Sunday, June 30, 2013

To get in touch

Readers, if you ever want to share some news or comment on a story, you can drop me an email at Or you can read my blog online and comment there; just search for "Unionville in the News." Thanks for your input.

St. Malachi

St. Malachi Roman Catholic Church is inviting the public to its 175th anniversary on Sunday, July 7. At noon Archbishop Charles Chaput will celebrate Mass, followed by refreshments and "a thunderous Celtic bagpipe tattoo program in the fields adjoining the church!" (per the church website). St. Malachi (pronounced "MAL-a-key") is a beautiful, simple, historic church in a profoundly tranquil Londonderry Township setting (that's me talking). Tickets are free and can be reserved on the parish website,

New businesses

I was delighted to run into my pal Jim at the Half-Moon on Saturday afternoon. He was taking a break from installing tile at the new Nourish Juice Bar and Café just a few doors west on State Street. Nourish is going to open soon as part of the much-talked-about Market at Liberty Place, at State and Center Streets in Kennett. (Jim used to tend bar at the Half-Moon and used to manage the Kennett Flash.)
Also, I see on Facebook that Two Stones Pub hopes to open a branch this autumn at 843 E. Baltimore Pike, the site of the just-shuttered Kings Island Chinese restaurant (happy retirement to the owners!). Two Stones plans to serve Sunday brunch as well. Their other gastropubs are in Newark and on Foulk Road in North Wilmington.

Coming of age

The Cranky Friend ("Do we need to walk so fast? It's hot!") and I had the pleasure of seeing a photo session for a Quinceanera while we were walking at Anson Nixon Park on Saturday. The birthday girl, who looked beautiful, wore a teal-blue, full-length ball gown with a full ruffled skirt. She was accompanied by a group of her peers who took part in the ceremony, all formally dressed: the boys wore black suits with matching blue vests and the girls white and blue dresses. They arrived at the park in one of those white limos that looks like it's been stretched out like taffy.
The Quinceanera is a traditional Latin American ceremony to celebrate a girl's 15th birthday and marks her coming of age as a young woman.

Blocked driveway

Two friends who live in Cochranville got hammered by last week's repeated storms and strong winds: two large evergreens toppled onto their driveway, and if it hadn't been for an intervening Norway Spruce that softened the blow, not only their new roof but their cars would have been crushed. Fortunately the damage amounted to only a few dents on the Jeep, but they were busy for days clearing the damage with a tractor and chainsaw so they could get out their driveway. I talked to the wife, my tennis partner, yesterday and she said she was so exhausted that she was at risk of confusing her tennis racquet with a branch.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Common sense

A local equestrian accident this past week that could have been MUCH uglier underscored the importance of taking your phone, and keeping it on your person, when you're out riding alone. Should you get bucked off, a phone that's in a case on your saddle won't do you much good as your horse gallops away. Yes, they'll be able to track down the horse via GPS, but that'll be cold comfort if you're lying there injured in some remote field!

Friday, June 28, 2013


Because of the heavy rain on Thursday, June 27, the Kennett Square Historical Commission had to postpone its "The Real Housewives of Kennett Square" walking tour until Thursday, Sept. 5. It's on my schedule!

Flash flood

Now THAT rated a Flash Flood Warning! It started pouring late Thursday afternoon, let up for a bit, and then started again. The tiny creek in front of my house developed whirlpools as it rushed underneath the road. By sundown the Doe Run near Springdell had flooded its banks, creating lakes on Route 841 between The Whip Tavern and Thouron Road and also on Route 82 between Blow Horn and Wilson Road. I got through the first one but didn't risk the second one: a nearby fence was underwater above its bottom rail, which meant the water was at least a foot deep. The guy behind me was in a big pickup but turned around, too: he said even though he sits up high, the rushing water could easily move his tires. Conversely, I saw one foolhardy fellow try to get through the lake by The Whip by driving as fast as he could; he didn't get very far.
The next day I took a drive around the township and found that everything had pretty much settled down to normal, except for the flattened pastures that had been underwater and patches of gravel that had washed down onto the roads from driveways. The Doe Run was still running fast and muddy, but nothing like the night before. I saw our township road crew out working on Thouron Road, where there was some erosion damage.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Brandywine Boy"

I'm so looking forward to reading Adrian R. Morrison's new book, "Brandywine Boy," his autobiography about growing up in Chadds Ford in the mid-20th century. Dr. Morrison is Professor Emeritus of Behavioral Neuroscience in the Laboratory for Study of the Brain in Sleep, which is part of the Department of Animal Biology at Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine. His first book was "An Odyssey with Animals: A Veterinarian's Reflections on the Animal Rights & Welfare Debate." (In other news about this distinguished gentleman, an annual Adrian Morrison Lectureship has been established at Penn's Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology!) His blog address is


A fair number of Unionville residents head south every winter to enjoy the sporting and social life in Wellington, Florida, which the Wall Street Journal in a June 21 feature dubs a "hub for billionaires and horse lovers, from Gates to Bloomberg to Springsteen" (the subtitle reads, "Wellington may be one of the few places in the world where it is possible to get a pickup game of polo"). The effusive quotations from the real estate brokers, residents, riders, polo players and developers in the story are entertaining to say the least, and the estate prices mentioned will probably bring some smiles. As one real-estate agent is quoted as saying: "Wealthy people like horses. Wealthy people's kids like riding horses. It's a relatively small world."

Best of ...

Kennett Square and Unionville certainly made a fine showing in the annual "Best of the Main Line and Western Suburbs" issue of "Main Line Today" magazine.
Singled out for special mention were the Country Butcher, the Whip Tavern, the Half-Moon, Fran Keller's, Talula's Table, Giordano's, La Michoacána Ice Cream, Bite of Italy, Nomadic Pies, the Four Dogs, and Sovana Bistro. I've mentioned all of these at one time or another in this column and am a known-by-name regular at several. There are items about LOTS more shops and restaurants you've probably visited, along with an interview with style-maker Ashley Palandrani, owner of Ashley Austin on State Street.
It's all in the July issue of "Main Line Today," the one with meteorologist Sheena Parveen on the cover.
(In my day, the Main Line extended only as far as Malvern, but I'll let them slide. It's hard enough putting out a magazine today!)


A friend of mine can't get Federal Express to deliver to her place, so she had a new swinging rope chair (the kind that hangs from a hook on your porch ceiling) shipped to my house. It arrived (the FedEx drivers know my house very well) and en route to a family dinner that evening, I went to drop it off to her. Alas, I found my way blocked by a downed tree on Powell Road, between Green Valley and Scott Roads.
I was befuddled for a moment: Wait, I thought. Here is a problem I can't talk my way out of! I snapped a photo, posted it online to warn others, then turned around and drove to Kennett for dinner. On the way home I approached her house from the "other" direction and delivered the chair. And who did I see coming down Powell Road but Newlin Township Supervisor Rob Pearson on a front-end loader! I stopped and waved to him and started to gesture in the direction of the fallen tree.
No need to explain.
"I'm on it," he called out with a grin.


With this hot weather, be sure to change the nectar in your hummingbird feeder often so it doesn't spoil. Like a bad restaurant, if they get one bad meal the hummingbirds won't come back!
I don't have a problem with the nectar going bad because my little guys drink the whole cup within a day or two. Some flit around nervously, never settling onto the rim; calmer ones land and just make themselves at home (like my favorite breakfast pals and I at Perkins).

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

No soliciting

Penn Township has erected "No Peddling or Soliciting" signs at the Jennersville intersection. I'm assuming this was done to discourage the beggars who have been hanging out at that intersection and at the nearby shopping center, holding cardboard signs saying "Homeless" and approaching motorists for handouts. According to the township's ordinance, if convicted offenders face fines of up to $600 per offense. That's a lot of dollar bills given by soft-hearted people.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Foxy Loxy"

I spotted this banner hanging above the side door at the forthcoming Unionville ice-cream shop off Route 82!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Holding Langers in the light

I want to express my condolences to Bernie and Claudette Langer of Springdell on the loss of their son, Michael. Michael had a stroke over the winter and then suffered a series of complications, infections, operations and setbacks before dying the afternoon of Thursday, June 20, at the age of 54. His parents can be proud of knowing they got him the best care possible throughout his -- and their -- long ordeal. May he rest in peace.

Diego Garcia

On Thursday a pal asked if I'd join her for a free concert on Friday evening at Longwood Gardens.
Say no more: of course I would!
The performer was the Argentinian-American singer/songwriter Diego Garcia and his band (another guitarist and a cellist). I hadn't heard of them, but it seems their alternative/folky music is on frequent rotation on WXPN ("You Were Never There," "Laura") and hence they have a devoted local following (the open-air theater was full).
It was a great, fun, relaxed show and I became an instant fan. Their CD "Paradise" is coming out in October and they played a number of songs from it, some of which Diego claimed still had some rough edges (could have fooled me).
And the venue: Longwood Gardens on the first evening of summer. Magical.
Diego Tweeted the next day: "Thank u longwood gardens and Philadelphia for the love last night! One of my all time favorite shows."

Saturday lunch

I had a very pleasant lunch at The Whip today with three pals, one of whom had never been there before (he lives in Ardmore). He loved his duck confit sandwich, washed down with a pint of Saucony Creek Brown Ale, and said the tavern reminded him of the many happy hours he spent in pubs while he was "studying" overseas in Edinburgh a few years ago.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fireworks hearing

As part of their monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 2, the West Marlborough Township supervisors will hold a hearing on the township's proposed fireworks ordinance. Under the ordinance, those wanting to have a fireworks display would have to submit a written application for a permit and would have to hire a "competent operator." The township's interest in regulating fireworks stems from a man's request to host a fireworks display at his daughter's wedding reception at The Stone Barn this coming September.
The hearing starts at 7:30 p.m. at the township building in Doe Run.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A quick meeting

Dick Hayne now has permission to build a steel box beam bridge so his cattle and farm equipment can cross the Doe Run Creek. The West Marlborough Zoning Hearing Board granted the Doe Run Farm owner a special exception in a June 20 meeting that lasted only about 10 minutes.
Board chairman Clayton Bright and Board solicitor Craig Kalemjian gave brief introductions, and Mr. Hayne's attorney passed out a thick packet of information to each Board member. Before he even started to lay out his case, though, Mr. Bright asked him if any of the plans had changed since Mr. Hayne's original bridge submission that they'd already reviewed earlier this year. When the attorney said nothing had changed, Mr. Bright called the Board into a huddle for an executive session. A few minutes later he called the meeting back to order and they unanimously granted the special exception. Meeting adjourned.
Mr. Bright praised Mr. Hayne's people for submitting such an organized and complete proposal.
"I commend you guys," he said to the team of engineers and lawyers as they dismantled their unused easels and packed up their displays and photos. Minimal billable hours for the taxpayers to pay, and an early night for all.
The bridge will be constructed near the S-curve of Route 841, east of Thouron Road.
I had decided to take advantage of the beautiful evening and walk over to the township hall for the hearing. Good thing I'm a fast walker (so to speak): had I taken my time I would've missed the whole meeting!
And in other Doe Run Farm news, I hear that Mr. Hayne was as distraught as anyone when he heard that That Tree had been blown over in a windstorm the morning of June 13. Just the day before he had purchased the Springdell property where the tree stood!

Dead Fest

The Fourth Annual Dead Fest is coming up Friday, June 28, from 6 til 10 p.m. at the Brandywine Valley Association on Route 842 (1760 Unionville-Wawaset Road). I was there last year and it was a hoot, with the tie-dyed outfits and laid-back friendliness you'd expect from a crowd that likes Grateful Dead music. Among the bands will be Montana Wildaxe, Mallory Square, the Cameltones and Origami for Addicts. Tickets can be ordered online at Proceeds support the BVA's conservation programs.
I wonder if anyone else remembers a program I went to years ago, some time in the mid-90s, at the BVA where storyteller Annie Hawkins performed in front of a hillside field of corn that was planted in the shape of a giant heart?

Lavender Lady

Christine Mason wrote to tell me about a fragrant craft program she'll be leading at Stargazers Vineyard and Winery near Embreeville. She writes, "I grow lavender at Stargazers (well, it's a work in progress!) and as the lavender is now coming into bloom, I'll be holding lavender wand-making classes at the winery."
She'll provide "our own freshly cut lavender, ribbon and full instructions to weave a beautiful wand. Wine and cheese will also be available to purchase."
Classes will be held on Saturday, June 29, at 1 p.m.; Thursday, July 4, at 5 p.m.; and Saturday, July 6, at 1 p.m. Wands cost $5 each, with all proceeds going to "Waggies by Maggie and Friends" (, "a non-profit dog treat business whose mission is to employ persons with intellectual disabilities." 
And what is the purpose of a lavender wand? Chris says they "have been used for centuries as a decorative way to carry the scent of lavender. They can be used in linen drawers to impart their relaxing scent or hung on doorknobs, bedsteads or windows as a decoration."
Preregister at You can learn more about "the Lavender Lady" on Facebook (Fatspikelavender) or her blog (

Kennett Run

I see that The Kennett Run, which had a fantastic turnout this spring, is advertising for a race director for next year's event. You'll receive "a small stipend" for the "approximately 300 hours of community service to a charitable cause." They're looking for "a demonstrated commitment to community and some experience with athletic event management." E-mail Kennett Run Charities president Matt Genereux at

To the lost

A recent editing project of mine is a textbook for pre-law students, "American Constitutionalism," and it highlights famous legal cases and documents in our nation's history. One chapter was entitled "The Watergate Era" and it brought back long-forgotten names like Martha Mitchell, John Dean, John Sirica and Archibald Cox. I remember watching the Watergate hearings on video monitors set up throughout my high school, and our less hide-bound social studies teachers threw out their planned curricula in favor of the living history we were witnessing.
There was another poignant reminder of those times in the obituary column last week: the remains of Air Force Major Louis Fulda Guillermin of West Chester were finally identified, 45 years after his A-26 Invader plane crashed in Laos. The accompanying photo shows the handsome navigator smiling and wearing in a white dress uniform with a black bowtie. He was declared dead in 1978 after being missing in action for 10 years. I can't imagine what his family went through.
Major Guillermin was with the 609th Air Commando Squadron, 56th Air Commando Wing, 7th AF, United States Air Force. As a terse description that I found online reads: "Maj. (then 1st Lt) Luis Guillermin and Lt. Colonel (then Capt.) Robert Pietsch were flying an A26A aircraft over Laos when the plane was downed in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Their last known location was about 10 miles east of the city of Ban Muong Sen."

Tick ... tick ... tick

I've been alerting everyone I know that ticks seem to be rampant this year. For six days straight I found one each day crawling up my jeans pant leg -- and this after several summers where I saw none at all. Fortunately these were the "big" and easy-to-spot kind, not those insidious deer ticks. I keep a roll of Scotch tape on hand and just seal them up.
I know you're more accustomed to hearing me gripe about those foul stink bugs, but I simply haven't seen any. (Update: Not two minutes after I saved this item, I found another tick crawling up my right leg. After I finished the next item, there was one on my left arm. Honestly!)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


These storms we've had the past few days have been incredibly localized. At my house we got a few downpours, a little bit of wind, a few claps of thunder, absolutely nothing worth writing about, much less justifying the incoming "Flash Flood Alerts" that sound like an air-raid siren on my phone.
But friends who live only a few miles distant reported deluges of rain, gusts of wind, power loss and -- in one case -- some major erosion. The June 13 storm that took down That Tree clobbered the trees along Apple Grove Road, which was littered with branches and broken trunks. The intersection of Apple Grove and Green Valley was especially hard hit.
After the June 18 storm I made it to my class at the Jennersville Y without seeing any damage at all, but my classmates started trickling in late reporting that parts of Route 1 were shut down, as well as Route 41 between Chatham and Route 926 (the detour was Routes 841 and 926). One woman who lives on a farm along 926 was dismayed to see a parade of tractor-trailers on her road and wondered how she was going to get her rig out of her driveway.

Goin' to the chapel

At a graduation party in Unionville last weekend I was chatting with a young woman who is getting married in March in New Orleans. She is formidably organized and has already found her dress and her bridesmaids' dresses and lined up the venue, the caterer, the florist, the photographer and the DJ. The latter asked her to supply a list of 20 must-play songs and 20 must-not-play songs. We had fun coming up with suggestions for the latter, among them Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" (great song anywhere but at a wedding reception) and the Village People's campy "In the Navy" (the bride's uncle is a Navy veteran and would not react well).

Monday, June 17, 2013

A day for all fathers

Has Father's Day morphed from honoring one's own father to celebrating fatherhood in general (Fathers' Day, plural)? I used to wish a Happy Father's Day to just my own Dad; now I find myself expressing similar sentiments to friends' husbands who are fathers and even men who serve as nurturing "fathers" to their animals. At our Father's Day family dinner we raised our glasses to both Dads at the table.
I heard interviews with a few of the golfers competing in the U.S. Open at Merion on Sunday, and they mentioned the significance of playing in the final on Father's Day and how they strive to exemplify good behavior while out on the course, even after making two double-bogeys. Good stuff.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Marvelous Night

The Natural Lands Trust threw an amazing outdoor gala on Saturday, June 15, to celebrate the opening of the Lenfest Center, its new headquarters at the 1,263-acre ChesLen Preserve off Route 162 and Cannery Road (named for the old Mastrippolito mushroom-canning factory) in Newlin Township.
Lots of my Unionville friends and neighbors were on hand to pay tribute to Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, whose generosity helped to establish the nature preserve and erect the headquarters. After a "flash mob"-style chorus gathered everyone's attention by singing "Moondance," Molly Morrison, president of the Trust, gave a speech thanking the Lenfests and outlining the preserve's history.
While we were eating, drinking and chit-chatting, several hot-air balloons from the balloon fest at Plantation Field floated by. After the week's dramatic weather, we were fortunate to enjoy a calm, beautiful evening.
On the menu was delicious paella, chicken and sausage from local farms, fried plantains and rice and beans, mini-burgers, mushroom dumplings, bruschetta -- and I'm sure I didn't get to all the food stations. For dessert there were made-on-the-spot s'mores (terrific, but talk about sticky fingers!), fancy water-ices and strawberry rhubarb pie, with cappuccino shooters.
Well done, co-chairs Jeb Hannum and Katharine Maroney! And thanks for the invitation, Kirsten Werner.
The ChesLen preserve is open to the public, free of charge, from dawn to dusk seven days a week. There's an excellent map showing the hiking trails and places of interest. I will definitely put it on my list to explore.

Looking up

I spent part of Saturday night in a Cochranville parking lot marveling at the rings of Saturn, the huge star cluster M13 and the donut-shaped Ring Nebula, courtesy of my friend Kevin Witman, who is a serious amateur astronomer and photographer. In a program sponsored by Londonderry Township, Kevin brought out his two giant telescopes -- the bigger one, which he recently bought himself for his birthday, has a phenomenal 16-inch mirror -- and gave his neighbors a glimpse of the heavens. Kevin's enthusiasm for astronomy is positively endearing: every time he would bring into focus another heavenly body he'd exclaim in genuine delight (his wife, harpist Janet Witman, said he's always like this). He brought along a set of portable steps so that little kids could climb up to the telescope eyepiece, and he was patient with them and gave good explanations about why he had to keep adjusting the non-motorized scope (because of the Earth's constant movement).
Thanks, Kevin, Janet and Londonderry Township! I had a great time out there as the sky got darker and more stars -- and even a satellite -- became visible.

Longest Day

"Do you always watch for the lonest day of the year and then miss it?" asks Daisy Buchanan near the beginning of "The Great Gatsby." "I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it."
If you are like Daisy, here's a reminder: the longest day of the year is Friday, June 21, the summer solstice. After that the hours of daylight gradually start to decrease.
(I was amused to read the would-be insightful notes I wrote next to this passage in my college edition of "Gatsby": "perfect pose ... the longest day is an illusion!")

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Coming soon

If you're on Facebook you can get a sneak peek of what's going on inside the "Market at Liberty Place" at State and Center Streets in Kennett Square. The owners, Larry and Geoff Bosley, have posted a neat little video showing workers building walls and installing tile in preparation for the much-anticipated opening of the marketplace, which they describe as "combining community and culinary creativity." The official ribbon-cutting is at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 27.

"I'm bored"

I well remember how bored I used to get over summer vacation as a kid. So here's a suggestion for you newly freed students: instead of waiting until the night before, why not get a jump on your entries for this fall's Unionville Community Fair? Make some artwork or crafts. Play around with your photographic techniques. Experiment with cookie recipes (I noticed that one of the perennial cookie contest champions just graduated!). Tend your potentially prize-winning flowers and vegetables carefully.
And be sure to put the Fair on your autumn calendar: October 4, 5, and 6.


Freeze frame

Hillendale Elementary wrapped up the academic year with the annual fifth-grade Wax Museum. It was quite amazing: the kids chose scenes from American history, for example a Southern plantation or the Boston Tea Party, decided how best to portray them, produced sets and costumes, and then acted out the scene without speaking or moving as visitors walked by.
Some kids had it easier than others, although I know it's not easy even playing dead (you have to breathe without letting your abdomen rise). I have no idea how others stayed so still -- like the plantation mistress who was pointing out a spot of dust to her slave.
Of course I did my darnedest to distract the Young Relative, but I was utterly without success (my parents claim they got him to crack a tiny smile, but I'm skeptical).
What a terrific tradition! The kids probably didn't know that such "tableaux vivants" were a popular form of entertainment before our current media age.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What was I thinking?

Tilda's strategizing skills clearly need some help.
This evening the Cranky Friend and I were having a drink at the Half-Moon (which, by the way, just turned 16!) and realized that dinnertime was rolling around. Lucky for us, Lily's sushi restaurant is just steps away.
"You buy the drinks, I'll buy dinner," I offered. He accepted immediately.
Really bad decision on my part. Because it was still "happy hour" our bar tab was only $10! The bartender said she'd overheard my generous suggestion and wanted to stop me before it was too late.
The Suddenly-Not-so-Cranky Friend was utterly gleeful the rest of the evening. He scanned the sushi menu for the most expensive item and briefly considered ordering the "sushi for two" platter and eating it all himself.
But he didn't, and even let me have a shrimp out of his Tom Yum soup, an unheard-of kindness.

Bluegills come in every size

On Sunday I saw a boy fishing with his father at the lake in Anson Nixon Park. The Dad was giving him pointers on casting, and soon enough the boy's bobber went under and he took his time and patiently hauled in a bluegill.
"Dad!" he called out, triumphantly holding it up. "You don't have to catch fish for me anymore!"

That tree

The beloved Springdell tree is no more.
If you know the tree I'm talking about, I don't need to explain how beautiful and dramatic it was, standing alone atop a hillside north of Route 841, near Chapel Road. The often-photographed tree was just always there, reliable, majestic and comforting -- until this morning, when it blew over, crashing down to the east. At 10:39 a.m. I got a text message from the Sharp-Eyed Friend: "Omg. The tree fell down. That tree." I pulled on my boots, grabbed my phone and raced over.
It was a steep climb up the hill to the tree and it was a sad one. Instead of standing proudly, the tree was lying on the ground, pointing toward Blow Horn. Some of the limbs

were twisted apart, and smaller branches had been blown all the way down the hillside. There was a crater, with rocks in the bottom, where the roots had been; now they stuck up grotesquely toward the sky.
Looking down over the valley I could see a few cars stopped down along the road and other motorists were going very slowly and, I'm sure, gazing up to where the tree used to be. I immediately posted a photo online and my phone started "binging" once a minute with shocked and dismayed reactions. All day people were talking about how devastated they were to hear the news. One woman even called to make sure I was going to write an obituary.
Until today, I didn't realize how much that beautiful, inspiring tree meant to me and to lots of others. Our affection toward it was a bond that united the community. All you had to do was say "that tree," and people knew what you were talking about. We all lost a friend on Thursday morning.

Update #1: Initially I thought the tree had been hit by lightning because I saw a black crease down the trunk, but apparently that was earlier damage, and the strong winds were the culprit.
Update #2: I received the following note from blog-reader Dana: "Although I am no longer living in the area, I reminisce about the many times that tree served as my muse each time I passed it on morning rides (horseback and bicycle). It made each season more beautiful and I will miss it each time I return to my old neighborhood."
Well said.
Update #3: I was told on Friday that the landowner plans to put in a new tree in the same spot!
Update #4: You'll notice I've just been calling it "the tree." Some say it's a Hickory, but I strongly believe it's an Ash (it has opposite leaflets rather than alternating ones). I'm playing it safe and going with the generic.


A fellow was telling me last night about how he brews tea from the leaves of the stinging nettles that flourish in his backyard. After donning cowhide gloves, he carefully picks the leaves, rips them in half, pours boiling water over them and lets them steep for 15 to 20 minutes. He then puts an ice cube in the concoction to cool it off and drinks it. He said it tastes bitter, so he'll sometimes steep the leaves along with some regular loose tea.
Why does he do this? He believes the tea is a natural histamine blocker.
If you're unfamiliar with stinging nettle, let me stress that the first step -- wearing gloves -- is critical. All you need to do is brush up against the plant's little stinging hairs and you will feel it the rest of the day.
According to Wikipedia, nettle leaves are also used as an early-spring vegetable (they are said to taste like spinach) and are made into soups, cordials and beer. And in Great Britain, competitors in the annual Stinging Nettle Eating Championship in Dorset "attempt to eat as much of the raw plant as possible. Competitors are given 60 cm (20 in) stalks of the plant, from which they strip the leaves and eat them. Whoever strips and eats the most stinging nettle leaves in a fixed time is the winner. The competition dates back to 1986, when two neighboring farmers attempted to settle a dispute about which had the worst infestation of nettles."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fig magazine

A little hard-copy magazine called "Fig" has popped up recently and it is very nicely done indeed. Perhaps the current issue, all about local restaurants, shops, and organizations, has landed in your mailbox; if so,  don't toss it. Pretty photos, interesting content, clean and uncluttered design -- and best of all, I couldn't find a single typo in the copy. They even spelled "expatriate" correctly!
(If you haven't seen a copy, you can sign up for free delivery at


I'm looking forward to "The Real Housewives of Kennett Square" walking tour on Thursday, June 27. It's one of this summer's county-wide "Town Tours and Village Walks" and is sponsored by the borough's Historical Commission. It's free!
"Guides will lead visitors through the Borough to hear costumed actors reveal the roles that women played at different periods in Kennett Square’s history. From nurses and teachers to poets and world travelers, these ladies were as educated and talented as their fathers, brothers and husbands," says a press release.
Starting at 5:30 p.m., tours will depart from the walkway east of the Genesis Building at State & Union Streets.
I've been going on these walking tours for years and they are really well done. You'll learn all kinds of interesting facts about places you drive or walk by frequently.

Dropping out

A spiritually minded friend writes that he will be spending his summer vacation (he's a professor) traveling and attending writers' retreats and meditation workshops in remote locales. "I plan to spend most of June, July, and August off-line," he says. "And yet, somehow, I will still exist—I think."
I'd have a hard time going unplugged. I would really miss e-mail and the Internet.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

It's the law

Remember the item in last week's column about the smoky bar I visited in Honey Brook? A few people asked me how a bar could rate an exemption from the state's no-smoking law.
There are two ways, I found out. In both cases, the bar can't admit people under 18, it has to have signs posted at every door saying smoking is allowed, and it has to have "a valid restaurant liquor license or an eating place retail dispenser license." In the first type, food sales have to account for 20% or less of the establishment's total sales. In the second type, the bar area has to be separate from the eating area, and the food sales in that smoking area area have to account for 20% or less of total sales in the smoking area.
In another legislative quirk, I was surprised to see a purple-and-white "Classic Car" license plate on a not-especially-old Ford Explorer the other day and wondered what exactly the definition was. According to the PennDOT website: "Classic Motor Vehicle - A motor vehicle, but not a reproduction thereof, manufactured at least 15 years prior to the current year, which has been maintained in or restored to a condition, which is substantially in conformity with manufacturer specifications and appearance." To be considered an "Antique Motor Vehicle," the same applies, except it has to be more than 25 years old.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Up in the air

Heads up -- literally. The Chester County Balloon Festival will be held Friday, June 14, and Saturday, June 15, at Plantation Field on Route 82 west of Green Valley Road.
Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $10 a car, but those of us who live nearby will probably be able to see some of the hot-air balloons for free as they drift over in the evening (horse owners, take note).
The full schedule of events is on the festival's website,
In preparation for the event, on May 12 Po-Mar-Lin Fire Co. in Unionville hosted a class on hot-air balloon emergencies. Attending in addition to Station 36 volunteers were firefighters from Modena, Kennett, Avondale, and West Grove Fire Companies.


Just plain wrong

There was lots of wholesome activity going on at Anson Nixon Park on Saturday. At the amphitheater there was a family-oriented event, with music, Mexican food, and representatives from social service and public health organizations. In one of the pavilions there was a Boy Scout get-together, and in another there was a big family BBQ.
And in the midst of all this was a guy wearing a black T-shirt with an obscene word emblazoned on the front in big white letters. Why, WHY, would you wear this to a place where there are always lots of kids? (Why would you even buy such a thing, as far as I'm concerned, but to each his own.)
And yes, I did give him a piece of my mind. You're not really surprised, are you?

Friday, June 7, 2013


A "Unionville in the News" reader sent me this note about an upcoming milestone:
"Nancy Houser, Deacon at Church of the Advent, Kennett Square, is scheduled to be ordained as an Episcopal Priest. She held the church together for more than two years after the sudden death of the pastor a week before Christmas several years ago. Buses will be taking friends and parishioners to Nancy's ordination on June 15, 2013 at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral.  Nancy is loved by the parish and an amazing woman."
More information is available on the Church's website:

Thursday, June 6, 2013


At the end of the monthly West Marlborough Township supervisors' meeting on June 4, longtime township resident Baz Powell said she was concerned about the spread of invasive bamboo in the township. Township zoning officer Al Giannantonio said he is familiar with the actions that other municipalities have taken to control this tenacious, fast-growing grass and would look into what West Marlborough could do.
A "Unionville in the News" fan said she read with great interest my item a few weeks back about controlling multiflora rose and mile-a-minute vine; I had mentioned that this was a hot topic of conversation at a breakfast party I attended. I want to alert her, and my other readers dealing with invasives, to the website The group has taken aim specifically at mile-a-minute and offers all kinds of useful information. (Thank you, Dan Maffei, for the tip!)

Cemetery fence

This is some creative thinking on the part of the Unionville Cemetery Association's board! To spruce up the old iron fence around the cemetery (which is just across Route 82 from the Unionville post office), the group is starting an "Adopt a Section" program.
"With a tax deductible donation of $100.00, donors would be "responsible" for a 6' section of the fence," said Board member Rusty Young, who is co-chairing the project with lot holder John Montague. The fence, an 1860 gift from Anna W. Seal, was last repainted in 1960. "When all donations are secured, and welding repairs are completed, the fence will be professionally cleaned and repainted, to restore it to its original condition."
For more information you can contact me ( and I'll put you in touch with Mr. Young, or you can visit the cemetery's Facebook page (yes, even graveyards do social media now).


Even my tennis opponent was expressing concern over the ratty condition of my faithful Sauconys, so I headed over to Famous Footwear in the Longwood Shopping Center this afternoon to buy a new pair. I was in for quite a surprise. As you may have gathered over the years, I am not a flashy person in thought, word or deed; alas, sneakers these days are not made for conservative folks like me. Instead, they're manufactured in an array of eye-popping psychedelic colors, with multiple colors and patterns all on the same shoe.
I commented on this trend to the very nice salesguy, and he agreed. He said many customers come in asking for running shoes but don't want them in colors "that you can spot from a plane."
I purchased one of the calmer combinations of colors (silver with melon and mint accents), and I'm already very fond of them.
Also, I was pleased to see that the most outlandish sneakers were also the most expensive! This, I like.


After exactly zero of my pumpkin seeds sprouted, I decided to replant. While re-digging, I unearthed a few of the original seeds and they were all dried up. Perhaps I planted too early? Apparently the second time's the charm: within days (those 80-degree days) every one of the new seeds germinated. Very shortly I'll be struggling to contain the vines within the garden.
My carrots didn't do well either: I have maybe a dozen little fronds coming up out of an entire (expensive) seed tape. Others have told me they've had poor germination this spring, too. I'm very glad I bought spinach plants rather than starting them from seed.
On the plus side: my flowers are doing great. I had my first harvest of snapdragons, zinnias, celosia, cosmos and salvia!


A friend's daughter started out her summer vacation by getting rear-ended by a truck. She's OK, thank goodness; her car, not so much.
She was heading east on Route 926 and as she crested the hill just before you come to the Pocopson train station and hardware store, she saw a long line of cars stopped at the traffic light. She stopped in time, but a truck rear-ended her and she hit the car in front of her.
The girl's mother points out that even if you're going the speed limit, "there is very little time to stop if there is a line of traffic."
I agree. Traffic really does back up at that light in the morning and evening.
And a Unionville reader who drives a Rover Community Transit Bus wrote to me to point out a hazardous intersection that he sometimes encounters on his route:
"Some mornings I have to cross over State Street from Linden street and I'm heading on S. Willow going towards Cypress. As soon as you get to the stop sign to turn left, there is a red maple tree on the corner lawn that hangs down about 2-3 feet from the lawn. Talk about a blind spot! It's an accident waiting to happen. You can barely see the traffic coming down Cypress unless you creep out close to Cypress."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cyclist alert

Bill Clement e-mailed and asked me if I'd give readers a heads up about the Chester County Challenge for Cancer bike ride, "which will send a large volume of cyclists through Unionville on Father’s Day (June 16). Courtesy of Doug Mooberry, we will have a rest area for the riders set up on the Kinloch property in Unionville." 
The ride benefits the Chester County Hospital Cancer Center and Neighborhood Visiting Nurse Association (Hospice). Bill said that in its 15-year history, the ride has raised over $350,000 for these organizations.
Bill said he wanted to alert local residents to the fact that there will be a lot of cyclists and volunteer road marshals in Unionville that Sunday morning. The event's website is   

Ordnance ordinance

The West Marlborough supervisors are considering enacting a fireworks ordinance, following a request earlier this year from a man who wants to host a fireworks display at his daughter's September wedding at the Stone Barn on Upland Road.
Supervisors' Chairman Bill Wylie said at the township June 4 meeting that having an ordinance in place "would give us a little bit more control" when such requests are made. The board agreed to have township solicitor Dwight Yoder draft an ordinance, which could be enacted as early as July.
In other business at the monthly meeting, Lt. Richard H. D'Ambrosio, station commander of the Avondale state police barracks, reported that his troopers had been called to only 38 incidents in West Marlborough in the past 3 months, including 8 car accidents, 3 thefts from vehicles, 5 reports of debris on the road, 2 false alarms and 1 suspicious person; no burglaries or incidents of criminal mischief.
He said West Marlborough has "probably the lowest" number of calls of any township covered by his troopers. He urged residents to keep an eye out for their neighbors and to keep their cars locked: apparently so many people leave cars unlocked that thieves will just move on to the next driveway if they encounter a troublesome locked car.
Roadmaster Hugh Lofting said the township road crew has been busy mowing roadbanks and oil-and-chipping roads.
Township zoning officer Al Giannantonio reported that two zoning permits were approved in May: an addition to a hay shed at Dixon Stroud's farm on East Doe Run Road, and an addition to the Irelands' historic house on Springdell Road. The Irelands also were issued a building permit for their renovation project.
Also, Josh Taylor, who was promoted to the Board of Supervisors in May, agreed to do double duty and remain as head of the township planning commission as well until the supervisors appoint a new member to the commission.

50% more!

Trail runners, take your mark: you don't want to miss this one. The Chasin' for Chalfin trail race, which this year has been expanded from a 10K to a 15K, will be held on Saturday morning, July 20. The course winds through the "fair hunting country" of the astonishingly beautiful Runnymede estate outside of Springdell and includes "hills, vistas, and creek crossings." There's also a 5K trail run for fun and a 3K on-road fun run/walk.
The race benefits our friend Jake Chalfin, who was seriously injured in a steeplechase accident in September 2010 and gets around now using a wheelchair and van.
This is the final leg of the series sponsored by Trail Creek Outfitters in the Glen Eagle Shopping Center.
You can register online until July 17. Onsite registration is from 7:30 to 8:15 a.m. on the day of the race. Race time is 8:30 a.m. 

(In other Jake sporting news, the Third Annual Chasin' for Chalfin polo match and BBQ will be on July 14 at the Brandywine Polo Club, 232 Polo Rd. in Toughkenamon. Gates open at 1 p.m. Match starts at 3.) 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Smiths

M. Night Shyamalan has a new movie out, "After Earth," and for a change he didn't shoot it in Chester County (the closest he got was Sun Center Studios in Aston, Delaware County).
The sci-fi flick, which stars Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith, took in $27.5 million on its opening weekend, even though the critics are trashing it. The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern says it's a contender for the worst movie ever: "I've never seen a movie that moves so slowly, or takes itself so seriously." (Ouch.) Time's Richard Corliss says it "may lack the neck-swiveling awfulness of Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, but it quickly sinks in its logorrheic solemnity."
You can still see the "road" that the director had built for his 2008 movie "The Happening" near the intersection of Powell and Scott Roads in Newlin Township (he wanted a four-way intersection). The road goes up a hill and ends abruptly at the end of camera range.
Then again, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that "After Earth" wasn't shot here: after all, it's a stretch to imagine Unionville as an uninhabitable, quarantined planet.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A New Deacon

My dear friend Doug, a long-time member of St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, told me that on Saturday, June 1, his fellow parishioner Jim Elliott, of Kennett Square, was ordained as a Deacon after six years of intensive study. As a Deacon (from the Greek word for "servant"), he can now proclaim the Gospel, baptize, and conduct funeral services.
Doug writes: "As I sat as a participant in the liturgy I realized that the Mass was created in a way to exalt every human sense. I was in awe seeing the beauty of the cathedral’s architectural details and the patina of the stained glass, hearing the booming basilica choir with organ and orchestra, the woodsy smell of the burning frankincense, a touch from the person next to me offering a sign of peace, and finally the taste of the Eucharist."
The ceremony was conducted by Archbishop Charles Chaput at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. Doug adds: "As with most every solemn event today, the congregation was interrupted with a very loud cell phone playing, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.  I only hope it was from a Phillies fan."


Here is an embarrassing fact: I have actually never been into the ChesLen Preserve off Route 162 just north of Unionville. There, I said it. I pass it a few times a week; I have friends who live in walking distance; but I have never explored it.
But that will change next weekend. The nature preserve is holding a Community Day from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 16, to celebrate the opening of the Lenfest Center, the park's new headquarters, built thanks to the generosity of philanthropists Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest. There will be scavenger hunts, preserve walks, arts and crafts, tours of the new building and refreshments.


Last week I wrote about the open house at the London Grove Lake Club (the old Avon Swim Club) that was scheduled for Sunday, June 9, but it has been postponed.
"Keep checking our page for updates on the Lake Club and when we will be having our open house," said a June 2 post on the club's Facebook page. "Thank you for all the support you have given us and continue to give us!"
The "old swimming hole" is a water-filled quarry off Route 41 near the Baltimore Pike intersection.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Cold as ice

The other day I made my first trip of the season to the La Michoacana ice-cream shop on State Street in Kennett. After I ordered, I went up to the owner, Noelia, to pay.
She looked at my dish with disbelief.
"But it's not coffee!" she said. (She knows from long experience that's my favorite.)
I held up my dish and showed her that the coffee ice cream was indeed there, just hiding under the brownie delight ice cream. So very tasty!
And in other frozen-concoction news, there's a front porch being built at the future ice-cream parlor in downtown Unionville, and I spotted a classified ad looking for a shop manager. (But no word on whether a croquet league is being formed.)

On tour

I just got home from the Bayard Taylor Library's annual Home & Garden Day and, as always, I had a great time. I volunteered for a few hours at one of the sites and had fun schmoozing to my heart's content. During my time off I got to visit two Unionville homes that have recently undergone major updates: Brooklawn (the Hannum estate) and Upland House (where horsewoman Betty Bird lived for many years). Both have been beautifully redone and were filled with family and equestrian memorabilia. I loved seeing the famous painting of Mrs. Hannum on her horse surrounded by her beloved foxhounds and, at Upland House, a stunning portrait of the current owner's grandmother as a young girl.
Mrs. Hannum's grand-daughter, Nancy Davidson Wood, was on hand at Brooklawn, which is now her family's home, and when I was there visitors were keeping her busy explaining various Stewart, Harriman and Hannum connections. One guest asked her to explain the purpose of an inches-wide door on the side of the dining room fireplace. A plate warmer? The liquor cabinet? She opened it to show that it concealed nothing more exotic than some pipework.
Despite predictions of stifling heat and thunderstorms, the temperature was in the mid-80s and there was a slight breeze that kept the day comfortable (except for possibly the second floor of the house where I was volunteering). The gardens were lovely, full of irises and peonies.
This year I noticed a lot more men on the tour; usually groups of ladies make up the majority of the guests. The hostess at one house offered a plausible explanation for this phenomenon: both Lou Mandich's Last Chance Garage and Doug Mooberry's Kinloch Woodworking were kind enough to open their doors to visitors.
A highlight of the tour is always the food. At the houses I visited I got to sample The Mushroom Cap's mushroom salad (and had a nice time chatting with owner Kathi Lafferty), the Kennett Square Inn's tomato flour tortillas with tapenade, and biscotti from Sinclair's Sunrise Café. A friend raved about the portabella cheesesteak from Portabella’s and the homemade raviolis from La Verona and predicted that "anyone not familiar with those restaurants" would "book reservations immediately!"
Having served on the library's Special Events Committee for many years, I know all the hard work and endless tiny details that go into pulling together this tour. Very impressive indeed!


What a nice story about Doe Run Farm's cheese in the latest "Wine Spectator" magazine! A reader alerted me to it last week, and I finally got hold of a copy thanks to my hairdresser, who among her many talents keeps a wide variety of periodicals on hand for her equally varied clientele.
The writer, contributing editor Sam Cugino, visited Richard Hayne's West Marlborough farm and interviewed cheesemaker Kristian Holbrook and his wife Haesel. There's a photo (by Wilmington's Jim Graham!) of Kristian with some of his Jersey cows, with the Hicks Road barn in the background.
Cugino was impressed by how labor-intensive farming is: "In the five hours I observed him, Holbrook not only didn't sit, he rarely stopped moving." He also sampled several cheeses, describing Seven Sisters as "nutty and sweet" with "a caramelized, butterscotch quality"; St. Malachi as "unctuous" and "earthy"; and Hummingbird as having "a nice minerality."

Something in the air

An allergy-prone friend is singing the praises of the antihistamine Zyrtec. Without it, he said, his eyes would be itchy and irritated and he'd be sneezing constantly at this time of the year, when the multiflora rose is in bloom. Knock on wood, I'm not allergic, but I'm certainly aware of the multiflora rose anyway: it leaves a coating of yellow pollen all over the place, including my deck, the windowsills, and inside and outside my car. I keep a Swiffer cloth in the car to wipe off the dashboard every day.
I find the multiflora rose scent bordering on cloying, but it was ambrosial compared to the thick cigarette smoke that filled a Honey Brook bar where I saw a friend's band perform on Friday night. As soon as we walked in the door my friends and I were struck by the overpowering smell and thought: Wait a minute! Isn't smoking in bars supposed to be illegal? Apparently not: the large ashtrays on the bar were heaped with butts, and one of the rules posted next to the three coin-operated pool tables was "No smoking over the table." ("No moving the tables" was another one; I can only imagine what misadventure led to that rule being established.)
As we were leaving, we saw one young woman standing outside lighting up. "I guess it's too smoky for her inside," quipped a friend.
As soon as I got home I dumped my clothes in the washing machine. I also checked the Pennsylvania Department of Health's website and found that, sure enough, the place has an approved exemption from the state's "Clean Indoor Air Act."