Friday, January 31, 2014

Ferris wheel

Jim Houghton Enterprises, the carnival-ride company, had one of its Ferris wheels up and running on Friday evening at their winter storage site at Routes 41 and 926.  A friend of mine happened to be driving by and described it as a surreal sight, all lit up, red, white, and blue, against the dark January sky. When he returned in the southbound direction, the colors had morphed into sky-blue, spring green and pale yellow.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Road hazards

It shouldn't be news that I detest driving along Baltimore Pike from Longwood Gardens to the Route 1 bypass. Not only do people speed, but they drive carelessly and recklessly. I've mentioned before that I refuse to turn right on red onto Baltimore Pike after shopping at Staples: go ahead and honk at me, but there are just too many careless, distracted drivers who try to beat the light.
Well, the newest outrage is that motorists who are driving southbound (toward Kennett) are using the right-turn lane as a passing lane. Or they're getting into the turning lane as soon as possible and then failing to turn until they've passed several driveways. One motorist this evening got into the turning lane by the Wawa and blew by me. Last I saw the car he or she was passing Onix Drive, still in the right lane.
One reader suggested that people driving like [he used an entirely appropriate epithet] is really nothing new, and unfortunately he may have a valid point.
Another reader correctly pointed out that "people unfamiliar with the road never know how soon to get in the right-turn lane. Do we need to wait until after Sears if we want to take the Kennett exit? Or after Wendy's? Within maybe 200 feet you have exits for Wendy's, Sears, the hotel, Walmart and Kennett, and maybe I missed one. Here's hoping PENNDOT is reading."
Twenty-five years ago, when that stretch of road still featured the Anvil Inn, Hugo's, the Longwood Inn, and Phillips Mushroom Museum, the Kennett Paper ran a diagram showing what Baltimore Pike would look like if all the proposed developments were built out and the road was widened. It has come to pass.

At the car wash

Everybody has been driving around with icky cars, encrusted with grime and chalky road salt from the snow. So not surprisingly, the Mr. Wizard car wash in Kennett was the place to see and be seen this week. I drove by on Friday afternoon, when the temperature soared into the mid-30s, and the line of cars stretched out along Mill Road past the RiteAid drugstore, all the way up the block to the traffic light at State Street. And apparently the place was just as busy on the two preceding days as well.
Commented one reader: "Meant to get there today but did not make it. So funny, pulled up at UHS yesterday afternoon and several cars in front of me had the plastic sleeves on their rear wipers, and very clean cars, lol!"
Another friend decided to get her car washed before the cold snap broke. On one of those single-digit days, she took her car through the car wash at lunchtime and went back to work, parking in the Kennett parking garage. At the end of the day she was dismayed to find that the small amount of water left over from the car wash had frozen her car doors closed. She managed to get in, but got seriously razzed by her workmates. Honestly, it wouldn't have occurred to me, either!

Out of business

Spring Run Natural Foods, the health-food store in the Phillips Place cluster of stores on East Baltimore Pike  near Longwood, has closed its doors. I drove past this evening and the shop is completely vacant, with the fixtures and shelving removed. A broom was leaning against a wall. There's a sign on the window giving the new address of the chiropractor, Bob Sybesma, who maintained an office inside the store. The store owner was Art Paviglianiti.

What a card

Looking for a Valentine's Day card? I stopped in this evening at Equinox, the gift store in the Shoppes at Longwood Village, and was delighted to find a wonderful and diverse selection of very appealing cards ranging from the sentimental to the silly. I was laughing aloud as I read some of them and had trouble selecting mine. Go before the supply is depleted!
I was telling the pleasant clerk what great cards the shop stocked and another customer chimed in, seconding that opinion.
(They also have terrific birthday and other cards and even a very funny post-breakup card informing the recipient that the sender had never liked the ex, anyway.)
I told a friend to check out their Valentine's Day cards and she reminded me how good the card selection also is at the two local Pack-N-Ship stores (one is in the same shopping center as Equinox; the other is in Jennersville, both conveniently near Starbuckses). She also praised their assortment of books about rural life, gardening, animals and horses -- not standard fare at a mailing outlet!

On the clock

Those few extra minutes of daylight are starting to add up! When I left for the gym yesterday it was actually light out. Yeah, okay, the thermometer read 4 degrees, but at least the sun was above the horizon.
Another sign of approaching spring: the 69th Cheshire Point-to-Point is set for March 30.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Door #1 or Door #2?

Last year some Unionville friends of mine went to the wrong church in New Jersey for a relative's wedding. They realized their error when (a) they recognized no one in the church and (b) they received an anxious text asking where they were. (They claim there are two churches in the town named after the same saint.)
But I'm seeing a pattern here. The other night the same family went to the movies intending to see "American Hustler" but instead walked into the auditorium where "Wolf of Wall Street" was showing. The raunchy opening scene (the first of very many) clued them in to their mistake. Though they were fairly disgusted by the lurid depiction of the characters' bad behavior ("10 years ago this would've been considered porn!"), they stayed until the end anyway. The following night they went back to see "American Hustler" -- and made sure they chose the right venue.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


We got our full year's worth of silliness in just a few hours Saturday night at "A Midsummer Night's Tail," the annual pantomime "in the British tradition" presented by the Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society. This year's play, directed by Chris Ramsey, was a mashup of Shakespeare, "Star Wars," Robin Hood and "The Great Gatsby." As always, there was much audience participation: booing and hissing whenever the villain appeared, singing and clapping to the "Silly Song," and greeting the Dame when she appeared.
The most groan-inducing moment for me (an old English major) came when two characters were discussing a new game involving knocking down small pyramids with Frisbees. Its name? "Pyramids and Frisbees."
At one point Puck declared that she would "girdle the Earth" to find a love potion for the Fairy Queen Titania. One of the fairies wondered whether this would involve a trip to the ends of the world -- even as far as Unionville!
I thought the costumes this year were magnificent. I especially liked the Dame's pinup-boy apron, Puck's leafy tunic, and the evil Van Driver's blindingly pin-striped zoot suit. The kids portraying robins and fairies were utterly adorable. We loved the kid who doffed her robin headdress while taking her bows!
At the door we were greeted by the tuxedo-clad Gary Smith and Steve Warner, two of the founders of the now-13-year-old KATS troupe.
"I can't think of anyplace else I'd rather be on a snowy January night in Kennett Square than in that auditorium," proclaimed my theater companion, who sang, booed and laughed as lustily as anyone in the place.


The owners of Hood's should've set up a camera at the front door this weekend. They decided to move the counter 90 degrees (back to an earlier configuration), disorienting breakfast patrons who were already in need of caffeine. The double-takes were pretty amusing to watch!

Township meeting

Shake off those winter doldrums by attending the monthly meeting of the West Marlborough Township planning commission and supervisors. The fun starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, in the township garage in the village of Doe Run.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


The produce aisle always tends to spark conversation. I picked out two navel oranges yesterday at the Jennersville Giant and moved aside so the next lady could select hers. "No, keep going," she said. She was surprised when I explained that I really wanted only two; she said she can't keep enough of them in the house.
"Wow, you have a healthy family," I commented.
"Yes," she agreed. "But they're a dollar apiece!"

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Simpsons

Using a relaxed definition of what the Main Line comprises, "Main Line Today" magazine features Colleen and Wayne Simpson's Marlboro Village home in its February issue. The Tuscany-inspired home was on the Chadds Ford Historical Society's Christmas tour; maybe you remember it if you took the shuttle-bus part of the tour. The two designed the home: Wayne is an architect and Colleen is an interior designer.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rubbing it in

An Embreeville resident, by sheer good fortune, picked this frigid, snowy week for her winter vacation in the Dominican Republic. She wasted no time sending back gorgeous photos of hammocks slung from palm trees, white sand beaches and the sparkling aquamarine sea.
"The color of the water is amazing," she wrote. "The photo doesn't really do it justice!"
Later in the day, however, she posted a photo of her sunburned torso; apparently her sunblock wasn't strong enough for the tropical sun.
We're all very fond of her, but it really shouldn't have been a surprise that she got absolutely no sympathy from her Chester County neighbors.

Uriah Heep

Wow, hats off to the high-school kid staffing Foxy Loxy the other day. The place was really busy, with flocks of people ordering drinks, food and ice cream, but she managed to handle everything with a poise beyond her years. I would've been verging on the frantic.
My coffee partner and I took our drinks into their cozy living room, and our discussion led to this week's funniest auto-correct. I ordered the Quiche Lorraine, which made my pal think of the old song "Sweet Lorraine" -- except he couldn't remember who sang it. In the course of Googling, the 1970s rock band Uriah Heep (yes, named after the Dickens character) came up, and when I was texting this info to another 70s music fan on my smart phone, "Uriah Heep" morphed into "Irish Jeep."
(Long story short: it turned out that the extremely grim song my friend was thinking of was actually "Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine" by Country Joe and the Fish, from their 1967 album "Electric Music for the Mind and Body.")

Visiting time

Today I had the pleasure of visiting two senior citizens, parents of a friend, who just moved to one of the new assisted-living facilities in our area. The older couple and I had a nice visit in the large, comfortable, sunny reception room, which had a built-in fish tank and a big-screen TV playing afternoon talk shows. I talked up the attractions of our little town. They both wanted to get library cards, and I told them how easy it is to do that.
I heard all about the facility's food, the welcome freedom from supermarket shopping, cooking and cleaning up, and the avidity with which the residents approach the elevator to go downstairs at mealtime.
My friend's mother told me how much she loves to see visitors, especially when they bring pets with them to cuddle. It was too cold to take my guinea pig Binnie outside, but I promised I'd bring her in the spring.
I noticed how very careful the facility is about keeping germs away from their residents: there were antibacterial hand wipes at the front desk and plenty of signs and pamphlets urging visitors not to put residents at risk.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Received this Jan. 21 dispatch from a Cochranville outdoorsman: "Out in the woods today, had a Great Horned Owl fly past me 15 feet away, six feet off the ground. Amazing to see its face so clearly ... Saw it coming 2 feet off the ground from 60 yards away. Cut through the opening in the trees where I was standing. Not a sound, barely moved its wings. Disappeared into the woods below. Once watched one for at least three minutes, sitting in a branch about thirty yards from me."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


A friend of mine bought a $100 gift card for The Orchard restaurant as a Christmas present for her son, but as I reported a few weeks ago, the place closed its doors on Jan. 1. Does anybody know how to contact the former owner/chef, Gary Trevisani? My friend wants her money back, and understandably so. Please email me at if you have any contact info.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Winter hours

Just a heads up that winter hours are in effect at Barnard's Orchards on Rt. 842, which means the wonderful farm market is not open on Sundays until spring. So be sure to get there between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday!

On the road

I thought I'd been on most of the back roads around here, but on Saturday I found a new one: Valley Creek Road, between Boot Road in Downingtown and Route 322. It's a lovely scenic road along the creek and passes by East Bradford Township's Paradise Valley Nature Area.
Also on Saturday's wide-ranging travels I was once again amused by the blinking-light sign on the Route 1 bypass at Newark Road: "Hiring Winter Temps." Yes, I know they mean "road crew," but my immediate reaction is always, "They need to hire winter temperatures???"


A Unionville reader was kind enough to share the following item with me: "There is a heron of some sort who struts around the meadow on Rt. 926 between School House and Northbrook Rd.  He's lovely. If you're driving by there try to spot him."
"I don't know about `lovely'-- maybe `lonely'!" commented another friend who has also seen the heron. He said the bird, which he identified as a great blue heron, was "maybe 10 feet from traffic during rush hour, and staring intently at something in the grass -- from which I deduce they eat more than fish, as there were no fish along Route 926."
He said he (my friend) did a double-take when he saw the out-of-place bird so close to the road.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tricentennial for London Grove Meeting

2014 marks the 300th anniversary of London Grove Friends Meeting here in West Marlborough, and the anniversary committee has an impressive schedule of events planned throughout the year.
At 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting General Secretary Arthur Larrabee will be discussing "The Future of Quakerism." A covered dish supper will precede the talk.
At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8 (Feb. 22, snow date), Ellen Endslow, Director of Collections/Curator, Chester County Historical Society, will be discussing Chester County Quilts. Refreshments will follow.
At 7 p.m. Saturday, March 29, pianist Thomas Pandolfi, a graduate of the Juilliard School, will give a concert. Refreshments will follow.
From 11 a.m. to noon Sunday, April 27, arborist Scott Wade, who coordinates Pennsylvania's Champion Tree program, will be on hand to talk about the marvelous William Penn white oak at the Meeting House.
At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 7, architectural historian Seth Hinshaw will discuss "Meeting House Architecture."
On Sunday, Sept. 21, Downingtown painter Adrian Martinez will be discussing "Native Americans in Southern Chester County." A covered dish supper will start the evening.
Saturday, October 18 marks the official anniversary date. There will be graveyard tours at 1 and 3 p.m., exhibits in the Meeting House, a continuous video of "The Faces of London Grove." At 2 p.m. Swarthmore historian Chris Densmore will discuss “London Grove Quakers and their Peace Testimony in the American Revolution” and at 4 p.m. there will be a presentation on "London Grove Quakers Confront Slavery." Dinner will follow at 5:30.
At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8. local historic preservationist Karen Marshall will speak on "Quakers and the Early Development of Chester County: The Mark They Left on the Landscape."
Finally, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, Unionville native Gillian Grassie will give a Celtic harp performance. A covered dish supper will precede the concert.


On Thursday I spotted this bumper sticker at the Kennett Y (which has one of the busiest parking lots in existence) and wanted to share it with all of my chicken-rearing friends. The hens aren't laying very many eggs this time of year, but that should improve as we start to get more daylight.

Polar Plunge

This year's Polar Plunge to benefit the Brandywine Valley Association will be held Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Brandywine Picnic Park (formerly Lenape Park) at Routes 100 and 52.
You can register online at the BVA's website or on the day of the plunge from 10 to 11 a.m. The plunge into the Brandywine takes place at 11:30.
In this one case, merely participating rates a trophy, as far as I'm concerned, but the official prizes (which are hotly contested, as it were) go to the person raising the most money; the team raising the most money; the group with the most plungers; and the best costumes. One entrepreneurial young fellow I know is asking his friends to join him in the icy waters; if they refuse, he assesses them a $1 "Chickening Out Tax."


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Not my speed

The other day I received an invitation to an especially fancy fundraiser in Philadelphia and got a kick out of reading the card listing the levels of support. For a cool $10,000 you get free "preferred" parking, a "reserved private lounge for 10" of your best friends, early admission and -- my favorite part -- a "dedicated beverage server" for the evening.
"Does he hold your purse when you're dancing?" asked one practical-minded friend. Another said she'd be happy to do the job for only $5,000.
With the lowest-priced ticket ($400), you get one free parking spot (but not "preferred"), and no early admission, no private lounge and certainly no beverage server, dedicated or not. Pretty shabby in comparison.
I'm sending my regrets.

Taking a break

I met a pal for lunch today at Hood's, and already at 11:45 there were perhaps 15 high-school teachers having lunch. They had pushed three tables together and were very merry indeed. They told us that unlike on normal school days, when they get only the briefest lunch break, during mid-terms they're allowed to take a little more time and can actually go out for lunch.


En route from Kennett to Jennersville on Baltimore Pike (does anyone still call it LR131?) on a bleak, rainy Wednesday evening, I was driving through Toughkenamon and spied a top-floor garret, with bright light streaming out of its dormer windows. I immediately conjured up a fanciful image of a homey, cozy retreat, with a nice sofa and cheerful wallpaper and African violets, the kind of place where you could work or think out a problem, or relax and scratch the cat. I have no idea where that romantic notion came from: it's just as likely that it's drafty in the winter and hot as heck in the summer, and you have to climb three drab, depressing staircases to get up there.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


I spotted our local real-life Mad Man going incognito on his way into the Unionville Post Office on Tuesday afternoon, burrowing down into his jacket hood. Or maybe he was just trying to avoid the driving rain. Either way, he looked like he could teach a master class in eluding the paparazzi!


As expected in early January, there's an influx of newcomers at the Y. My gym class at Jennersville was mat-to-mat on Monday evening, which contributed to a certain sense of camaraderie when we had to coordinate our movements so as not to kick each other. The fitness center was so crowded at 5:30 p.m. that an employee had to walk in front of the treadmills and elliptical machines carrying a sign reminding people of the 30-minute limit. She reminded me of the "ring girl" who announces what round it is at a boxing match.
I say, more power to the newcomers! I think it's great to see heavy-set, slow-moving or out-of-shape people starting their journey to fitness. Just remember: The arrows in the parking lot are there for a reason. And fiddling with your playlist doesn't count as exercise.

Can you hear me now?

I've never denied having more than my share of curiosity. So when someone's old AT&T flip phone appeared Sunday afternoon at the end of my driveway, I immediately tried to turn it on and find out who the owner was (and, yes, just maybe take a peek at his or her Contacts list). Unfortunately the battery was dead and, after the heavy rain of the previous day, there was condensation inside the screen. I tried recharging it and dehumidifying it, but to no avail.
The next day I heard that over the weekend there had been several thefts from vehicles in a neighboring township, and apparently the thieves had discarded their unwanted loot around the countryside. I turned the phone in to the police department. I'm hoping they'll be able to ID the owner through the little memory card underneath the battery. Even if the phone is toast, if I were the owner I'd still want to know where it was.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Punk'd Pineapple

So what if it's January? A new ice-cream place opens, and you can rest assured I'll be there sooner rather than later. So on Sunday afternoon we paid a visit to Punk'd Pineapple, the newest vendor inside the Market at Liberty Place in downtown Kennett Square.
On our way in we saw a friend who works at Nourish, and she immediately recommended the "pineapple whip." She was right: it's delicious -- I had mine topped with plenty of chocolate jimmies, my tasting pal had his with chocolate sauce. I loved both. (And for those who care about such things, the pineapple is gluten and dairy free.)
They also serve vanilla and chocolate soft-serve, with a rotating assortment of exotic toppings, like toasted coconut, candied pretzels, and macadamia nuts. As an old Anglophile I was astonished to see the British ice-cream parlor staple "Cadbury Flake" (a milk-chocolate bar) on the menu as well.
Punk'd Pineapple is well worth a visit. Even in winter!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

RIP Maureen

Deepest sympathy to the Kanara family for the loss on Jan. 8 of Maureen Kanara, a wonderful mother and an amazing, brave, inspiring human being.
I learned what kind of a selfless person Maureen was when we were in the same gym class at the Kennett YMCA. One of her six children was facing a serious medical problem; coincidentally, my father was undergoing surgery. Over the next few months, before giving updates on her daughter's treatment, Maureen would first ask, with genuine interest and caring, about my father and how he was doing.
And later, when she was having health issues of her own, I'd often see her at Starbucks with her husband when they were up here in Pennsylvania from their Florida home. She may have been bald from the effects of chemo, or facing yet another cancer relapse, but she always seemed optimistic and cheerful, sharing news about how well her kids and grandkids were doing. Astonishing guts: I think most of us make more of a fuss over a cold.
She was a beautiful and deeply memorable person.
Family calling hours are from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, at the Longwood Funeral Home of Matthew Genereux, 913 East Baltimore Pike, and from 10 to 11:15 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Willowdale Chapel. A life celebration will follow at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Willowdale Chapel.


After a week of bizarrely fluctuating temperatures, Saturday morning started out foggy and rainy, with flood warnings. No matter: after a delicious breakfast at Hood's, and plenty of their steaming coffee, we were ready for running errands all over town. For a short while around lunchtime we heard thunder -- how strange was that in January! -- and the thermometer shot up to almost 60 degrees, only a few days after the single-digit cold. I was too warm in my ubiquitous fleece pullover and I actually saw a man at Wal-Mart in shorts and sandals.

Thursday, January 9, 2014


I like the very fact that there's a website called!
On Sunday, Feb. 9, the United Way of Southern Chester County will be holding its second annual Kennett Chocolate Lovers Festival, in which bakers (separate categories for professionals, amateurs, and students ages 12 and up) will vie for prizes and guests will get to sample the goodies (cakes, brownies, candies, cookies and cupcakes).
A $5 admission fee includes six samples from "regular" chefs, with the professional goodies costing two tickets.
Anne Coleman, Director of Campaign Development for the United Way of Southern Chester County, told me that at last year's Fest they had 1,400 visitors and nearly 200 entries for tasting. 
This year's event will be held at the Kennett High School from 1 to 4 p.m. You can buy tickets in advance online.
Bakers, the deadline for submitting entry forms is Jan. 31. There's no entry fee.
For more information, rules, and entry forms, visit the aforementioned website. It also has information about the special "Salon du Chocolat" preview party that Chris and Cecilia Ross are hosting at their East Marlborough home on Saturday evening, Feb. 1.

Under pressure

Remember Monday, the exciting day that the temperature plummeted from 50 degrees to single digits? As I was driving home from our township meeting (I'm hardy, but no, I did NOT walk to the meeting like I do in the summer), my car's tire-pressure light came on. I vaguely remembered hearing that a sudden change in temperature can cause this, but just to be safe--I could well have driven over a nail--I checked the pressure. They were all a little low, so I went to the gas station to top them off.
Sure enough, there were two vehicles in front of me doing exactly the same thing.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bad timing

At the prodding of his wife, a friend went through his closets and drawers last week, pulled out everything he hadn't worn in two years, bagged it up and gave it away to the Salvation Army. Unfortunately, all of his thermal long underwear ended up in the discard pile, he reports ruefully. He didn't think he'd ever need it again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Up on the hill

The old stone hunting box at Thompson Wood on Route 82 near Dupont Road is going to be moved again.
At their Jan. 6 meeting, the West Marlborough Township planning commission saw plans showing that the small building would be relocated slightly downhill and the long, steep driveway will be reconfigured. (The hunting box was originally close to Route 82 and was moved up to the top of the hill.) The 50-acre farm's owners, Robert Johnson and Susan Orsini, plan to construct a separate home for themselves and will leave the hunting box as a rustic cabin.
Mr. Johnson and Ms. Orsini have already applied for a building permit and a grading permit from the township, but they will not need additional approvals from the township because zoning regulations permit them to build a new house on the property, with the hunting box considered an accessory use because it does not have a kitchen or running water (although it does have electricity).
The owners' architect is their next-door neighbor, Richard Buchanan of Archer & Buchanan in West Chester. He said the new house is still in the design stages.

Few changes

At their annual reorganization meetings on Monday, Jan. 6, the West Marlborough Township supervisors and planning commission chose their leaders for the year. Bill Wylie will continue to chair the board of supervisors, with Josh Taylor as vice-chair. Jeb Hannum will continue to chair the planning commission, with Jake Chalfin as vice-chair and Anna Myers as secretary. On the planning commission, Mr. Hannum, Richard Corkran and Elizabeth Hershey-Ross agreed to serve another term.
Joe Huston's term on the township's zoning hearing board expired, but the supervisors appointed him to serve another term.
Shirley Walton will continue as the township's part-time secretary/treasurer, supervisor Hugh Lofting as the township's roadmaster and emergency management coordinator, Dwight Yoder as the township's solicitor, Al Giannantonio as engineer/zoning officer and Eddie Caudill as building inspector (Eddie was not at the meeting; he is a supervisor in East Marlborough Township, which was holding its own reorganization meeting the same night).
The supervisors gave the road crew raises of about 2.5% in their hourly wage.
The board also set the township meeting schedule for the year. They'll meet on the first Tuesday of each month except for November, because the first Tuesday is Election Day, and the township's meeting space doubles as its polling place. The November meeting will be Nov. 3.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Prog Rock

The radio station WXPN delighted many listeners of a certain age with its special "Prog Rock" feature this past weekend, playing tracks from Yes, Genesis, the Strawbs, Caravan, Renaissance and similar vintage bands that provided the soundtrack to my youth. However, one listener confessed that she misunderstood "Prog" (short for "progressive") as "Prague" and wondered why they were devoting so much time to Czech pop music.


Notes on this week's weirdly fluctuating weather:
1. There's a sweet gum tree in my side yard, and the wind has blown off its seed pods complete with their stems. The yard looked like a snow cocktail full of prickly maraschino cherries.
2. Two friends have a long, steep driveway that turned into a luge track with Sunday's ice. They waited until noon to go out, giving the ice a chance to melt, but still the wife waited at the bottom of the driveway, cell phone in hand and ready to call emergency services, while her husband delicately negotiated the decline. All was well.
3. While most horses are shivering under their layers of blankets, one friend's horse is in ecstasy in the cold. His endurance triples, claims his proud owner, who describes him as half draft horse and half polar bear.

Home away from home

On Sunday afternoon we stopped at Foxy Loxy in Unionville, intending to get just a quick cup of coffee and head off to do errands. Instead we saw two dear pals, already ensconced on the sofa, and the four of us ended up staying for two hours, chatting happily in front of the fire. "It's just that kind of place," commented one friend. FYI: Their malted milkshakes are unbelievably tasty.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Venturing out

The Cranky Friend, even though he lives in downtown Kennett, has become something of a hermit in recent weeks, happy just to stay indoors, make hearty soups and incite Internet arguments. I hired him to do a proofreading project of the old-fashioned paper-and-pencil variety and suggested that we meet at the new Kennett coffee shop, Philter, so I could hand over the 400-page manuscript.
He was alarmed at the suggestion: "What? Leave the house?!" he said, only half-joking. But he braved the snowy sidewalks and seemed much the better for a steaming cup of tea and some actual human contact. 

The Orchard

The Orchard Restaurant, site of many a memorable, special-occasion dinner, closed its doors as of Jan. 1. Chef /owner Gary Trevisani posted the news on the restaurant's Facebook page:
"Five and a half years ago, as I took ownership of The Orchard, I had one vision in mind: to create a unique dining experience rivaling that of a Broadway show. After all, dining is entertainment. I hope that I brought that entertainment experience to you each and every time you dined with us. But like most Broadway shows, eventually it must come to an end. ... The countless memories and amazing new friendships are reward enough for me for what has become a long, tough but spectacular time in my life."
The chef warmly thanked his staff and patrons ("I have had the pleasure to know some of the warmest and personable people of my career") and in closing hinted at things to come: "I hope to, if you should allow me, to entertain you in the future."

Friday, January 3, 2014

Turn to black

Read and learn from my example.
Before Christmas I bought a pack of address labels from Staples, and with all the hustle-bustle it was just a few days ago that I finally got around to sending in the receipt and paperwork for my $5 rebate. As soon as the envelope was in the mailbox, I found on my desk another rebate form that I hadn't filled out. So I walked back to the mailbox, retrieved the envelope and, drawing on my extensive reading in the murder-mystery genre, steamed open the flap by holding the envelope over a pot of boiling water.
Alas, all the murder-mysteries I've read were written before the advent of thermal paper. I got the flap ungummed neatly enough, sure, but the cash-register receipt had turned completely black from the heat!
Fortunately, the numbers I needed to claim my rebate were safely on the un-steam-damaged receipt. I quickly applied online before I could commit any more errors.
All this for five dollars! Definitely not cost-effective.

White Clay Creek

On the Saturday between Christmas and New Year's the temperature rose to a balmy 50 degrees and my hardy hiking buddy and I decided to take a walk through the White Clay Creek Preserve, a state park near Landenberg. We parked in a small lot off London Tract Road and hit the Penndel Trail, walking to the London Tract Meeting House (site of the "ticking tomb") before looping around on the Edwin Leid Trail along Sharpless Road and then retracing our steps, a round trip of about four miles.
It was a beautiful sunny day -- no need for gloves or a hat! -- and there were many other hikers, joggers, hard-core cross-country runners, and dog-walkers taking advantage of the unseasonable weather. We also saw two equestrians fording the stream and one shotgun-carrying hunter.
The route we took followed the creek most of the way. We didn't see many birds or animals, but it was interesting to see a couple of man-made structures: a crumbling old boarded-up house near the Meeting House, its dormer windows collapsing at alarming angles into the roof, and a green metal shed that once housed a USGS monitoring station for transmitting data about the creek's water level. I noticed one of those ground-level USGS cartography markers in front of it.
The footing was a little muddy in spots, but as far as I was concerned that just made the walk more fun. I was wearing my all-purpose Gore-Tex boots, and wouldn't you know, we ran into a fellow hiker who was a Gore-Tex employee and noticed my footgear right away: "Practical AND stylish!" he commented with pleasure.
Another friendly fellow walking with his lively dog, Jack, turned out to be a trail maintenance volunteer for the park and gave us a few suggestions for trails we should check out.
Another hiker we encountered was rather less sunny. She told us -- with startling vehemence -- that the muddiness was NOT due to the rain, but rather to the number of hikers using the trails. She didn't seem to approve at all. Perhaps she thought that she and her group should be the only ones permitted in the park?

Make this the year

Every January we old-timers at the Y see an influx of people who have made New Year's resolutions to shape up. Most of them, unfortunately, don't get into the habit of working out regularly (go ahead; prove me wrong, please!), and within a few weeks class sizes and the parking lot revert to their usual state. At the Kennett Y on Jan. 2, while I was doing my usual burpees and ball slams, I saw a few people being taken on conducted tours of the facility, and next to me in the fitness center an old-timer was gently introducing a "newbie" to the multiple joys of the Bosu, the stability ball and the medicine ball. She didn't seem impressed.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year

I think the best way to describe the Great Mushroom Drop is to tell you that we spent the whole evening searching for two friends of ours. One is quite tall and is usually conspicuous in any crowd. And both of them were wearing red polka-dot mushroom hats, which you'd think would also have made them stand out.
Nope. We couldn't find them! Not only were there too many people in general, there were also too many people wearing mushroom headgear. Only in Kennett Square.
It was a fun evening, and I'm delighted I managed to stay awake. One of my favorite moments was my first glimpse of the huge, lit-up mushroom hanging from the crane at State and Union Streets. It was a magical sight against the dark sky.
It was below freezing, but I was well wrapped up and the cold didn't bother me at all. Maybe the heat from so many people warmed things up, or maybe it was the hot coffee from Fran Keller's and the Underground Donuts food truck.
After wandering around town saying "hi" to friends and visiting the open stores, at about 11 we staked out a spot in front of Talula's Table on State Street. Up until that point it had been a low-key evening, but over the next hour hordes of people descended on town and it got very crowded.
The people-watching was entertaining. One guy who wandered by wore a Santa Claus outfit, complete with beard. A group of stylish young men with Big Hair walked by, and one briefly tried to stand in front of me. Families brought their kids, some little ones asleep in strollers.
And at 11:59, the mushroom started its slow descent -- as the crowd counted down, it hit the street at the stroke of midnight.
I was hoping for a traditional chorus of "Auld Lang Syne," but instead the band launched into Lynyrd Skynyrd. Oh well.
Huge congrats to the folks who worked so hard to pull off this event! It really put Kennett on the map.