucker. His wife, Daisy, was out with him on their adventure and was found in the house (through doggie door) safe and sound. Their four 8-week-old puppies were the most grateful for returning their parents. Now I get to fix their fence around our old farmhouse!"

Sunday, February 24, 2013

More books

Saturday morning I stopped by the annual used book sale at Unionville High School. I've learned to avoid going on Friday evening, when the sale opens, because that's when hordes of, shall we say, motivated dealers with their large rolling carts show up. Saturday drew a nice crowd of shoppers, along with lots of parent and student volunteers, to the renovated high-school gymnasium.
There's always a huge variety of books, from seemingly dozens of copies of bestsellers like "Eat, Pray, Love," "Three Cups of Tea" and "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" to an obscure subgenre called "Feminist Mysteries" that until yesterday I'd never heard of. I liked the title of one book about writing, "How to Write Without Knowing Nothing." And a 1949 book, "The Road Ahead to Socialism: American's Creeping Revolution," sounded quite contemporary. I ended up buying a book of Ruth Rendell short stories, a charming Dr. Doolittle story and a history book.
I think all the books that I donated, including a 10-inch-thick unabridged Webster's dictionary, must've sold on Friday, because I didn't spot any of them.

Checkered flag

This afternoon is the annual running of the Daytona 500, and there's a local connection: Unionville native Gene Nead is the crew chief for driver Michael McDowell (Team #98)! My brother, an avid NASCAR fan, will be watching the race on his colossal-sized TV, and I've assigned him the task of reporting any Gene sightings.
Later: McDowell, who started in 37th position, finished in the ninth spot, just behind Danica Patrick, who had the pole position. Jimmie Johnson won, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. No Nead sightings.
I know that hoping that NASCAR has a crash-free season would be as pointless and unpopular as wishing that the NHL has a fistfight-free season, but I hope the injuries are minimal.

A facelift

Hood's in Unionville reopens on March 1.They've been shut down for a week to do some cleaning and renovating now that they've officially purchased the restaurant. I drove by on Saturday night and spied ladders and drop cloths and extension cords inside the entrance and I'm eager to see the results!

Harbingers of Spring

The window of opportunity for a blizzard is dwindling, I fear: we've got maybe six more weeks. And already there are signs of spring all over. I spotted the first Angus calf in the pasture up the road yesterday (so cute!), and folks have been posting on Facebook photos of adorable newborn colts, kids (goat kids, that is), lambs and puppies. A friend has noticed an uptick in her hens' egg production, and in addition she'll be taking delivery of 20 chicks in a few weeks. Local horse people and snowbirds are returning from their winter stays in South Carolina and Florida.
At my parents' new home there are swathes of bulbs coming up, and my hellebores are close to blooming. There's one sunny bank in Unionville that always has the earliest daffodils, and they're already probably five inches tall. And have you noticed that, when seen from a certain angle, there's a green-yellow haze developing in the willow trees?

I'll Take Romance

On Saturday evening I went to a hugely entertaining concert by Molly Ringwald at Longwood Gardens. Molly, now a mother of three, remains best known for her movie roles in the 1980s ("The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles" in particular) but is launching a new career as a chanteuse. On Saturday she sang standards from the Great American Songbook -- such as "The Very Thought of You," "I'll Be Seeing You," Pick Yourself Up" -- and put in lots of plugs for her forthcoming CD, "Except Sometimes," to be released in April.
She praised the Great American Songbook as "one of our national treasures" and contrasted these brilliant classics with the disposable popular music of today.
I think my favorite song she did was from "My Fair Lady": the enchanting "On the Street Where You Live."
Molly sounded great and looked beautiful in a red, skin-tight, one-shouldered knee-length dress and towering black heels. Her backing trio was led by her musical director Peter Smith, who was extraordinary at the piano.
Molly told the audience how amazing it was to perform in such a beautiful setting as Longwood, calling it "surreal" and "a magic garden." Not only did Longwood look beautiful in the evening, but the fragrance -- freesias, stocks, daffodils and Oriental lilies -- was sublime.
She closed the show with "Don't You Forget About Me," by Simple Minds, which was featured in "The Breakfast Club." The woman sitting next to me, a schoolteacher from New Jersey, clapped with delight as she heard the first few words.

Friday, February 22, 2013

By November 1

Russell Jones has agreed to remove the mounds of spent compost from his Hood Road farm by Nov. 1. And with it goes a recurring item on the West Marlborough Township supervisors' agenda.
Last autumn Mr. Jones had 900 loads of spent compost trucked in from local mushroom farms to his property, located south of Hood Road near Mosquito Lane. It was supposed to decompose there for some months and then be removed to be bagged up and sold as potting soil.
However, neighbors complained about the noise and truck traffic and told the township they were worried about environmental damage. The Brandywine Conservancy, which holds an easement on Mr. Jones' property, also objected to the use. And the supervisors told Mr. Jones that under the township zoning code he needed to apply for conditional-use permission to continue dumping the spent compost.
At the township meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21, Mr. Jones's attorney, Brian Nagle of the MacElree Harvey law firm, told the supervisors that his client had worked out an agreement with the Conservancy where Mr. Jones would have the compost removed from the fields as soon as the weather and ground conditions permit, possibly as early as May or June but definitely no later than Nov. 1. Mr. Jones said it will take three months to remove all the soil.
"We're in the hands of the weather," explained Mr. Jones. He said the ground has to be firm and dry before dump trucks can enter the site (they'll be using his gravel driveway off Hood Road). He also said he didn't want the trucks tracking mud out onto the road.
Indeed, because the ground needs to be dry, a Hood Road resident told the supervisors he was concerned that the truck traffic will kick up too much dust. Roadmaster and Supervisor Hugh Lofting assured the neighbor that if he receives a complaint about excess dust during the work, he will contact Mr. Jones and "we'll take care of it immediately."
Mr. Jones said he plans to reseed the property as soon as the compost is gone.
Supervisors Lofting and Michael Ledyard approved a separate agreement reached between the township and Mr. Jones, making only a slight modification: to emphasize the urgency of the situation, they added a cross-reference to a sentence in the Conservancy's agreement about "time being of the essence." Mr. Nagle then withdrew his application for conditional-use permission, and everyone went home for the evening.
Unexpectedly, there were a couple of amusing moments from the legal profession during the evening:
-- When Mr. Nagle stood up to introduce himself, he said he was substituting for fellow attorney Mary Ann Rossi and would try to fill her "large shoes." He caught himself, remembering that in fact Ms. Rossi is a petite woman. "Actually," he said, "they're pretty small."
-- The township's attorney, Dwight Yoder, opened the meeting by offering a detailed recap of the Jones situation and outlining what action was anticipated for the evening. "That may have been more than you wanted to know," he said dryly as he wrapped up.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A big project

My regular readers know that I'm fascinated by the work being done at the old Elvin farm along Apple Grove Road (and from the number of people who have asked me about it, I'm far from being the only one who's interested!). The crumbling barn and long-abandoned farmhouse have been torn down completely; I doubted they were salvageable at any price. A few stone walls of the barn foundation remain, and there's a giant mound of earth full of big rocks in front of what used to be the farmhouse. When I drove by yesterday afternoon there was all kinds of earth-moving going on, and it looks like they've installed a stone-lined drainage ditch for drainage. There's an architect's sign on the property, so something should be going in.


A friend who lives in Kennett recently had a plumber out to look at his leaky toilet. He really, really hopes it can be fixed because it's not just any toilet: it was manufactured by H. Schmaltz & Co.of Kennett Square and bears the maker's name prominently emblazoned on the rim, back near the tank. (Yes, Mum, I knew you'd want to know, so I asked him exactly where it was on the toilet.)

According to Joe Jordi's Kennett Square postcard history book, H. Schmaltz and Company was a hardware, tinsmith and plumbing business that opened its doors around 1904 at 101 East State Street. The Schmaltz family lived in a splendid Victorian building at 120 Marshall Street, now the borough hall.

A very patient patient

This afternoon I was giving two visitors a tour at a local historic house where I volunteer, and I spotted a woman walking around outside taking photos. I invited her in and asked if she wanted to join the tour. She was hesitant at first but then accepted.
"Let me go out and get my husband," she said. "He's in the car."
She explained that he had had hand surgery at Chester County Hospital that morning and in fact she was driving him home to Avondale when she saw our cars out front and decided to pull in. She said she'd driven past the house for years and always wondered what it looked like inside.
So in came her amazingly tolerant husband, hospital bracelet still around his wrist. At one point during the tour I asked him if he was feeling OK. He said the pain meds hadn't yet worn off, so he was just fine.
Talk about a good sport!

More than coincidence?

Today at lunch I ran into a friend who took part in the BVA's Polar Plunge as a member of the winning Embreeville Mill team (the Golden Plunger trophy resides at the Mill for the year). As a proud supporter of the Brandywine Valley Association, this was his fourth year of participating. He even showed me his photo in last week's Kennett Paper, waist-deep in the creek (yes, he went fully under).
His all-important veteran's strategy is to start ingesting warming fluids at 10 a.m., 90 minutes ahead of the plunge, and then to continue drinking for some time afterward. But y'know what? For a usually hardy outdoorsman, he didn't sound so good when I saw him: he was stuffed up and coughing and said that for some mysterious reason he'd been really, really sick the past week.

Paper, not plastic

Just a reminder that the green metal bin in the Unionville Post Office parking lot is for recyclable paper only. I dropped off a few bags yesterday and noticed that someone had deposited a clear plastic bag full of trash. It's not a trash can!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Honoring St. Patrick

At a recent meeting, the men of St. Patrick Catholic Church's Knights of Columbus chapter were brainstorming about how to publicize their St. Patrick's Day event. One fellow had a bright idea: Did anyone happen to know Tilda Tally-ho?
Well! My dear friend Doug, an active member of the group, spoke up and said not only does he KNOW me, he was having lunch with me on Sunday!
He immediately became the center of attention and said all week long he received a flurry of e-mails containing information about the event to share with me.
So here's the story: The group is holding "a wholesome family celebration honoring St. Patrick" at the Kennett Fire Company's Red Clay Room on Dalmatian Street from 7 to 11 p.m. March 16. On the program is Irish music by The Ladeens, performances by the Do Cairde School of Irish Dance, and a buffet and refreshments, including soda, beer and wine. Ticket are $25 for adults and $16 for children 12 and under and will be sold in advance or at the door. For more information visit the chapter's website, Proceeds from the event will "assist those in need within our community, and also around the Globe."

He cleaned up!

A friend was eager to tell me about an incredible deal he got on the Dove soap he likes at the Avondale Acme. Normally six bars for $7.99, it was on sale for $6.49. He bought three six-packs and used three $4 coupons. On top of this, there was a special deal running where he got a $5 coupon off his next week's grocery purchase.
So he ended up getting 18 bars of soap for $2.47, or 13 cents a bar for soap that usually sells for $1.33 a bar. He said even the cashier commented on what a great deal that was.
Lest anyone should think he is some kind of a soap hoarder, he was quick to add that he's storing it on a shelf against an outside wall, so it's also serving as insulation.

Ambassador Tilda

On Saturday evening I was hurrying along State Street on my way to meet the family at the Half Moon when I saw a couple standing on the sidewalk looking around them, obviously lost. They asked if by any remote chance I knew where the Byrsa Bistro was. Indeed I did! I told them to cross Union Street and they'd be there -- and I threw in my opinion that they were assured of having an excellent dinner.

There is hope!

In last week's column I told you a story about two surly young boys at the Y and bemoaned the state of manners in the world today. So you can imagine how much it warmed my heart when one of the participants in the Kennett Square Junior Cotillion, a generations-old program, told me that in Week 1 he learned about making introductions, shaking hands, and correct buffet behavior (put only one piece on your plate and then move along). And in the dancing portion of the class they learned the salsa! I can't wait to hear about Week 2. His mother showed me a photograph of her son looking extremely smart in his Cotillion outfit: the traditional blue blazer, khaki trousers and tie. The program runs for six weeks at the Kennett Square Country Club.
A friend of mine who grew up around here did Cotillion when she was young and to this day frequently comments, when confronted with a glaring example of rude behavior, "I'm telling you: Cotillion for all." Excellent advice.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A true friend

Given the number of locals who were glued to the TV watching the Westminster Dog Show last week, I wonder if anyone knows the story behind this charming canine statue in front of the Cleaden tombstone at the Wilmington and Brandywine Cemetery?
An online caption says it's a whippet, but a pal who's a dog expert says it's not: "Hair on body and tail too long; chest cavity needs to be deeper in relation to narrower hips." According to the tombstone, the person buried there is James M. Cleaden, who died in 1873 at the age of 48. On the plaque his sister describes him as "an affectionate brother and a true friend." But there's no mention of who the dog is.

Workout buddies

Our local YMCAs had a bring-a-friend special this past week, and a woman in one of my exercise classes persuaded an office-mate to join her, apparently by telling her the class was fun and easy. The newcomer realized within minutes that her friend had perhaps not been quite forthright about the level of difficulty and began giving her looks of disbelief and mock-protesting: "Relaxing, you said! It's just stretching, you said!" At one point she wondered aloud what on earth she was doing in a room "with a bunch of fit chicks." She was actually a very good sport, but I suspect things may have been a tad tense at their workplace the next day.

Number, please

A friend and neighbor phoned the other day asking me where he could recycle his old cell phones. I told him I'd be glad to look into it because I, too, have a bunch of vintage ones sitting around. The best on-line reference I found is, which gives detailed information about the recycling programs that each carrier has in place (T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.) as well as general drop-off places like Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy and Lowe's. Wisely, they caution you to delete all your personal data from the phone first.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fun on Route 202

I was watching a morning news program in a waiting room and the announcer was describing an unusually bad traffic tie-up along Route 202, in the construction zone near the Route 29 interchange.
"How about that!" I remarked. "I was in that exact spot yesterday."
The gentleman sitting next to me commented that even though he knows perfectly well the lanes are still 12 feet wide, it makes him uneasy driving along an extended stretch of road like that hemmed in by those temporary concrete barriers.

In the course of conversation of the next few days I was surprised how many people agree that those "cattle chutes" give them the willies, whether they drive a Ford Focus or a Dodge Ram pickup.
Speaking of road construction, it seems that the off-ramp from the Route 1 bypass to Route 796 (Jennersville Rd.) is going to be widened to two lanes, and a traffic light is going to be installed, as part of construction of the proposed medical center going in just north of the interchange. That can certainly be a clogged intersection: I've often seen exiting traffic back up all the way down the ramp at rush hour, and impatient motorists tired of waiting sometimes make rash decisions about pulling out when they finally reach Route 796. It'll be interesting to see if this improvement has any impact on the adjacent intersection at Route 796 and Old Baltimore Pike.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Thank you to my friends at RP Nurseries in Willowdale for stocking the very best paperwhite bulbs anywhere. I bought 25 of them late last year and planted them in pots around the house for indoor forcing. They just finished blooming this week, quite a lengthy season! There wasn't a dud in the bunch: all of them produced lots of green foliage and several stalks of those little white flowers with that intoxicating scent.

Why Facebook exists

I was committing some stacks of clippings to the recycling bin the other day and a circular piece of paper, a couple of inches in diameter, fell out. It was a promotional sticker for Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, an extremely minor punk-rock band of the late 1970s. If you've never heard of them, that's OK: they had only one hit, and I can absolutely, positively guarantee you it's not going to be on the program at the Hillendale Elementary School Spring Concert.
Amused, I posted this obscure find on Facebook. Within minutes a musician friend who lives in Pocopson replied, awestruck that a relic of this band still survived. He wrote: "I used to close my DJ sessions with one of their songs. I had no idea who they were, actually found the tape lying in the road in Fort Lauderdale on Spring Break in 1979. Played it six months later and was blown away by how awesome they were....I can tell you that for a college DJ in 1979 that song, following "Flashlight" by Parliament, was the KILLER of all closes for a dance party."
I told him I'm mail him the sticker immediately but warned him it was rather scuffed up and had long ago lost its adhesive. He didn't care in the least: "it's so awesome that it even exists." He plans to give it a place of honor on one of his guitar cases, "I just haven't decided which one."

Capital mushrooms

The other evening I had a few extra portabellas (I know; let's have a pity party for Tilda), so I sliced them up and roasted them around my chicken like you'd do for potatoes. They turned out to be delicious, just the right texture and so fragrant! And they were grown right here in West Marlborough. Try it and see what you think.

Ice-cream parlor?

Last month I wrote about the possibility of an ice-cream parlor opening in downtown Unionville, in the first floor of the Cemetery Lane building that until recently housed Andra Rudershausen's quilting shop. The East Marlborough supervisors will hold a conditional-use hearing to discuss the proposal, submitted by Henry I. Brown III and Doug and Pat Mooberry, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 4, at the township building. The site is in the village commercial zoning district.

At Union & Cypress

Noelia Scharon, the owner of the Michoacana Grill in downtown Kennett, told me that she's buying the building next door and plans to expand her wonderful Mexican restaurant. Up to now it's been pretty much take-out only, but she plans to put in chairs and tables so you can enjoy your chicken burrito or fish tacos right there! Great news! She said she hopes to have the addition up and running by the summer.
Aren't we lucky to have such great Mexican cuisine around here? On Wednesday some financial business took me on a trek along Route 1, Lancaster Avenue and City Line Avenue, and I couldn't help but notice all the chain Mexican restaurants along the way. They don't know what they're missing.
In other restaurant news, Hood's in Unionville is going to be closed Wednesday, Feb. 20, through Thursday, Feb. 28, for spring cleaning and preparing for BBQ season, according to the notice posted on the door. They'll reopen March 1.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Rest in peace, Jack

Jack Singer, who died Saturday at age 81, was a guy who seemed to be at home just everywhere. You'd see him at the post office, at the Buck & Doe Trust breakfast in the Laurels, at equestrian events, directing traffic at accident scenes and of course at his shop, Chester County Timber. For years he served as the official photographer at the Unionville Community Fair, and he'd spend the entire weekend at the Fair, chronicling every single event from the Fair Queen pageant to the cow-milking contest.
Jack was an old-time Unionville native, and it's safe to say he was one of a kind. He was enormously friendly and always ready to settle in for a chat, and it's almost impossible to imagine that we won't see him around town, grinning and sharing the latest news. How fitting that his final resting place is at the Unionville Cemetery right in town, where he'll have no trouble keeping up with what's going on.
I'm so glad I knew Jack. My deepest sympathies to his family.

Under the weather

I felt sorry for the people in front of me at Route 796 and Baltimore Pike on the afternoon of Feb. 8. During the rainstorm that constituted our brush with Winter Storm Nemo, they were moving house and had their belongings loaded up in what looked like a small hay buggy, mostly open at the sides and covered, insufficiently, with a tarp. I could see cardboard boxes, computer equipment and a TV. Everything must have been soaking wet by the time they reached their new home.

No soliciting

Well done, East Marlborough supervisors! Those of us who just like to be left alone while running our errands greatly appreciate the anti-peddling ordinance that you approved, as reported in last week's Kennett Paper.
Back in July 2011 I complained in this column about two panhandlers in East Marlborough, a man and a woman standing at the entrances to two shopping centers along Route 1, holding white buckets and soliciting money from motorists: "The guy is well dressed, wearing a tie and a traffic safety vest, and he was approaching motorists with great enthusiasm. Their buckets say they are collecting for a religious organization I had never heard of."
You can bet they got no money from me. Let's hope this ordinance is enough to discourage these annoying panhandlers. (Of course, legitimate groups like our local fire companies are still allowed to solicit, and I'm happy to drop a few bucks in their buckets.)
(By the way, according to Yahoo! the term "panhandler" comes from "a supposed resemblance of an arm stretched out to beg to the handle of a pan.")

Ready for reading

Don't forget, the Unionville High School PTO's annual used-book sale is Feb. 22 and 23. Last week I assembled all of my donations, collected additional stuff from a friend, and dropped off multiple bags and boxes of books and videos to the Charles F. Patton Middle School, where the helpful Signal 88 Security guy stationed in the lobby helped me unload my car. Donations can be dropped off until Feb. 20 at the marked boxes in any of the school lobbies.
Hours for the sale, held at the high school gym, are:
  • Friday, Feb. 22, 5 to 9 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb. 23, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • $8 Bag Sale, Saturday, Feb. 23, 3 to 5 p.m.
Snow dates are March 8 and 9.
And two dates to put on your calendar: the 68th running of the Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds Point-to-Point Races (in simpler terms: the Cheshire Races) will be on Sunday, March 31, and the Bayard Taylor Library's annual house and garden tour will be Saturday, June 1. As always, I'll be a volunteer at the latter, which this year will center on the Unionville area.

Back in the saddle

A Cochranville friend has mixed feelings about getting back on her horse after such a long layoff (prompted by the treacherous footing). After one week off, she can expect him to buck once; after two weeks, two bucks. But after three weeks without being ridden, she told me, all bets are off.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Unwelcome visitors

It's bad enough to walk into a room and smell that foul stinkbug odor, but isn't it even worse when you can't spot the culprit? You just know it's lurking nearby, ready to emit that nauseating stench again... but where??
Although the stinkbugs seem to be making a comeback the past few weeks, in my house at least, they are nowhere near as numerous as they were two years ago, when they covered the walls and got into your drawers, your pillowcase, your medicine cabinet. Their favorite spot this winter seems to be my coffee maker. Whether it's the warmth or just the aroma of Dunkin' Donuts Original Blend, I now am careful to check the carafe and the spout before flipping the "on" switch, lest I brew a flavorful mug of Brown Marmorated.
The other morning I was pouring myself a glass of our delicious West Marlborough well water and noticed that the stream coming from the kitchen tap was oddly bifurcated. Sure enough, there was a stinkbug clinging to the underneath of the spigot. What a way to start the day.
As a short person I've found Hal Lewis's "Stik A Bug" to be both helpful and fun for capturing stinkbugs that are walking across the ceiling. It's essentially a Swiffer-type mop with a sticky pad at the end for trapping the bugs. Hal, who until recently owned a garage in Kennett, is a mechanic and entrepreneur. His Stik A Bug works so well I'm glad he threw in a spare sticky pad! And I can attest to the fact that it also works well on hard-to-reach cobwebs. 

Kennett is Cool ... and Strict

Don't forget that you have to feed the meters in Kennett Borough even on Saturdays!
On the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 9, I was having a post-Nemo drink with a pal at the Half-Moon (a gin-and-tonic, so very inappropriate to the season) when I spotted the meter guy on his rounds, ticket book in hand. I raced out to my vehicle, which was parked nearby on State Street, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I hadn't been ticketed. It turns out that the meter still had someone else's time on it when I parked!
For safety's sake I put in another quarter, which gave me a total of 28 minutes, and I returned to the bar to finish my drink. But as they tend to do when you're with pleasant company, the first drink turned into a second, and before I knew it the meter guy returned! Fortunately I was sitting near the window and spotted him approaching. Once again I ran out, wallet in hand, dashed past him, and inserted another quarter JUST before he got to my car. 

Feb. 14th

When you read this in The Kennett Paper, it'll be St. Valentine's Day, so here's a shout-out to the Young Relative, who is always my favorite Valentine. He's kind, smart, funny, clever, creative, competitive, and athletic. He's a great writer, speller, and storyteller (well, what can I say...), an amusing companion, a remarkably quick study, a loyal friend, and a joy to be around. And he'd better not try to charge me $5 for being featured in this item.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Shouldering the blame

Rokeby Road is "a potential disaster" and "an accident waiting to happen," two residents who live near it warned the West Marlborough Township supervisors at their Feb. 5 monthly meeting.
The women said the pavement is literally crumbling away and slipping down a steep bank into the waters of the Buck Run below. The supervisors replied that they are well aware of the ongoing problem and have tried to get money from the state to stabilize the bank to prevent further damage, but it has to be done in accordance with strict environmental regulations and will be a very costly endeavor that the township can't easily afford.
The next day I decided to see what they were talking about and took a drive along Rokeby Road, which has a "Road Closed Ahead" sign where it joins Route 82 to discourage traffic. A quarter-mile along the scenic road, just across from the intersection with Richard Wilson Drive, there's a sheer drop down to the creek, just inches off the westbound lane of travel. It's pretty dramatic. There are warning barricades in place, but I doubt they'd provide much protection.


A recent rash of vehicle break-ins and burglaries in the Embreeville area has Newlin Township residents on edge. Frankly, I think the thief is pretty foolhardy: I know quite a few Newlin residents, and they are a self-sufficient bunch who don't take kindly to having their property messed with in any way. Police are advising residents to take the precaution of keeping their car doors locked, even at home in the driveway.

From Kennett to Cameroon

My friend Ellen, who used to live on South Broad Street in Kennett, has been traveling the world with the U.S. State Department and is now based in Cameroon. She shared this item from her embassy newsletter:
"House for rent in Damas: Living and dining room area, 2 internal bedrooms, 2 external bedrooms, 1 dressing room, 2 internal toilets, 1 external toilet, 1 external sink. Forage: water connected in the house. House is fenced in and comes with a very large parking area big enough for 5 cars. Two free dogs included."
Comments Ellen: "The exterior toilet and sink refer to what the guards use, but the funny part to me is the dogs."
The next post for Ellen and her husband is in Kabul, Afghanistan. They have four children, two in college and one at boarding school here in the States and one just finishing her senior year of high school in Yaounde.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A good deed

Bill, the postmaster at the Unionville Post Office, had a new assistant this afternoon: a stray dog awaiting his master!
A Unionville resident picking up her mail spotted a loose yellow Lab in the parking lot. Worried that he might run onto Route 82, she took hold of the friendly canine by the collar and phoned the Delaware number on his ID tag. The owner, who lives near the post office, answered and was understandably quite upset to hear the news. He said he was about 20 minutes away and would leave for the post office immediately.
My friend took the dog into the lobby, prepared to wait until the owner arrived, but Bill said the dog was welcome to stay behind the counter with him. Unionville had a deputy postmaster for a little while!

Who needs manners?

At the Y this afternoon two surly-looking elementary-school boys were at the front desk asking the attendant if they could borrow basketballs. They didn't smile at him. They didn't make eye contact. And they certainly didn't say "please."
The attendant asked if they had their Y membership cards.
"No," they said. (No apology.)
Would they be sure and bring them next time? he asked politely.
"Yes," they replied, pro forma.
The Y employee (who was much, MUCH more tolerant than I would've been) then gave them basketballs.
Not good enough: One of the boys said he didn't like the one he was given; he wanted a particular one. Again, no "please."
At this point I left, despairing for the future of civilized society. Let's just hope these rude kids learn that saying "please" and "thank you" is not only the right thing to do, it will make your life easier in the long run.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Order here

I joined some friends at Applebee's on Baltimore Pike for a late dinner on Tuesday night and got to use the restaurant's new self-ordering system for the first time. There's a wireless touch-screen device at each table that has all the menu items listed on it, and you just scroll through, decide what you want to eat and drink, and punch in your order. It's pretty cool. At the end of the meal (which is still brought by a real and friendly human server), your check appears on the screen and you can swipe your credit card through.

Cold comfort

Thank goodness for all of my alert sources out there. I got this chilling e-mail on Feb. 5:
"I was driving down Spencer Rd. just west of Stroud Water Research and there on the road was a man in a bathing suit with a towel over his arm and a bar of soap. He was walking to the stream and, yes, he walked right in stream and started to wash! I was so stunned I kept driving but did look at my temperature guide and it was 32 degrees outside! Balmy!"
I asked around, and it seems that this hardy fellow is often seen bathing there in the White Clay Creek, no matter how cold it gets.

London Grove update

After 3 weeks, the pile of trash in front of the twin house at Route 926 and Newark Road -- the one I griped about in last week's column -- has finally been removed! I don't know who did it, but this is good news. I was surprised at the number of people who came up to me and said that they, too, were fed up with seeing that mildewing trash heap.
And just steps away, the corner of the old blacksmith shop that was smashed by an errant vehicle during the snowstorm on Feb. 2 has been covered over with green and blue tarpaulins.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


The southeast corner of the old blacksmith shop in London Grove village took a hit from a Land Rover during Saturday night's snowstorm. I drove through that intersection maybe an hour before the crash and can attest to how slippery the road was.

A spicy item

I have written before of the Nomex-lined digestive system that a Kennett friend of mine possesses. He loves spicy food, the more potent the better. He can down fiery, pepper-laden soup that temporarily robs me of the power of speech (a good thing, some would say).
His favorite is El Yucateco's green habanero sauce -- not the red, milder stuff, mind you. It is so strong that even an eighth-inch-wide line of this stuff added to a sandwich makes him very happy indeed.
He went to his local tienda to buy a bottle and the clerk gave him a quizzical look, as if to appraise whether this Anglo really knew what he was getting into. My friend had to assure him that he was fully aware of its hotness quotient and could indeed handle it.

To the dump

For the past few weeks there's been a pile of junk sitting in front of a house on Route 926 (Street Road) at the Newark Road intersection in the village of London Grove. There's an old sofa, other junk and plastic bags of trash. It's unsightly and I wouldn't be surprised if creatures have taken up residence in it. I don't know who the property owner is, but I hope he or she sees that it's hauled away soon.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Into the woods

A friend from Cochranville checked in this evening and reports that now that deer season's over, "The other hunters and I went out to take in our hunting tree stands today (when the ground is frozen, thus good and solid). Six straight hours in the cold – no lunch break. I was cold. A cold day is usually not thought of as a window of opportunity." He's right there! At lunchtime I spent a mere 10 minutes in the post office parking lot chit-chatting and felt chilled through and through.

Namaste to you, too

A yoga enthusiast I know returned to her car the other day to find a cranky handwritten note on the windshield reading "Next time park inside white lines & centered in space." I suggested that perhaps the message wasn't really so offensive as it seemed: after all, isn't yoga really about being "centered in space"?

Looking up

I had a great time at Friday's Astral Harp presentation by Kevin and Janet Witman at Kennett Friends Meeting. Kevin showed stunning photographs of the planets and stars (some taken by him, some by the Hubble Space Telescope) and told us some mind-boggling facts about the age and size of our galaxy, while his wife Janet performed wonderful music on her harp (including "Twinkle Twinkle," "Stairway to Heaven," "Moon River," "Ain't No Sunshine," and Gustav Holst's "Jupiter").
Kevin, a workout buddy of mine from the Jennersville YMCA (seeing him in a necktie was a novelty!), is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable speaker who lectures at Franklin & Marshall's planetarium, and Janet is a professional harp player and teacher and director of the Brandywine Harp Orchestra. They live in Cochranville.
Kevin showed close-ups of the moon's surface and compared its potholed surface to a Pennsylvania road in the spring. And during the section of the lecture on the sun, a stinkbug crawled up the screen and seemed to be walking on the surface of the sun, right near a sunspot. Kevin was able to shoo him away.
The program ended on a more terrestrial note, with some vacation photos of Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, where the couple went so Kevin could photograph an annular solar eclipse; the Grand Canyon; and Scotland, where Janet was attending a harp conference and Kevin went along as "harp-schlepper."

At one point Janet said the purpose of their program was to "entertain and calm nerves," and it certainly did both. The harp music was remarkably soothing, as was the candlelit setting. I feel like I would be able to recognize Kevin's profile anywhere now, as he was silhouetted against the screen for much of the program.

The meetinghouse was standing-room-only, including a busload (literally) of people from Jenners Pond, including former Kennett residents Dick and Janice Taylor. I also saw in the audience my friends Babette Jenny (whose harpist daughter, Gillian Grassie, studied with Janet) and Karen Statz.
This was one of the most memorable and best-attended Hadley Fund programs I've ever been to.

Wired in

I'm not sure this is entirely healthy. I was just making my usual Saturday-morning rounds on Facebook when an error message popped up informing me that my account was down "due to site issues." My first reaction was to share that on my Facebook status --- but, of course, I couldn't because ... my account is down. I felt thwarted. So instead I'm sharing it on my blog.
Speaking of today's technologies, while I was working on my Christmas-present knitting the other evening at home (Christmas 2012, that is; yes, I know it's February, thank you) my smartphone started making an alarming siren-like noise that I'd never heard before. It wasn't an incoming call or email; it wasn't a Facebook comment; and I didn't have an alarm set. Was it some kind of super-duper Weather Channel alert warning of impending doom? No. It seems that Amber Alerts (for missing kids) are now being broadcast as text messages, accompanied by this startling noise. But all the text does is tell you that an alert has been issued; you have to check online to get the details.

Friday, February 1, 2013


West Marlborough resident Richard Hayne, founder of Urban Outfitters and Terrain, got some ink this week in a Jan. 30 Wall Street Journal story, "Backyard Farms Gets Fancy: Meet the $1,300 Chicken Coop."
"A $58 garden hose, anyone? Or a $258 bronze-and-limewood spade? Such are the offerings at Terrain, Urban Outfitters Inc.'s fledgling retail concept that caters to the older, higher-income consumers adopting a well-appointed homesteader lifestyle."
Mr. Hayne was quoted only in his chief-executive capacity rather than speaking about his own VERY fancy and extensive ventures in backyard farming at Doe Run Farm in Springdell. He did reveal that he hopes to open more Terrain stores eventually and to add a spa to the store in Glen Mills.
Another Chester County resident featured in reporter Anne Marie Chaker's story is Peter Zimmerman, a Chester Springs architect whose sign is seen on a fair number of construction sites around here. He and his wife Eliza keep bees and make their own honey.

For rent

The Longwood CrossFit "box" (that's what CrossFit devotees call their workout space) will be closing up shop in mid-February and is selling off its weights, mats and other equipment on Craigslist. It was located behind Holly Peters' Oriental rug store, on an alley off Broad Street in Kennett Square. I never tried the workout myself, but I understand it was very challenging, and I have friends who were huge fans. The jumping-up-on-high-boxes thing was the deciding factor for me: I worry about my knees.