Monday, April 29, 2013

Work to do

We hear a great deal about the sense of entitlement among young people today, but here's one who has her head on straight. I overheard several high-school girls complimenting a friend on her dress, her socks, and her purse.
One of them asked, rather petulantly, "How can you afford all that?!"
Her immediate reply: "I have a job."

Sunday, April 28, 2013

To-Do List

There was SO MUCH going on this past weekend! I asked my Facebook friends to share what they did, and here's what I heard:
-- The Art on the Square show and the Y's Healthy Kids Day in Kennett
-- The UHS spring play matinee of "Princess Bride" ("It was awesome!")
-- A husband-and-wife date to see the tulips at Longwood Gardens (so popular they had to park in the auxiliary lot)
-- Mary Dugan's memorial service at London Grove Friends Meeting
-- The Woodlands at Phillips Mushrooms anniversary celebration
-- The Pennsbury Township community yard sale
-- Pocopson Elementary School's art and garden day
-- The Chester County Master Gardeners plant sale at Springton Manor
-- The Maryland Hunt Cup (featuring several local jockeys)
-- The Unionville Track & Field International.
Four people told me they had to work -- specifically, writing, doing hair, running a restaurant and baking bread. I, too, worked, but then I went to the Young Relative's baseball game and got a fair amount of gardening done.

No hearing

Sorry to disappoint you if you were looking forward to reading about the April 24 zoning hearing for Dick Hayne's bridge at his Doe Run Farm, but the hearing was cancelled at Mr. Hayne's request. No word on whether it will be rescheduled.
Mr. Hayne had submitted plans for a proposed steel box beam bridge, off Route 841 near the S-curve east of Thouron Road, that would be about 56 feet long and 12 feet wide, with oak planking. At the West Marlborough Township planning commission meeting on April 2, the township's engineer, Al Giannantonio, described it as "a very substantial bridge" that could bear the weight of not only cattle but also heavy vehicles. He told the commission that Mr. Hayne's workers had already started the bridge project when the township alerted them that they needed permits; the project was then halted and the zoning hearing was scheduled.

Household management

How does anyone, ever, get anything done?
Yesterday morning I was hanging out the laundry on the clothesline. While there, I noticed that the bird feeders were empty, and I remembered my mother's comment that it's time to put out the hummingbird feeder. Got the birdseed. Mixed the nectar. While hanging up the feeder, I noticed that the daff leaves needed to be braided (yes, I'm one of "those"!) and the lamium needed to be trimmed back. Coming inside to get the clippers, I noticed two stink bugs on the ceiling. Dealt with them. Heard the guinea pig squealing and gave her some carrots. Spotted the LL Bean catalog and remembered I need to order a new hammock.
This went on all day; somehow I managed to get the garden raked and planted pumpkins, four kinds of sunflowers, gladiolus and Peruvian daffs. Finally I sat on the deck with a drink, took off my boots and baseball cap ... and noticed a dog tick crawling on the brim. Inside to get the Scotch tape to seal it up. While washing my hands I noticed a splinter in my palm from the rake and took it out with my Swiss Army knife tweezers. Saw a cookie sheet and realized I owed a friend a batch of lemon crisps ... And the cycle began again.



St. Michael Lutheran Church in Unionville is putting out the word that it offers transportation for senior citizens to its Sunday services each week. "The bus makes stops at the Luther House and Jenners Pond campuses in Jennersville and Kennett Friends Home," according to the church bulletin. If you know anyone who might be interested, you can contact the church office for a schedule (610-347-1696;;
(By the way, if you want to send me your house of worship's bulletin the way St. Michael does, please email me at

A history talk

Just a reminder that at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 16, Seth Hinshaw, historic preservation planner with Wise Preservation Planning of Chester Springs, will be speaking about old Kennett Township barns. The talk is at the Kennett Township building. It's free and open to the public, with no registration needed.


The spring weather is bringing out hordes of  fair-weather bicyclists (in addition to the hard-core folks who have been pedaling all winter). Early Saturday morning I was at my desk working when I heard the dog barking frantically, in the way she usually reserves for a raccoon up a tree. No, it was a pelleton of a dozen cyclists zipping by.
Later in the day I was behind two cyclists riding side by side along Upland Road. As soon as the middle-of-the-road guy noticed me, he quickly pulled over behind his colleague. Excellent behavior! Thank you! There's nothing that annoys motorists more than bicyclists who take up the whole lane.
But motorists: please remember, one of those cyclists could be my brother. Treat them with respect and courtesy.

Signs of the times

Politics is everywhere. While driving along Baltimore Pike the other day I spotted a couple of red-and-white signs saying "SOS: Save Our Support Staff." It seems the teachers' union at the Kennett Consolidated School District is objecting to the school board's proposed outsourcing of teaching assistants.
And planted prominently at the URA fields on Saturday was a campaign sign for one of the candidates for the East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors (the primary election is Tuesday, May 21). Given how busy the URA fields are this time of the year, his message reached a lot of voters.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Embreeville update

Several residents who live near the proposed development at the former Embreeville Center in West Bradford and Newlin Townships are expressing concern that it would have a negative impact on roads (Strasburg Road and Route 162 in particular) and the rural character of the area. They are also concerned about its impact on the Brandywine River and the ChesLen preserve across the road.
Proposed for the site are 1,000 housing units and a shopping center. The heavily used playing fields and the PennDOT maintenance building would remain untouched. Twenty acres of the 280-acre site are in Newlin Township, including the sewage treatment plant on the south side of Embreeville Road and a wooded strip near the township building.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Open house

I always wondered who lived in that old brick house on West Street Road at Mill Road, and now I know: the fabric artist Jennifer Cauffman! She hosted an outdoor open house on Wednesday, April 24, and I had a great time chatting with her and browsing through her colorful pillows, vests and bags, hand-painted with birds and fish and flowers. I went home with a beautiful, cheerful silk pillow that caught my eye as soon as I pulled in.

You can see Jennifer's art at She is happy to do custom work and says she's always trying new things -- like attaching feathers to the edge of her rooster pillows.
Jennifer was also dishing up an amazing bean soup, with chips from Northbrook Orchards, and a friend of hers was selling homemade chocolate peanut butter cups and turtles. So glad I stopped by!

For sale

The Kennett Steak & Mushroom restaurant at Birch and Broad Streets in Kennett (formerly the Birch Inn) has just come onto the market; asking price is $1,650,000. That includes the renovated restaurant, a liquor license, a 14-room motel and an ample parking lot.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A funny

A Kennett pal of mine enjoys a rude kind of good health but is nonetheless a hypochondriac. He emailed me yesterday afternoon: "Last night I woke up feeling dizzy, and still today if I look upward for any length of time  I get very dizzy."
Since I am a naturally helpful, kind, nurturing person, I replied immediately - and advised him to stop looking upward.
His response:
Very much appreciated your advice not to look up and was reminded of the old, but potentially new to you, vaudeville joke: Guy goes into a doctor's office and says, "Doc, I get a stabbing pain in my eye every time I drink coffee. What should I do about it?" And the doctor says, "Take the spoon out of the mug."
He could not believe that I found this joke completely hilarious.
Yep, wherever there's witty badinage and sophisticated humor, that's where you'll find Tilda!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Circle Game

If you're looking for something a little offbeat to do on Saturday, May 4 (post time for the Kentucky Derby isn't til 6:24 p.m.), help me mark World Labyrinth Day at the Delaware Art Museum. Labyrinth fans will be walking their labyrinths at 1 p.m. local time at sites around the globe, as they do on the first Saturday of each May.
The Delaware Art Museum's Labyrinth was built six years ago in what used to be the Anthony N. Fusco Reservoir (now drained), just north of the Museum. It's encompassed by tall rock walls and measures 80 feet across, with a circumference of 253 feet. It's not a maze; the path edges are marked by small stones (I spent Sunday afternoon with a group of volunteers smartening up the paths after the winter).
Walking from the edge to the center, you'll make 28 U-turns (to mark the 28-day lunar cycle) and six right-angle turns (there's one right as you think you're about to get to the center!). Walk to the center and back to the outside and you'll find you've done a half-mile of exercise.
I find walking the Labyrinth to be both fun and soothing. It's a combination of walking (always good exercise) and centering, literally and figuratively.
Kids, of course, are welcome to visit, and the ones who were there on Sunday had a great time running around. We also had an impromptu bird-calling contest; you never know what latent skills your friends have!
(Photo from the Delaware Art Museum's website.)

Our "Twilight"

If you are in my demographic, perhaps you have fond memories of rushing home from elementary school to watch the Gothic soap opera "Dark Shadows." I was such a fan of the show that I was fully prepared to dislike the 2012 "Dark Shadows" movie directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabas Collins.
Instead I really enjoyed it. The 1970s music, d├ęcor and costumes are wonderfully vivid (loved the lava lamp and the rock posters!). Johnny Depp is hilarious as a fresh-from-the-coffin vampire suddenly confronted with 1970s culture (talk about culture shock: his first glimpse of television is Karen Carpenter singing "Top of the World"), the always-dysfunctional Collins family, and his old nemesis Angelique (played by Bond Girl Eva Green, she is now a rival fishing-company owner). Don't miss the cameos by some of the original cast members; they show up for a ball that Barnabas throws (though Carolyn, the hippie daughter of the house, insists that Barnabas call it "a happening").

Mushrooms in the news

The May/June issue of "AAA World" (the AAA's mid-Atlantic magazine) has a nice little story about Kennett Square with a great headline: "The Gift of the Fungi." The writer, Jennifer Maguire, quotes Jim Angelucci of Phillips Mushroom Farms and Kathi Lafferty, owner of the Mushroom Cap and organizer of the Mushroom Festival. The article also gives Tina Verrelli's recipe for shiitake, ginger and pork pot sticker soup, which won the amateur division of the cooking contest at last year's fest.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Food groups

We hear a lot about the unhealthy diets kids are eating these days, but frankly I think they may be teaching nutrition a little bit too well here in the Unionville schools.
Five-sixths of the Tally-ho clan went out to dinner at Longwood Family Restaurant on Saturday. I ordered a gyro sandwich, and the waiter listed my choices for a vegetable: Brussels sprouts, corn, mac and cheese....
That was all I needed to hear: "Oooo! Mac and cheese, please!" I said.
The Young Relative fixed me with a withering look.
"How, exactly," he demanded, "is mac and cheese a vegetable?"
Then again, perhaps I should listen to him about nutrients: earlier that day, he ran his personal best time ever in the "Run for Our Sons" 5K at Patton Middle School.

Brew pub in Kennett?

Here's some exciting news: there might be a new brew pub opening in Kennett! I was just at Inverbrook Farm's Spring Sale here in West Marlborough, and a very nice lady from the Kennett Brewing Company was there pouring samples on the patio. I tried a very hoppy brew called Xtra C and it was delicious. The woman said they hoped to open in downtown Kennett shortly, but she couldn't divulge any details yet -- all hush-hush -- so I signed up for their email list. I will keep you posted!
The sale -- in which local vendors bring their wares out to the farm -- was just delightful. While I was looking at the offerings from Talula's Table, another shopper told me that I simply must buy their Kennett Mushroom Dip. I obeyed and I'm glad I did: it's simple and exquisite.
Among the other vendors were Anne Eder and her Chansonette orchids; Nomadic Pies, a regular at the Kennett Farmer's Market; Dale Hendricks with some beautiful plants from his Green Light Plants; seeds from Happy Cat Farm; potting soil from the Organic Mechanic Soil Company in Modena; reusable sandwich bags and recycled cloth napkins from Logical Living; Bessie's handmade aprons and bags; Arden & James Eco-goods; pottery by Ardenheim Clayworks; art by Dan McShane (loved his sketch of a fox chasing a hen in a pumpkin patch!); Heirloom Jewelry; Philabucks; Three Birds Bouquets; U Bee Well; and Vidalia's Vintage (old Tupperware and typewriters).
On my way out a woman was standing in the driveway, her eyes shut and her blissful face upturned to the glorious spring sunshine. She "came to" after a moment and apologized; I told her I understood perfectly.
Thank you to Claire Murray for the invitation! A great event.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A plea

One reason I started writing this column several years ago was in reaction to all the cheap, snarky meanness and point-scoring that seems to pass for civil discourse in society today. My point in mentioning this is that the political season is upon us, and here in Unionville we've already seen some perhaps overheated election rhetoric. You may disagree with what your local politicians are doing; goodness knows I do sometimes. But please, let's be mature ladies and gentlemen about it. Making accusations and personal attacks is polarizing, it's embarrassing, it's divisive, it's uncalled for, and perhaps worst of all it discourages good people from getting involved in politics. We can do better.

Frozen yogurt

I celebrated the end (I hope) of a particularly unpleasant cold by treating myself to a frozen yogurt at Opayo, a terrific little self-service place tucked away in the New Garden Shopping Center, near the Giant and Pat's Pizza. They give you an empty dish and you pipe out as much frozen yogurt as you want, in any mixture of flavors, and then add any of the 80 toppings and sauces. I had a big dish of chocolate and vanilla yogurt topped with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and chocolate chips, and it was delicious.
And a big shout-out to my wonderful pal Susan, who took pity on me when I was sick, picked me up in her giant red pickup (which makes any trip more fun) and drove me to the grocery store so I could stock up on soup, crackers and orange juice. (And a bonus: while we were at the store we ran into a foxhunting pal of hers who had just gotten kicked in the leg by a horse, big-time. One look at her bruises and all of a sudden my stuffed head, glassy eyes and hacking cough seemed like nothing to complain about.)


There seems to be a bumper crop this year of Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), one of my favorite spring wildflowers. (Oh, who am I kidding? I love ALL spring wildflowers.) "The red juice from the underground stem was used by Indians as a dye for baskets, clothing, and war paint, as well as for insect repellent," according to my well-worn Audubon field guide. It's a member of the poppy family and you can see it growing along the side of country roads. I found these beauties along Hood Road on Thursday.

Close to the edge

I was surprised to learn how far the territory of the Jennersville Y extends.
A young mother I know from the gym, normally the most energetic of souls, posted that she was flat-out sick on the sofa and wouldn't be coming to class. I felt sorry for her and offered to take her some gingersnaps I'd just baked. She was enormously grateful, and I said I'd be right over after class.
"Just tell me how to get to your house," I texted.
I knew I was in for a drive when her instructions started out: Take the bypass beyond Nottingham and turn left.
It turns out she lives very close to the Maryland border, south of Oxford. An unexpected little jaunt! I was so glad I could help her out.

Little League

The Young Relative has started playing Little League baseball, so I'm sure I will become as familiar with the URA fields as I did with the Patton Middle School soccer fields. It felt so good sitting out there on the bleachers in the sun the other day! The kids seemed to be having a great time -- one boy even scored a home run -- and, wow, they really throw the ball much faster than I recall from my brother's stint in Little League many years ago.
Toward the end of the afternoon the unmistakable, mouth-watering scent of BBQ started wafting across Route 82 from Hood's outside BBQ grill. Well played, Hood's. Well played.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hedge in the way

I don't need to tell most of you what a bustling place the Kennett Y is (particularly now that the cardio room is open again). And as all those fit people leave the Y, they head either left or right onto Race Street. This item is about what happens when you head left out of the driveway, and then try to make a left turn onto eastbound Cypress Street -- say you want to stop at the Country Butcher, or meet a friend for coffee at Starbucks.
Imagine that intersection, if you will. Are you there? Look to the right, up the hill. What's there blocking your view? A hedge. So you inch out a little further so that you can see any oncoming traffic (there is always oncoming traffic). But because of the hedge, you have to pull so far out that the people who are turning onto Race Street give you dirty looks.
My solution? I think the hedge needs to go, and I'm surprised the usually safety-minded borough hasn't approached the homeowner about it. It blocks the sight distance and creates a traffic hazard at a very busy intersection.
It needn't be an expense for the homeowner. Put up a sign in the Y lobby and I'll bet you'd get a dozen volunteers showing up with saws and clippers. The hedge would be gone in a morning. I'll volunteer to put in a nice groundcover instead. A nice LOW groundcover.
(Update: After reading this, a member of Kennett Borough Council told me he's looking into this situation! Thanks, Dan.)

Bad reporting

In my first newsroom, at a small town in central Pennsylvania, we had a slogan on the bulletin board: "Get it first, get it fast, get it right." All three parts were absolutely required. If you got something wrong, or late, not only did you get a dressing-down from the editor, but you also got the cold shoulder from your reporter pals: you'd let them down. Sloth on the job was unforgiveable: no matter how boring a small-town municipal meeting was, the thought of missing a story, and then having to explain why to your boss and peers, kept you in your seat. You got burned once misspelling Jon Smythe's name as John Smith, and forever more you learned to ask every single person how to spell his or her name, no matter how obvious it appeared.
We reporters griped constantly, we played hookey from staff meetings and we drank at lunch, but we had a sense of pride in our work far out of proportion to our $180-a-week salaries (perks: free coffee, notebooks and film).
I'm not sure that exists at any news organization except at the most local level anymore: this afternoon two of the major news outlets blundered by announcing that an arrest had been made in the Boston atrocities. I don't want to speculate about how that happened, but I can't help comparing such increasingly common sloppiness to our standards at a little 6-day-a-week paper in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, staffed by underpaid 20-somethings.
I remember one Friday night, one of my colleagues thought he'd give his editor a chuckle while typing up the birth announcements: he wrote that our sports editor, a bachelor, had had octuplets at the local hospital. The editor didn't read the birth announcements and just sent them through to be typeset. Monday morning, of course, we started fielding excited calls about the octuplets.
The hapless reporter was fired by lunchtime, no questions asked. Which is as it should have been.

Eating like a bird

Remember those baby chicks that arrived in the mail a few weeks ago? I went to visit them after lunch today at my friend's farm and was amazed how much they've grown: they're now the size of small crows. Their wings and tails have come in, and there's a weighted screen across the top of their trough because they've already started to fly.
My friend reports that the 28 birds are eating her out of house and home: they go through two large bowls of chick feed each day, and a full water container. They are still basking under a heat lamp, and they won't be transferred to the coop til they get considerably larger.

Advertising fail

I've written about the deluge of junk mail I get from Verizon; you probably do, too. Well, Verizon now informs me that I am eligible to get FiOS TV "at a price that's too good to pass up."
This is not likely. I don't want FiOS TV, or any other TV service, at any price.
Nor am I enticed by their newest marketing tie-in with the Marvel comic-book character "Iron Man": "Let FiOS be the hero of your home," reads their slogan. No thanks; I think I'd rather have my garden trowel as the hero of my home.
Obviously I am not the demographic FiOS is targeting. In fact, I think the marketing people at Verizon should pay ME to review their campaigns: "Dude! Tilda called this one `stupid and offensive.' We've got a winner for sure!"

Office calendar

My office calendar, courtesy of the Avondale firm of H.L. Yerkes & Sons Inc., Growers Supplies, has a page for each week. On the back of each page there's some statistical information, sometimes useful (recommended body weights, suggested baking temperatures) and others times not so much: the number of days between the same date of two months (excluding leap years). All I could think of was the poor intern who had to sit there in front of a calendar counting off the number of days between, say, Feb. 1 and Nov. 1. Welcome to the publishing world, kid!


My mornings are pretty much devoted to work, but how could I say no when a friend asked if I wanted any mostly-sun perennials from her garden?
I finished editing the chapter I was working on, collected some boxes and drove over there. She has a huge, lovely, informal garden in her side yard and, while taking stock of what was coming up, realized that she really needed to get rid of some of the phlox, daisies, yarrow and strawberries that were escaping from their plots.
I happily took them off her hands, brought them home and dug them in later that afternoon.
She also tried to give me some mint, anise hyssop and lemon balm, but I've learned a thing or two over the years about how avidly they spread. No, thanks, my friend!

Gun violence

West Marlborough resident Starr Cummin Bright was the lead-off speaker at a gun violence forum sponsored by Oxford mayor Geoff Henry that was held at Oxford Presbyterian Church the evening of April 16.
Starr showed true guts by standing up in front of the large crowd and talking about how, back in 1991 in Landenberg, she was shot at point-blank range by a mentally ill gunman. In her riveting, emotional talk, she described the devastation that one .32-caliber bullet has caused in her body and her life.
"This guy never should've had a gun," she said simply.
Supporting Starr at the talk were her two daughters (who were ages 1 and 3 at the time of the shooting), her husband, sculptor Clayton Bright, and a host of friends.
"Unionville in the News" is not a forum for my political opinions, but I will say that listening to the ensuing discussion, I was struck by the vast cultural and ideological gulf between the extremists on both sides. I know a lot of avid gun-owners with well-defended homes -- hunters, target-shooters, crime victims, farmers -- who fall squarely into the middle camp. We need to hear more from them.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

TT loves HP

Much to my surprise and relief, learning how to use my new computer has not been bad at all. In fact, I've actually enjoyed the learning curve.
My old Compaq 2003 laptop was still serviceable -- if the butt of jokes from friends and family -- but it was past its peak: it was getting a little slow, the sound card hadn't worked for years, and an increasing number of my files for work just didn't seem to like opening up in Word 97 anymore.
So while I had a week between projects, I went to Staples and bought an HP All-in-One PC with Windows 8 and Word 2013. As soon as they finished transferring over my old data, I took it home, set it up immediately and devoted the next two days to figuring out the various icons, "tiles" and "charms and learning the new Word functions (new to me, at least!).
With my learning style, I would have appreciated having a manual spelling out where to find things ("This is where your photos were on your old system. Here's where they are now"), but instead you have to just play around and experiment. That part gets a bit frustrating -- until you happen upon a shortcut or a new function that you realize will save you lots of time.
One problem that quickly cropped up was that the new version of Word I bought didn't have Outlook, which is what I used to use for email. Then I remembered that I didn't really need Outlook; I could just get my email directly from Verizon's website. Yes! OK, yes, I lost all my saved emails and email addresses while doing so, but the important people write to me all the time anyway, or I can get their contact information online. Spring cleaning!
I was almost certain my little Olympus camera wouldn't sync with the new computer. I envisioned trying to find the camera's instruction manual, circa 2002, and the software that came with it. No need: the camera linked automatically.
The new computer is so sharp-looking, with its big screen (I actually had to de-brighten it), and everything is so well organized. With my old computer, the space under my old Ikea desk was clogged with peripherals and power cords. Now, there's only a footstool. Amazing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


I'm told that the former Magnolia Deli in Kennett (on Magnolia Street between Center and Meredith Streets) is getting a facelift and is going to reopen shortly as a new deli and sub shop called "Tailgaters." I drove by on Saturday afternoon and the door was open and renovation work looked like it was in high gear. I have a number of friends, avid eaters all, who live within a block or two of this spot, so I'm sure to hear more about it!

Short game

A steep hillside is not really where you'd expect to find a putting green. But an especially observant reader alerted me to what certainly looks like one, in a resident's side yard near the intersection of Wollaston and Mill Roads.
"I just about died laughing when I caught a glimpse of the red flag way up on the hillside," he wrote.  "The land has been cleared, there appears to be a putting surface and there's certainly a red pin flag." 
It's an unusual but very scenic choice, looking down on the Red Clay Creek.
Just up the road there's a massive new house being built. It's too early to tell what all the attachments to the main house are going to be, but it's going to be interesting to watch. It should be a nice addition to East Marlborough's tax rolls.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Health and shopping

Jennersville Regional Hospital is holding a "Girl's Night Out" program on May 9 at Dansko in West Grove. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for socializing, refreshments and shopping (10% off at the Dansko Factory Outlet), and at 7:15 p.m. Michael Barkasy, MD, of Family Practice Associates of West Grove will discuss women's health concerns.
Dansko is located on the north side of Baltimore Pike, west of the Jennersville Shopping Center.
To register for the program, call 610-869-1223 or email

Peter Hausmann

I am sure that many in the local land-preservation community know Peter Hausmann, a long-time open-space advocate and Chester County resident. Peter just received another honor: he was awarded the Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award "for his decades of leadership and dedication in conserving our special places and landscapes" by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association at their meeting in State College.
Peter has served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Natural Lands Trust for the past 13 years (in my experience, heading any board of trustees for 13 years is a formidable accomplishment in itself). "During his tenure as chairman, the organization has preserved more than 35,000 acres of open space, the single most productive period in the organization’s 60-year history," the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association's press release said.
I met Peter maybe 20 years ago when he was the chairman of Save Open Space, the group that spearheaded Chester County's open-space bond issue. I went to his West Chester office to interview him -- except I forgot my notebook and had to take notes in the back pages of my pocket calendar. Real professional.
(Photo credit: Ed Cunicelli.)

Change of seasons

Earlier this week I was planning to write a happy little spring-is-nigh! item about how the skunk cabbage is flourishing and how the forsythia, marsh marigolds and willows were just about ready to pop. Then came a few days of 80-degree weather and suddenly everything's in full, glorious bloom.
On Monday morning I saw three grape hyacinths popping up; by the end of the week there were dozens. Of course, the warmth also brought out dozens of stink bugs from their winter hiding places in drawers, behind pictures, inside pant legs, and on curtains.
All my winter habits were outdated. No need to leave the hot-water tap running to warm up: the water was warm immediately! No need to turn up the bedroom thermostat or microwave the heating pad before bedtime! I uncovered the deck furniture (it's still a little early for the hammock) and sat in the sun. Didn't it feel marvelous?
This is the first spring that my parents are living in their new home and they are absolutely thrilled to discover that the previous owner had excellent taste in spring bulbs. The squill and daffodils are particularly beautiful.
Spring wouldn't be spring without the London Grove Meeting Plant Sale, which this year is Saturday, May 11, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Even if you're not a gardener, the Plant Sale is a delightful social occasion and a community tradition.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Shop Around Town

Here's an updated list of the stores participating in "Shop Around Town Saturday," April 20. Spend $100 at any of these shops and you'll get a free pass (a $25 value) to the Willowdale Steeplechase!

-- Annie Prue, Trail Creek, Terrain  – Glen Mills
-- J. McLaughlin, Peter Kate, Pink Turtle, Enchanted Owl, Two Sisters – Greenville
-- Ashley Austin, Vignette -  Kennett Square
-- Outback Trading – Oxford
-- That’s Hats – Chadds Ford
-- Jane Chalfant – West Chester
The 21st running of the Willowdale Races is set for Mother's Day, Sunday, May 12, at the intersection of Route 926 and 82.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I'm old-fashioned and I don't mind it

My fellow athletes know that gym teachers have their own distinct preferences when it comes to their musical accompaniment. Some blast their music at ear-splitting volume while screaming at their class; needless to say, I give those classes and teachers a miss because I don't consider that to be motivating in any way. I also value my hearing.
And the head-banging heavy metal stuff is just painful at any volume, no other word for it.
So you can imagine what a delight it was last week when one of my instructors played a CD of the Great American Songbook! "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." "Someone to Watch Over Me." "At Last." "I'll Be Seeing You." Oh, it was wonderful!
The one young person in class, doubtless raised on an unwholesome diet of today's popular hits, was not pleased. But for one happy hour, the tastes of the 18-to-34-year-old demographic did NOT take priority.
In other gym-related matters, thank you to the Brandywine Yoga studio for hosting a trunk show of Athleta clothing, all at a 30 percent discount! Athleta gym clothes are really nice -- they have a catalog and there's a shop in King of Prussia -- and I quickly chose a new top in a cheerful pink and a hugely comfortable dress that my friends will tire of seeing this summer. Brandywine Yoga, owned by Lisa Palladino Sparta, is on Route 52 in that little shopping center at Denton Hollow Road in Pocopson Township.

Photo show

I'm going to return for a second visit to "Close to the Edge," the photography show at Hardcastle Galleries, 5714 Kennett Pike. The opening night, April 5, was so crowded that I couldn't do the artwork full justice (I'm only 5-foot-3, so I stared at a lot of people's backs). Among the works I did get to see: Jim Graham's amazing photos of rocks and ice from Iceland, Michael Kahn's mammoth print of a path leading over the dunes (I felt like I could step onto the path and into the painting, Looking Glass-style), and a beautiful photo by Alessandra Manzotti of two equestrians near "the tree" (the iconic tree that stands all alone atop the hill east of Springdell). The other photographers in the show are Steve Boyden, Sam Krisch and David Nibouar.
The show runs through April 27; it is well worth a visit.
I also walked just across the parking lot to browse through "Found," a very reasonably priced antiques store (

Mushroom open house

Can't wait for the annual Mushroom Festival this autumn? Then you'll definitely want to visit the Woodlands at Phillips, 1020 Kaolin Rd., which is celebrating its second anniversary by holding an open house on Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
All day long there will be a mushroom growing exhibit, with whites, crimini/portabella, oyster, maitake, shiitake, royal trumpet and pompom varieties.
From 10 a.m. to noon chef Kurt Jacobson will be in the kitchen cooking Phillips Mushrooms and Phillips Gourmet products; yes, there will be samples!
At 1 p.m. mycologist Tina Ellor will be giving a seminar, "An Overview of How Mushrooms Grow." Maitake coffee and tea will be served all day. The event will be held rain or shine; the phone number is 610-444-2192.
This delightful little store is slightly south of the Five Points intersection, south of Kennett Square.

CCHS Antiques Show

Thanks to a kind neighbor, I got free tickets to the Chester County Historical Society's annual antiques show, this year held at the Phelps School in Willistown Township. Did I know how to get there, my neighbor asked. Indeed, yes: I grew up only a few minutes away!
The show was in the school's fieldhouse. The entry hall took you past former horse stalls, and in the main hall, underneath the floor covering, you could see the vivid green artificial turf.
The antiques were lovely, but nothing grabbed me this year. The cast iron garden frogs were very cute, but I realized they'd quickly become overgrown with lamium, which would defeat the purpose of a garden ornament.
There seemed to be a lot of andirons and samplers on sale this year. One of the more unusual offerings was a gigantic ceremonial ash burl bowl, fashioned by a Native American. Price tag: $44,000. There was also a lovely painting of the sun-dappled Buck Run by local artist Jon Redmond; he painted it at Laurel Forge Farm in Newlin Township.
A child-size mug depicting ice skaters made me laugh: It said, "A small preasant." Ah, typos even in the 19th century!
I had fun eavesdropping on the dealers: the buzzword this year seemed to be "the feel" of a piece, as in "I like the feel of this [chest of drawers, candle stand, weather vane, portrait, etc.]." One dealer confided to another that he was "changing gears" and planned to focus on twentieth-century pieces. Another was regaling two customers with a story of how not even being laid up in the ICU stopped him from bidding online for antiques.
By the way, if you went to the show, too, and still have the catalog, take a look at the article about antique photographs: there's a wonderful photo of the barn at Maulton Farm barn here in West Marlborough (it burned down 70 years ago).

A sad loss

Mary Larkin Dugan and I had a lot of disagreements over the 25 years I knew her: to give just one example, I found her fondness for Maigret detective novels inexplicable. But all our sharp literary, political and cinematic differences were outweighed by the multitude of things we agreed on: our love of local history, words, amusing neighbors, and just about anything British (except for the BBC's production of "Brideshead Revisited"; I loved it, she didn't).
Mary died at Linden Hall on Monday, April 8, only a few weeks after she had been named to the Unionville High School Wall of Honor. She grew up in Marlborough Village, graduated from the Unionville schools and spent her career here teaching middle-school English while raising her four sons. After retiring, she founded the Kennett Underground Railroad Center, the Southeastern Chester County Historical Society and the East Marlborough Historical Commission, took part in a Shakespeare reading group, and had her own business researching the history of people's houses. She was even a fellow "Kennett Paper" columnist: she wrote the local history feature on p. 4.
Whenever I had a local history question, I'd send her an email and she'd either know the answer or find someone who did. She was a meticulous researcher, painstaking with the facts, and had no patience with historical embellishments -- woe to the person who got her started on the supposed "slave quilts"!
Last night a friend told me she stopped by to visit Mary two days before she died and Mary was sitting up in bed, typing away on her laptop.
From Day One Mary was one of the most loyal readers of this column (though she loathed my pen name). I could count on her to point out my many grammar errors ("further" vs. "farther" comes to mind); fortunately, she read my column before it went to press so I could correct them.
Her death is a loss not only for her family and friends but the whole community. As soon as word got out, friends and former students started posting on Facebook all kinds of fond memories and funny stories about her. I think my favorite was this one:
"She was my English teacher in 7th grade in 1978, and I borrowed a book and never returned it. A few years ago at the UHS farm show I saw her at a booth and said in my best hillbilly voice "Ain't you my old English teacher? Ain't nobody learned me English like you did." She hadn't seen me in over 30 years and she replied "Vincent, are you still enjoying Raymond Briggs books?"
Classic Mary. I can hear her saying that.
The night she died, a former student of hers, a former school colleague of hers and I raised a toast to her at The Whip. Rest in peace, Mary. I'll give George Simenon another try, just for you.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


When I go to The Whip, I don't even bother to turn off my phone because the village of Springdell tends to be a cell-free zone. (When Tony Young's ill-gotten furniture, prints, shotguns, etc. were auctioned off across the road a few years back, the auction company couldn't take phone bids for that very reason.)
So last night while sitting at the bar, I was surprised to hear my phone's trumpeting ring tone. I reached in my pocket and shut it off because I was in the middle of a riveting (to me, at least) conversation about a friend's upcoming surgery. She was describing the procedure in detail and, at my prompting, even drew me a little sketch of the planned incisions.
Well, it turns out I didn't shut the phone off; I actually answered it. My friend on the other end told me later he listened to about 20 seconds of graphic surgical details before becoming utterly grossed out and hanging up.
(I'm taking that with a grain of salt. When he phoned later that evening, he immediately launched into a tale of his own recent cataract surgery.)

Saturday, April 6, 2013


On my list of first-world problems this week: At an art show opening I went to the other night, the food table had attractive but not-so-practical offerings. On the fruit tray were piles of individual grapes, not bunches, and blueberries, but there were no spoons or bowls. What were we supposed to do, just grab them individually with our fingers?
And another platter had various cheeses sliced in squares and triangles and a molded rice dish. But again, there were no serving implements, or even crackers or toothpicks (not that toothpicks would have helped with the rice).
The hungry man in front of me looked at the table helplessly.
"Maybe you get issued a packet of crackers if you buy a piece of art," I suggested.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mixing it up

Mo Hodges, son of Jill Benjamin and John Hodges of Unionville, got a shout-out in the New York Times' "6th Floor" blog, Jill told me tonight with a justified measure of maternal pride.
It seems that Mo tends bar at Big, a San Francisco bar, which blogger Rosie Schaap describes as "a minuscule lounge" that "has the finest virtues of great cocktail bars (foremost among them: thoughtful, unusual drinks prepared with great finesse) minus the stuffiness that sometimes suffuses such places."
One of those unusual drinks is Mo's creation "The Drink With No Name," which features gin, vermouth, cardamom bitters, Aquavit, a gentian apertif and a sour cherry liqueur. The March 22 blog entry shows a photo of Mo with his drink (he definitely has his father's smile) and gives the full recipe.
(Jill said that unfortunately, just after the piece appeared, the bar lost its lease and will have to move.)
To celebrate his own recent milestone birthday, Mo's dad John went out to California and spent an evening bartending alongside his son, "slinging drinks and great bar conversation in observance of his fantastic career in the game of life," Mo wrote in a description of the event.
(I want to share a comment that was posted on my blog: "I graduated from UHS with Mo, he had a great personality and sense of humor, looks like it is serving him well!")

Over my head

What's the over/under on when that black oak branch hanging over Route 842, about a quarter-mile east of Byrd Road, is going to come crashing down? Last June one big branch from the huge tree came down, and I don't think this one will make it through the first strong summer storm.
A friend of mine was giving directions and I heard her say, "that branch that's ready to crush your car," and I knew exactly what she meant. I've noticed myself speeding up a little bit to decrease the amount of time I spend directly under it.
Kind of reminds me of the twisted logic that an old boyfriend used: he reasoned that because so many fender-benders occurred in parking lots, it was best to spend as little time as possible in them -- and hence, to drive as fast as possible through them, ideally doing spins and sideways skids.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Autism benefit

A Kennett friend asked me to give his charity event a little publicity, and I'm happy to oblige.
"Singing Out For Autism," sponsored by the Brandywine Folk Collective, is going to be held on Saturday, April 13, at the Melton Center, 501 E. Miner Street, West Chester.  Proceeds go to S.P.A.R.C. (South Eastern Pennsylvania Autism Resource Center. Admission is free and the music runs from 1 to 11 p.m. Ten tri-state area bands in the genres of folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, and more will be playing; there will also be games, children’s activities, food, craft, and artisan vendors, and tables providing information about ways to get involved in local community. For more information, visit "Singing out for Autism" on Facebook.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Party at Bam's

As long as I can remember, I've thought it's important to hang out with a wide variety of people. That was perhaps never more evident than when I was tailgating at the Cheshire Point-to-Point with my Unionville pals and received a text from a young friend inviting me to a punk-rock art exhibit at his friend Bam Margera's compound in Pocopson Township. He sent me the gate code.
Well, who could say no to that? The only gate I usually have to deal with is the one at the Mr. Wizard Car Wash. And after all Bam, a West Chester native, is something of a celebrity and Renaissance man: he's a skateboarder, a television and radio personality, a musician, and an actor and has made a name for himself -- and a considerable fortune -- celebrating the cool hipster lifestyle. He has developed an interest in painting and was hosting an art show that featured his own work and that of his friend, the more traditional painter John Hannafin.
So late Tuesday afternoon I drove over to Bam's. Cars were parked along the road and the gate was wide open. I parked and walked to the indoor skateboarding park where the art show was being held.
The guests were an eclectic and very friendly bunch: young, bearded, pierced, tattooed guys in hooded sweatshirts, some of the local art crowd (I saw Julie Dixon), and some more conventional curiosity-seekers (like me). Even County Commissioner Terence Farrell was there!
Bam's dark, graffiti-inspired paintings depicted wraithlike, tortured figures and a lot of symbols and curse words. John Hannafin's provided a vivid contrast, especially his paintings of sunflowers and tulips and West Chester scenes. A portrait he did of Bam was marvelous.
At one point I wanted to get a closer look at one of Bam's paintings and started walking up a skateboarding ramp. I quickly realized that was a big mistake, as my high-heeled boots gained absolutely no traction on the ramp, which was as smooth as a ballroom floor.
Unfortunately I had to leave to cover a West Marlborough township meeting, so I missed the performance by Bam's band, FFU (you can guess what one of those initials stands for), which will be touring in England in July.
On the way back to my car I noticed that one of the garage doors was open. I can now say that I attended a punk-rock art show where there was a bright-blue Lamborghini parked in the garage.

What's new at Doe Run Farm?

Richard Hayne wants to build a bridge so his cattle can cross a branch of the Doe Run Creek at his Doe Run Farm, and he will be seeking permission for it at a meeting of the West Marlborough Township Zoning Hearing Board on Wednesday, April 24, at 7 p.m.
The proposed steel box beam bridge, off Route 841 near the S-curve east of Thouron Road, will be about 56 feet long and 12 feet wide, with oak planks, and will be anchored by steel pilings.  At the township planning commission's monthly meeting on April 2, the township's engineer, Al Giannantonio, described it as "a very substantial bridge" that could bear the weight of not only cattle but also heavy vehicles.
He said Mr. Hayne's workers had already started the bridge project when the township alerted them that they needed permits; the project was then halted.
In other Doe Run Farm business, township supervisor Bill Wylie said he and Mr. Giannantonio recently met with two of Mr. Hayne's representatives, Mike Gladnick and Dave Ziel, to discuss several outstanding items:
1. The creamery, where the farm's cheese is made, does not comply with state regulations for commercial buildings.
2. The corn crib/chicken coop on Hicks Road is in the flood plain.
3. A small part of the paved road that Mr. Hayne built between Thouron Road and Route 841 is in the flood plain.
The supervisors said they did not consider the second and third items significant enough to pursue, especially since the expenses involved in holding a hearing would exceed the required fees.
"It's really not worth going there," said supervisor Hugh Lofting.
But on the first item, "there's not a whole lot of wiggle room" when it comes to enforcing state code, explained Mr. Giannantonio.
Back in 2010 Mr. Hayne had said the cheese-making facility would be for his personal use only, which meant that it had to comply only with regulations for agricultural buildings. However, when he started selling the cheese off-site, it then became subject to regulations for commercial buildings, such as having elevators and handicapped-accessible bathrooms.
Mr. Giannantonio said the township is awaiting a response from Mr. Hayne's representatives.

Home & Garden Day

The Bayard Taylor Library's annual Home & Garden Day -- this year in our own beautiful Unionville area! -- will be held on Saturday, June 1. Yes, I know, it's two months away, but everyone's schedule gets so busy that time of year that I wanted to give you plenty of advance notice. The tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $35 and must be purchased in advance: you can buy them on line (; at the library or by mail, 216 E. State St., Kennett Square, PA 19348; or by phoning the library at 610-444-2702. Tour proceeds benefit children's programs at the library.
Lunch will be available on the day of the tour at the Foxfire Restaurant at the Stone Barn from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch tickets ($20) also must be purchased in advance.

In other bridge news...

Frog Hollow Road residents will be delighted to hear that the legal wrangling with the state Department of Transportation appears to be over, and reconstruction of the long-closed Speakman Covered Bridge could begin in 2014. The 1881 bridge over the Buck Run has been closed since it was damaged by a truck, forcing those who live on the road to make a detour all the way north to Strasburg Road whenever they needed to travel anywhere.
Bridge reconstruction has been delayed because one neighboring landowner, Jeff Seder of Houyhnhnm Farm, objected to PennDot's plans. 
"I'm happy to say that Jeff has settled with PennDot," announced West Marlborough Township supervisor Michael Ledyard at the board's April 2 meeting. As part of the agreement between Mr. Seder and PennDot, an independent engineer will test the parts of the bridge that Mr. Seder does not think need to be replaced, and PennDot will not remove the bridge from the National Register of Historic Places.
"This is great news for everyone involved," Mr. Ledyard said, especially those who live on Frog Hollow Road.
[By the way, Houyhnhnm Farm is not a typo. In Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels," the Houyhnhnms are a race of intelligent horses.]

Road work

In his monthly roadmaster's report, West Marlborough Township Supervisor Hugh Lofting said that the road crew spent 19 hours clearing snow and spreading salt in March. They also worked on the township's gravel roads, replaced a pipe under Covered Bridge Road that was destroyed by fire, and worked to get the road equipment ready for summer: "Hopefully, it'll come," he said. Mr. Lofting also said that the township's police officer, Bob Clarke, issued eight speeding citations and seven parking tickets in March.


Michael Ledyard, chairman of the West Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors, announced at the board's April 2 meeting that he will be stepping down effective the end of April after 15 years of service. He singled out for thanks and praise the township secretary/treasurer Shirley Walton, solicitor Dwight Yoder, engineering and zoning consultants Al Giannantonio and Russell Yerkes, building inspector Eddie Caudill, the township road crew, and the township planning commission and zoning hearing board. He called his fellow supervisors Bill Wylie and Hugh Lofting "rock solid" and said he knows they will appoint "a good person" to fill his spot.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tiny pieces

Well, I wish I'd known this before I gave my own shredder such a workout last week!
From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, the Bayard Taylor Library in Kennett is hosting a shredding truck, which will be parked in the lot behind the library. Citizens can bring their sensitive documents to be destroyed for free. (No business documents, please!)

On a roll

I lunched at Hood's today (BBQ pulled chicken, yum!) and Larry told me that their spring/summer hours have started. They're open Monday through Saturday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Today I shared my table with a Chester County residential real estate appraiser who was on his way to a job in Kennett borough. (By the way, he said business is really picking up this spring.) He told me he'd often passed Hood's but had never stopped in until now. I told him I hoped I'd see him back again!

Family values

Well-known local residents Megan Bushnell and Laura Florence and their two children, Wylie and Mavis, starred in a "Wall Street Journal" video on March 27! The family was in Washington DC to show their support for same-sex marriage. Megan got a little choked up as she told the reporter that she and Laura had been together for 28 years and "we want to get married." She said she had high hopes that they soon would be able to.
Thanks to my pal Melissa for posting the interview on Facebook.
Here's the link to the video:
Megan and Laura are also featured in Wilmington photographer Barbara Proud's "First Comes Love" project, which profiles same-sex couples from all over the country who are in long-term relationships (

Baby chicks!

On Monday morning at 8 a.m., I got a frantic call from a friend: her baby chicks had arrived at the Unionville Post Office, but her contractor's truck was blocking her driveway and she couldn't get out! I calmed her down and dashed over to her farm to pick her up.
First stop was the Embreeville Mill to buy two bags of chick feed (medicated). Then we went to the Post Office, and as soon as we walked in we heard the high-pitched cheeping noises coming from the cozy box they'd traveled in from Texas. As soon as Choon Ok handed us the box, we took the little guys (n = 4) and girls (n = 24) home.
My friend had already set up in her garage a big black tub, lined with shavings and newspaper, and had rigged up a heat lamp over the top. One at a time she gently removed the chicks from the box, dipped their beaks into the water feeder so they'd know where it was, and then set them down on the newspaper.

They immediately started bustling around, pecking at the feed and trying to fly. My friend said in a short time she'd have to put a screen over the top of the trough to keep them from flying off.
You'll notice on the shipping label that they included a "free rare exotic chick." We had fun trying to figure out which one it was and burst out singing "One of these things is not like the other..." We settled on a gray one that didn't seem to have a twin.