Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What's hot!

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

Saturday, December 28, 2013


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

Friday, December 27, 2013

Keller's hiatus

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

For the birds

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

End of the year

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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hey, Mom!

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


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


Christmas Presents

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

Holly Jolly Christmas

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


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

Roast Beast

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

Remember Jim?

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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Windowsill gardening

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nice people!

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

New signs at London Grove

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

The liberal arts

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

Cabela's is coming

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Road crew

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

Middle School

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Carols

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Indian Hannah

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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shopping in the Square

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Guac for me, please

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

Tough guy

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013


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

Top ten of 2013

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The anti-Scrooge

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

Monday, December 9, 2013

News from the art world

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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Open Studio

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


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

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's open!

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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hay there!

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


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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Marshallton events

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

Earned income tax

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

West Marlborough planners

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ginger snaps

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

Monday, December 2, 2013

Does he know me or what?!

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

Sunday, December 1, 2013


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


A Duane fan

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

The Hungry and the Hunted

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