Saturday, November 30, 2013

When Black Friday Comes...

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


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

Floga Bistro

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

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

Over the edge

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Hunt

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

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Un-Glamour Shots

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

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving around the world

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

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

Best Society

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

What's your sign?

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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

We need more like him

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

Steel Rails and other hits

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wild Birds

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

My 15 minutes

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

In the movies

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

Thursday, November 21, 2013

3-D Printer

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

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

Embreeville rezoning

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

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


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

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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Spirit Wing

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

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

Fire company fundraiser

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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

30 mph

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

Roses and thorns

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

Friday, November 15, 2013


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

Quaker events

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

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

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


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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Class clowns

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

Hood's expansion plans

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Goat Kitchen & Bar

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

In the lobby

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

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

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Art Gala

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

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Perfectly Fowl Week

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

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

Whitewing Farm decision

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

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Red Lion Road

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

Beaver lodge

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

Book Sale

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

Semi-feral ponies

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

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

London Grove signs

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

Fireworks fallout, continued

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

Hay fire donations

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


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

Internet safety

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

Braces and boots

I have often commented on the propensity of equestrians to injure themselves; it seems to be to be a fairly high-risk activity, to put it mildly. It's not just coincidence that orthopedic surgeons take out full-page ads in the programs for local equestrian events.
Anyhow, this worked to my advantage on Saturday night, when I completely overlooked a small concrete step at the Kennett parking garage and ended up turning my ankle. (No, OF COURSE I was not distracted by the handsomeness of my date. That had nothing to do with it. Silly reader!)
I iced it overnight and on Sunday morning I called my foxhunting pal, who has amassed braces, bandages, and cooling, heating, and massaging devices for every part of the anatomy (most of which she has injured; a mutual friend refers to her as "Calamity Jane"). She was delighted to lend me a lace-up brace from an ankle fracture last season; a wrap-around stretchy ankle brace (I'm wearing it now); and her stiff leather paddock boots, which give great support (and are enormously comfortable). She offered me some veterinary aspirin cream, too, but I drew the line there.

Monday, November 4, 2013

On display

This weekend is the 38th annual Art Gala at Unionville High School. Hours are 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9. I went last year for the first time and was impressed by the works of the local professional artists as well as the UHS students. I even bought the lovely little footstool (with a painting of a goldfish) that my feet are resting on at the moment. Who knows what will captivate me this year?


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hunt Cup 2013

All week I was watching the weather forecast with dread and steeling myself to smile through a bitingly cold afternoon in gale-force winds at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Races here in West Marlborough. Instead, it turned out to be a glorious day: sunny and 50 degrees, with only a light breeze. I didn't even need to don my gloves, much less the assortment of wooly shawls and knitted hats I brought with me.
My two friends and I packed the Jeep full of food, drink, chairs, and two dogs and had an absolute ball watching the races and cheering for the horses that were owned, trained or ridden by friends of ours. (I was torn in the Arthur O. Choate Memorial Race: my friend and neighbor Paddy Young was riding "Worried Man" -- but how could I not root for a horse named "The Editor"? "Worried Man" won; yay, Paddy!)
No horses got hurt this year, though quite a few of the jockeys took tumbles that looked extremely painful.
At one point -- I forget which race it was -- the horses were galloping around the north side of the course, and off in the distance, in a picturesque echo of the race, we saw a group of deer chasing each other and vaulting over their own fences.
Between races we wandered around and chatted (it's a VERY social occasion). The day before the Hunt Cup had been the beginning of the formal fox-hunting season, so the fox-hunting enthusiasts we saw shared stories about the exciting opening days they'd had. Equestrian events are always a great venue for both people-watching and dog-watching; probably the most unusual breed we saw this year was a Great Pyrenees.
On the menu at our tailgate picnic were macaroni-and-cheese and pulled pork sandwiches from Hood's in Unionville (delicious as always) and Robin Mastrippolito's fabulous cupcakes, the ones I purchased at the Unionville Community Fair auction back in October. I stored a dozen of the cupcakes in my freezer but of course ended up eating some in the meantime; fortunately I had the sense to stash the other dozen in a friend's freezer for safekeeping.
Several times during the afternoon, my friends and I just looked at each other with a sense of gratitude and said, "We are so lucky." There we were, with dear pals, the sun shining on our faces and looking over the picture-perfect Chester County landscape: awesome.
Thank you to all the organizers of this tremendous event, which benefits the Chester County Food Bank. My friends and I look forward to it every year, and it is always a memorable day!

Mason Porter

If you get a chance to see the local rock band Mason Porter, do. I saw them on Saturday night at the Kennett Flash, and it was a great show. The friend I went with, who is a knowledgeable fan about local music, has seen them several times and said they just keep getting better and better. One of the songs they did was "Waiting for My Man," a tribute to the recently deceased Lou Reed.
The Flash is such a great local venue: the room is comfortable, the sound isn't too loud (spoken like a true old fogey, I know), you can order sandwiches, and we got to chat with the band and some friends afterward. It was a terrific evening and gave me a much-needed night out.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Mrs. Miriam Myers was kind enough to pass along this photograph of Sam Barnard being honored last December for his 75 years as a Grange member. Barbara Roney, the master of East Lynn Grange #1263, is presenting him with his certificate.


I've been going to Doug Mooberry's open house for many years, and it's always inspiring. Doug and his team at Kinloch Woodworking in Unionville create the most beautiful furniture, and the open house gives the public a chance not only to admire their completed masterpieces but also to explore the workshop where they are made.
Upstairs was a striking coffee table made of paulownia wood (paulownia trees line the west side of the main path that leads to the conservatory at Longwood). Due to the configuration of the log from which the table was made, there was a dramatic hole in the middle. The piece featured on this year's invitation was a bench of bubinga wood with ash spindles: "Kinloch combines Shaker, Chinese and Modern in a very comfortable bench." I also liked the tall clocks whose moondials featured the covered bridge at Buck Run, and when I sat in one rocking chair I could feel my tight lower back relaxing immediately.
In the workshop I enjoyed seeing the antiques that the craftsmen are restoring and repairing. Stacked in one room are the raw boards from which the furniture is made, some still with bark intact.
In addition to Doug and his wife Pat (whose pottery was on display) I saw several friends. One woman came up to me and told me that when I came in, she thought I looked familiar. She and her husband wracked their brains and finally placed me: I'd met them at a housewarming picnic TWO SUMMERS AGO! Talk about a good memory.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Farmer's Road

A wholesome and delicious restaurant, Farmer's Road, has opened at the Painter's Crossing shopping center at Routes 1 and 202. I stopped in for lunch today and had an excellent turkey, cheese and spinach sandwich with spicy mustard, along with sweet-potato chips and an orange-mango soda (they serve all-natural New Hope sodas). The decor is appropriately rustic, and the service is quick and friendly (they had no problem giving me Cheddar cheese instead of goat cheese in my sandwich). They also feature an oatmeal bar at breakfast time and a pickle bar, there are vegetarian sandwich options, and there's even a "drive-thru" window (ironically, the place used to be a KFC joint). They seemed to be getting a good lunchtime crowd: a half-dozen coworkers were entering as I was leaving.
According to the restaurant's website, "Our menu will feature clean, fresh flavors along with all-natural, organic ingredients. As we support local business; 80% of our produce will come from local farmers; as well as our meats and poultry." Their menu and details are online.
Thanks to the mother-and-daughter pair of friends who alerted me to this place! It opened earlier this year to little fanfare (at least, little fanfare that reached my eyes or ears).


Seen around town:
1. The powers that be REALLY want to alert you to the entrance to Cartmel along Route 926. First there's a 1000-foot warning sign, then a 600-foot one, then a 300-foot one. It reminds me of those sequential Howard Johnson's or Stuckey's turnpike signs on childhood car trips.
2. The long-empty, graffiti-marred former gas station at Route 1 in front of the Wal-mart is being torn down. There's no indication what's going to replace it.
3. A new (and welcome) Kennett Y parking lot is under construction across Race Street from the Y. And significant earth-moving is also going on in Unionville, behind the post office and fire station, for the new municipal park.