Saturday, January 31, 2015

WORLD HISTORY: Typos and trivia in a history textbook

I just finished editing a textbook on world history since the end of World War II. It was an interesting and mostly well-written project, but I caught quite a few mistakes missed by the spell-checking program. Two examples: "NFL" instead of "NLF" (for the National Liberation Front in North Vietnam) and "libation theology" instead of "liberation theology."
I had to give the author credit, though for the use of the word "pell-mell," which you just don't hear anymore. It means rapid and darting. He used it to describe the past few decades of economic development in China.
Naturally in a book of this type, the names of many world leaders were given, and I checked the spelling of each on line. I found out that along with capsule bios, Wikipedia also gives the height of prominent people. Did you know that Nikita Khrushchev was only five-foot-three? And Iranian politician Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is only five-foot-two?

TALKBACK: Aiken has a hyper-local columnist, too

A West Marlborough friend who is in South Carolina for the winter sent me a copy of the "TalkBack" column from the "Aiken Standard" newspaper. I had to laugh at how familiar it sounds: the writer opines about dog mess in the park, illegal parking in handicapped spots, gender discrimination in golfing tournament fees (the men are charged more than the women!), and the correct placement of surveillance cameras. One item, however, was definitely jarring: the writer wonders what she should do if she comes home and finds her ailing, elderly mother dead: "She is not a hospice candidate, and calling an ambulance seems pointless."

HOOD'S UPDATE: They're making good progress

Four construction guys were hard at work this frigid morning at Hood's BBQ when we stopped by for our breakfast sandwiches. The outside renovations are done and now they're working on the inside. Larry Jr. told us that he hopes the project will be done in March and they'll be able to move back inside from the trailer where they've been doing business.
As cold as it was today, when the wind stopped howling there were actually a few nice moments -- like when I was standing out in the dogs' yard with a pit bull snuggled against my leg and the warm sun on my face. Two days in a row I've spotted a hawk, with his feathers all puffed up for warmth, sitting on the same fence line along Route 842 near the Stone Barn.

Friday, January 30, 2015

SOLDIER JAM: Second annual music fest features great local bands

Davey Dickens asked me to give a mention to the second annual Soldier Jam, the music fest he is producing (and performing in) at Thorncroft Therapeutic Riding Center, 190 Line Rd., Malvern from 4 to 10 p.m. March 28. Performers are Hezekiah Jones, Mason Porter, The Griz Band, Manatawny Creek Ramblers, Tin Bird Choir, Kevin Killen, Ted the Fiddler and Hellsaddle. Admission is $25, $10 for veterans with ID. Tickets are available through
Davey, an Army veteran and fishing guide, writes that all proceeds will go toward building "an all-access dock and recreation area in the French Creek Watershed. This will allow for Veterans in wheelchairs to fish in a private wooded setting and also we will be constructing outdoor counseling areas to provide an area for Veterans to receive therapy outside of the walls and restrictions of hospitals."

WINTER FIXES: A hack for fruit that's reluctant to ripen

In the summer, fruit ripens too quickly, and seemingly overnight you have a surfeit of black bananas sitting on the counter, suitable only for smoothies or banana bread. In the winter, just the opposite: my avocados and kiwis just sit there and simply refuse to ripen.
I looked online and found an answer: put the stubborn fruit in a brown paper bag with a banana, and close the bag. It works! Within a couple of days, the fruits were perfectly ripe.
I still haven't come up with an answer for a few other chilly-house irritants though, like toothpaste and lip balm that want to stay in their tubes.
But looking on the bright side, the chilly indoor temps are keeping my paperwhites in bloom and fragrant for much longer than usual (I spotted two stink bugs nestled in a blossom the other day).

HALF-MOON: Lunch with a view from the top

A friend and I had a nice lunch today at the Half-Moon, upstairs in their roof-top dining area. The wind was howling around and, because we were at tree-top level, we got a great view of the bare branches whipping to and fro and the clouds zipping across the blue sky. Plus upstairs was the warmest spot in the restaurant and the heat was blowing right on us. Delightful!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

AVONDALE: A new health-food store, bakery and juice bar opens its door

Avondale Natural Foods, a new health-food store, bakery, café, and juice bar, opened in Avondale on Monday, Jan. 26. You'll recognize the manager, Art, who used to run the now-closed Spring Run health-food store on Route 1. As soon as I walked in he gave me a hearty welcome and enthusiastically pointed out the shop's features, like the organic produce, the café and the fresh-baked bread (Elon is the baker).
The store, located in in a renovated bank building, is well stocked and carries everything you'd expect: snacks, soup, coffee, tea, pasta, baking ingredients, jellies and nut butters, vitamins, personal care items, "green" cleaning products, frozen food, nuts, berries, juices, grains, and lots more. I even found the coconut oil that I'm going to use in a recipe for "healthy fudge brownies" that Barbie Vannote shared.
I bought a round loaf of sourdough bread, and it was wonderful.
The store's juice bar/café offers coffee, green "shots," juices, smoothies, chili, soup, sandwiches and salads. You can even eat at a table in the old bank vault, which has a wonderfully ornate metal door.
The store is at 122 Pennsylvania Avenue (Route 41), next to the Avondale post office. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

REST IN PEACE: A fate that no one could have foreseen

I just got word that a guy in my high-school class died in December in the wake of long-term mental health issues. It's so completely senseless. Bill was a funny, nice, smart, gregarious fellow; we first became friends in junior high because his locker was next to mine. He wrote in my yearbook that it was nice to have me as a friend even though we were in rival academic sections (I was 8-1; he was 8-2).
It's hard to believe he's gone, and so sad to think of the years of suffering he and his family must have gone through.
I paged through our high-school yearbook after I heard about his death. One photo shows him in calculus class standing with his arms raised like a monster and grinning at the photographer. He's wearing a tie; probably it was the day of a sports competition. Other photos show him competing on the rings and the parallel bars.
And in the most ironic photo, he's sitting amidst the ivy on the ground of our "senior court" with another classmate, Beth. According to the caption, they would be remembered for telling the worst jokes of anyone in our class. And now both of them are dead, in their mid-50s.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

THE LADEENS: Irish music played by two high-school students

This afternoon we went to West Grove Friends Meeting to hear Irish music played by two local high-school boys, the Ladeens. Alex Weir (on fiddle) and Keegan Loesel (on the uilleann pipes) are really talented: they traveled to Sligo, Ireland, this past August to compete in the Irish Music International Competition.
I had never before seen, or heard of, the uilleann pipes (pronounced "illin"), and Keegan was good enough to explain how the instrument works. It's a lot like a bagpipe, but instead of lung power it uses a bellows controlled with one elbow. The sucked-in air expands a reservoir, which the musician controls with the other elbow-- all the while playing complicated tunes on the vertical flute part. (It reminded me a little of the pectoral machine at the gym.)
The Ladeens' website is, and there are some videos of their performances on YouTube videos.

FOOTBALL: Pregame preparations for Sunday's "Big Game"

I am not much of fan of watching sports on TV, but it's hard to miss the fact that some manner of major sporting/cultural event is coming up Feb. 1. It's amusing that advertisements have to refer to it as something like "The Big Game"; even though everybody knows what is meant, apparently the contest's "real" name is trademarked by its owner, all rights reserved.
Anyhow, at the Kennett Giant today, I overheard a fellow on his phone, and I suspect he was making preparations for his own "Big Game" party.
"OK, so are they big beer drinkers?" he asked the person on the other end.

PANTOMIME: Because two Dames are always better than one

This year's Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society pantomime represented the height of silliness -- which means, of course, that it was a completely delightful evening.
"Comedy of Errors and Pirates," written and directed by Chris Ramsey, was KATS's 14th annual production but the first to feature TWO dames. Yes, believe it or not, the producers located another local man, in addition to Kirk Fetters, willing to don indescribably over-the-top women's clothing and wigs. Both Kirk and Mike Ferry totally rocked their roles as the Widows Twanky. I loved the rainbow-striped socks and workboots they both wore (I was going to say "matching," but that word is wholly inappropriate in this context), the flouncy tulle petticoat that Kirk jettisoned during one scene ("It was coming off anyway") as well as the Unionville Community Fair "Best of Show" ribbon that adorned one of Kirk's wigs.
When the Dames sashayed out into the audience at one point, their eyes fell on an audience member named Dave. He got ample attention from both as they tried to arrange a rendezvous with him "after the show."
Part of the fun of the Panto is the audience participation, like booing the bad guys and singing the "silly song." The family next to us was new to the tradition, but within just a few scenes the two kids were hollering at the fiendish, plotting privateers and giving them a vigorous thumb's down. Speaking of the privateers, during intermission we were peacefully chatting and enjoying refreshments in the cafeteria when they descended out of nowhere, wielding their swords, and ordered us back into the auditorium. The nerve!
There is always a Children's Chorus in the Panto, and this year the kids played sneaky, scruffy-looking pickpockets. They were simply too adorable to boo at. I'm always captivated by the little ones whose energy knows no bounds and who don't appear to have a shy bone in their body.
The plot of the Panto was ridiculously convoluted, as always, and involved two twin brothers named Antipholus (played by Beth Holladay and Hadley Ramsey), raised by two twin sisters (the Twankeys), who were separated at an early age. You can imagine the mix-ups that ensue when the Jersey Antipholus/Twankey duo show up in New Castle, home of the New Castle Antipholus and Twankey, but all is resolved in the final scene. As it always is.
We loved the show, and thank everyone who was involved in putting on this wonderful production!

Friday, January 23, 2015

WHOOPS: This is why aprons were invented

At lunch today at Foxy Loxy the hard-hearted Tilda was roaring with laughter at a friend's tale of woe. It seems she splurged on a cozy, soft, fleecy teal-blue sweatshirt emblazoned with the Cabela's logo, the first new item of clothing she had purchased in some time.
She immediately wore it to the Farm Show in Harrisburg (Cabela's and UnderArmour clothing seems to be the apparel of choice at the Farm Show, she noticed).
And then she wore it again the next day while making brownies from scratch -- only to splash all down the front of it with batter. The combination of sugar and butter, she discovered, produced an indelible stain. And in classic no-good-deed-goes-unpunished fashion, she was making the brownies as a thank-you gift for her computer repair guys!
Only two days old, and her new sweatshirt is now fit only for horse-clipping duty, she said mournfully.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

BRANDING: My initial reaction to this bilingual label

While at Lowe's the other day purchasing CLR, I noticed that the handy cleaning chemical now carries a bilingual label. In Spanish, however, "Calcium/Lime/Rust" translates into "Calcio/Cal/Oxido." CCO, anyone?

Parenthetically, while searching for this image, I learned that CLR's manufacturer, Jelmar, is a third-generation family business run by Alison Gutterman, the granddaughter of the founder.

HISTORY: A new book about the Underground Railroad

Those interested in the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves to escape to freedom and was active here in Chester County, might enjoy reading "Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden Story of the Underground Railroad" by Eric Foner, a new book that focuses on abolitionists in New York City. Mr. Foner faced the formidable research challenge of gathering information about "a clandestine, illegal network" whose conductors "left little firsthand evidence of their work," according to the review in the Wall Street Journal. "Even a well-informed historian like Mr. Foner can only guess at how many slaves escaped north in the three decades before the Civil War -- estimates range from 30,000 to more than 100,000. But he merits high praise for contributing solid information and thoughtful analysis to the history of this shadowy, extensive network," wrote reviewer David S. Reynolds.

PILATES: It's good for whatever ails you

At the gym today one of my instructors introduced a fun, challenging Pilates exercise called the Commando that involves lying on your back and alternating two exercises while moving yourself around the points of a clock face. And because Pilates is all about balance, you then have to reverse the move and go counter-clockwise. Oh, and ideally in under a minute.
Our instructor read aloud from Joseph Pilates' original (1943) description of the move: "This Around the Clock stunt is specially effective in correcting bad posture, double chin, flabby & weak abdominal muscles, fat thighs, bulging hips, constipation, poor blood circulation and other similar physical imperfections."
I was sold at "double chin."
The illustrated instructions for this "stunt," which she downloaded from a Pilates archive, carried a price tag of one dollar-- or $13.78, in today's money. Pretty pricey!
I'm happy to see that there are still lots of new faces at the Y. I'm especially impressed when I see a newcomer starting from square one, determined to get into better shape.

Monday, January 19, 2015

GOODWILL: Lots of bargains at the new thrift store in Avondale

I just visited the new Goodwill thrift store, next to Lowe's on Route 41 in Avondale. The racks are full and there were probably 20 people shopping at lunchtime when I was there.
The clothes are arranged neatly by type (sweaters, jeans, shirts, blazers, shoes, etc.) and then by color, creating a rainbow effect as you look around the store. (Prints are separate.) There are separate sections for men, women and kids. The prices are very low -- the only items I saw that were selling for more than $10 were winter coats. There were plenty of name brands, like Gap, Aeropostale, Levi Strauss, Jones New York, Ann Taylor Loft, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Nine West (shoes), and LL Bean, and some of the items are "NWT" (new with tags, in eBay parlance). As in any second-hand store, you have to search if you want to find treasures: I saw one woman carrying a real find -- a chic-looking pink and tan Chanel-style jacket.
While visiting a West Grove friend on Saturday, I noticed a few Goodwill receipts on her coffee table and asked her about her experience with the store. She pointed to the flannel pajama-style pants she was wearing (black and white checks with a dog pattern): "I bought these at Goodwill. What's not to love?"
In fact, she said the first time she was there, she found two shopping carts full of stuff and had to send her husband home to drop off their two dogs so there would be room in their vehicle for her purchases.
And an Avondale friend said she bought some brand-new button-down work shirts for her husband.
Goodwill also sells toys, books, housewares (coffeemakers, phones, boom boxes), household linens, undies, maternity wear, plus sizes and "activewear" (mostly fleece track suits).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

CHOCOLATE: Preview tickets are a great idea for the Chocolate Lovers Fest

Last February I wrote about how crowded the Kennett Chocolate Lovers Festival was. There were hundreds of people, all of whom wanted to see and taste the scores of tempting chocolate entries set out on tables at the Kennett High School gymnasium. The upshot was that we got to see only a small number of the offerings and were completely unaware there were student entries.
This year, the organizers are selling "connoisseur tickets," which include early admission (1 p.m. instead of 2 p.m.), free beverages and free parking. Naturally they are more expensive ($25 instead of $10), but I snapped up two of them ASAP.
This year's fest is on Sunday, Feb. 8, once again at the Kennett High School gym. More information is on the website (which I nominate for Best. URL. Ever).
The third annual event benefits our local United Way, which appears to have hit on a hugely popular moneymaker.

COOKIES: It's Girl Scout cookie season once again

Yes, happily, the Girl Scout cookie season is upon us once again. A young friend approached us last night, ready, willing and able to take our order right there on the spot with her smartphone.
I ordered the classic Thin Mints and Shortbreads, and then I turned to my friend and asked him what type he was going to order.
"There IS only one kind," he stated with doctrinal certainty: Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies. Yeah, right: I'll remember that when he stumbles across a hidden box of Thin Mints in the freezer sometime this summer.

DINING OUT: A really crowded evening at the Texas Roadhouse

Should you plan to dine at the Texas Roadhouse in Concordville, I strongly suggest you go early. We celebrated a family dinner there on Saturday night and assembled at 5 p.m., because that's the "birthday boy's" preferred dinner time. Although the parking lot was full (we parked all the way up at the Chick-Fil-A), we were seated right away.
But by the time we left at 6:45 p.m., the lobby was packed to the point of claustrophobia with people waiting to eat. A couple we happened to run into told us the wait time was an hour -- which they considered a good deal, because the Outback steakhouse had quoted them a 90-minute wait time.
I should add that our meals were tasty and the service (our waitress was named Carolyn) was more than commendable. Because we were a party of nine, we were seated at two adjacent tables separated by an aisle. Naturally, we often changed places to chat with different family members. Nonetheless, the cheerful Carolyn kept our orders straight and our drinks refilled. Well done.

Friday, January 16, 2015

OUTDOORS: Getting the kids outside and away from the computer

Julia from the Brandywine and Red Clay Valley Association (that's the new name of the combined organization) asked me to publicize the nature center's winter family programs, and I'm happy to do so.
On Monday, Feb. 16, there is a Presidents' Day nature camp for kids ages 9 through 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Sunday, March 15, families will get to see primitive hunting tools like bows and arrow and tomahawks in action on "Target Day." Spring Break nature camp will be on Tuesday, March 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; there will be separate programs for 6- to 8-year-olds and 9- to 12-year-olds. And on Saturday, April 11, from 10 a.m. to noon, it's "Wild Animal Day," where families can check out the taxidermy collection and animal pelts and bones and visit with live box turtles.
Preregistration is required for all of the programs. Visit or call 610-793-1090.
All of the programs are at 1760 Unionville-Wawaset Road (Route 842) between Unionville and West Chester.

LARGESSE: Tilda helps a friend clear out her kitchen

A pal is determined to lose the weight she gained over the holidays and so is trying to remove all temptations from her home. I was the happy beneficiary the other day, when I was over there helping her with a computer problem (I should clarify that "helping" meant distracting her with Unionville gossip while we were on hold with tech support).
After the email problem was solved (thank you, Aubrey!), she started rooting through her kitchen and pantry for high-calorie foodstuffs. Would I please take home some homemade lasagna with poultry sausage? What about some leftover Christmas candies? Oh, and how about some organic chocolate-covered almonds from Wegmans?
Yes, yes, and yes! Offers of free food bring out the hungry college student in me.

POLITICS: Who's going to run for office in the future?

I'm editing a book that paints a gloomy portrait indeed of the future of American politics. Based on the authors' survey, high school and college youths have no interest in running for office. They are completely turned off to politics and don't discuss current events with their family or friends, preferring to focus on movies, video games and music. The authors blame the media (for focusing on the negative), politicians (for behaving badly) and schools (for not including current events in the curriculum).
I was appalled to read this. I don't doubt the authors' data, but it certainly was not my experience growing up. My parents voted in every election (as do I). Current events were a conversational staple, with my peers, in the classroom and around the dinner table. In fact, I enjoyed debating so much (my poor father!) that I thought for a while I would become a lawyer when I grew up. (I didn't. The world is a better place as a result, trust me.)
I mentioned the book's disturbing findings to a few friends with teenage kids, and they assured me that dinner tables are still a hotbed of family discussion. The youths are very aware of what's going on in the world.
I'm glad to hear it. How can people NOT talk politics?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

COUNTRY LIFE: The start of a really slippery slope

A tough-as-nails Landenberg friend of mine was wincing a bit at the gym yesterday and moving her arm gingerly, so I asked her what was wrong. She said she had carried a bale of hay 100 feet down her steep icy driveway to feed the horses. Normally she uses her pickup truck, but the driveway was so slippery she feared the truck would be uncontrollable.
Why, I asked, didn't she just give the bale a push and let it slide down the driveway?
"I didn't want to mess up the hay," she confessed with a laugh.

Monday, January 12, 2015

SHIVERING: BVA cancels its Polar Plunge for this winter

This chilling news may make you blue -- or, alternatively, may prevent you from becoming so: The Brandywine Valley Association will not be holding its popular Polar Plunge fund-raiser in the Brandywine Creek this winter.
The BVA is merging with the Red Clay Valley Association this spring, and apparently this had something to do with the cancellation. Executive Director James E. Jordan Jr. and Director of Development & Marketing Cynthia L. Jaros explained the decision in a letter on the BVA's website:
"After careful consideration and out of concern that the timeline for our successful merger and the Polar Plunge were nearly identical, we had to make a hard decision. Your loyalty and enthusiasm mean the world to us and we will continue this event next year. After all, many of our own staff and volunteers plunge year after year and we greatly appreciate the outpouring of your community support! We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, especially to those of you who have already made plans."

BASKETBALL: Free throws, layups and rebounds at the UHS gym

We spent part of Sunday afternoon at the Unionville High School gymnasium watching middle-school boys, including the Young Relative, playing basketball. Two URA games were going on simultaneously, separated by a curtain down the middle of the gym.
The kids, and the officials, were racing up and down the court, of course, but one spectator was getting plenty of exercise too. He had kids playing in both games and was constantly on the move between the courts so he could watch both. He said he was just lucky that both of the kids were playing at the same venue!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

GIFT CARDS: Enjoying the generosity of my friends and family

I found myself disagreeing with a writer the other day who claimed that gift cards are somehow a more gracious present than cash. I find both more than acceptable, but I will say I'm having fun spending the gift cards I received for Christmas. The Wawa one took care of two tanks of gas; the Giant one paid for a week and a half's groceries. With the L.L. Bean one I replaced a lost gym skirt (that one will be an unsolved mystery for the ages) and a worn-out pair of their Wicked Good slippers (bald patches are fine for the Velveteen Rabbit, but not for slippers in a 60-degree house). And I know I'll have no trouble spending the cards for the Foxy Loxy and the Half-Moon, either.

ASTRONOMY: Did you know that WCU has a planetarium? Nor did I!

I didn't realize, until a kind reader informed me, that West Chester University is home to the Sandra F. Pritchard Mather planetarium, 750 South Church Street, and they present public astronomy shows. Here's the schedule:
Feb. 6: The Expanding, Accelerating Universe; Feb. 13 and April 24: Movie, "Black Holes--The Other Side of Infinity"; March 6: Venus, the Evening Star; March 27: Movie, "Astronaut"; April 3: Walking on the Moon; April 10: Movie: "Oasis in Space"; and April 24: Pluto Demoted.
For more information, contact Associate Professor Dr. Karen Schwarz, the Planetarium Director: or (610) 436-2788. The website is
They also put out a newsletter that this month featured the star Canis Major, Orion's hunting dog. Much to its credit, the little cross-disciplinary article references Sirius Black of Harry Potter fame and Sirius XM radio.

Friday, January 9, 2015

JENNERSVILLE Y: A new fitness center, just in time for the resolution-makers

The Jennersville Y just unveiled its amazing new fitness center. They moved the weightlifting equipment into the former fitness center and moved the treadmills, exercise bikes, and so forth into a brand-new, large, sunlit room on the west side of the facility. There are all kinds of new toys to play with, including an adjustable jump-up platform and a little trampoline that lets you play catch with yourself with medicine balls. I'm impressed!
And a hearty welcome to the New Year's Resolution folks whom we always see this time of year at the Y, looking a little lost. Get into the habit of exercising and it'll become part of your life.
Speaking of the Y, a preset playlist for one exercise class included not one but two songs familiar to those of us of a certain age: "Let the Sunshine In" (from the back-then-racy Broadway musical "Hair") and "Spirit in the Sky" (from that one-hit wonder Norman Greenbaum). A few of us exchanged surprised glances, as the usual fare is more contemporary songs whose lyrics we don't understand ("Turned Down For What" and "Let's Get Ridiculous" continue to baffle me, for instance).

COLDNESS: This has been one long spell of cold temperatures

Seeing the photos of the firefighters hard at work in single-digit temperatures at the Jan. 8 house fire in Kennett Township, I reminded of how gutsy these folks are. Can you imagine getting out of your warm bed, before dawn, to rush to the firehouse, head to the fire scene and then work outside -- with water, no less?
Hats off, although that might not be an apt phrase, to the farmers, horse trainers, waste oil collectors, cops, crossing guards, and everyone else who works outside no matter what the weather. I could barely work up the gumption to go outside and put out seed and suet for the birds.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Getting the annual township formalities out of the way

As required by state law, the West Marlborough Township officials held their annual reorganization meetings on Jan. 5.
Bill Wylie will remain as chairman of the board of supervisors for 2015, with Jake Chalfin as vice-chairman. Hugh Lofting Sr., the third township supervisor, will remain as the roadmaster and emergency management coordinator. Shirley Walton will remain as township secretary/treasurer, Dwight Yoder as township solicitor, Yerkes Associates as township engineer, and Eddie Caudill as building inspector.
Elizabeth Powell and Wayne Grafton were reappointed to the township's Zoning Hearing Board.
Tom Brosius will chair the township planning commission, with Nancy Swayne as vice-chair and Anna Myers as secretary. Tom Roosevelt joined the planning commission, filling the vacancy left when Jake Chalfin became a supervisor.
The planners will continue to meet the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m., with the supervisors' meeting to follow. The only exception is November, when the meetings will be on the evening before because of the general election.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: You no longer need a permit to replace your hot-water heater

West Marlborough Township now has a revised permit fee schedule. Supervisors' Chairman Bill Wylie explained at the Jan. 5 meeting that the new schedule eliminates the requirement that homeowners obtain township permission for minor work like installing a new hot-water heater.
It also breaks the fee into three parts: an application fee when the application is submitted; a plan review fee to cover the costs of the township engineer and building inspector if required; and a building permit fee, which is based on the value of the proposed construction project and covers the work of the building inspector.
Mr. Wylie noted that issuing permits "is not a money-making venture for the township." He also noted that the schedule calls for a significant increase in fees if the work is done before obtaining a permit.
In other business at the meeting, the supervisors discussed a motor home that apparently is being lived in behind a house in the 200 block of Clonmell-Upland Road. The township's zoning officer, Al Giannanotonio, reported that he alerted the Chester County Health Department because the occupants don't seem to have a permit to discharge their sewage into the system on the property. He told the supervisors that he would send a letter to the landlord in an attempt to resolve the situation.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Year-end reports for zoning, building and law enforcement

Also at the January West Marlborough Township meeting, the supervisors received year-end reports from Al Giannantonio, the township's zoning officer, Eddie Caudill, the building inspector, and Lieut. Bob Clarke, the township's part-time police officer.
Mr. Giannantonio said that in 2014 he issued 10 zoning permits and no subdivision/land development permits. (The most recent zoning permit was issued in December for a sign at 798 West Street Road. The Rothmans' application to build a house, barn and garage on their Apple Grove Road property is still pending.)
Mr. Caudill reported that he issued 26 building permits: 15 renovations, four demolition permits, two sheds, and one each for an addition, a house, solar panels, an antenna, and a sign. He also issued 13 certificates of occupancy.
Lieut. Clarke said he spent 62 days (480 hours) on patrol and handled 166 incidents, including three accidents. He issued 95 traffic citations (74 for speeding, 14 for parking violations, five for driving without a license, and two for driving with a suspended license) and 51 warnings.

Monday, January 5, 2015

BACK TO SCHOOL: Yes, but at least the sun isn't setting quite so early

Overheard in the locker room at the end of winter break:
Girl 1: Yuck, we have to go back to school on Monday.
Girl 2: But you're smart! You should LIKE school.
Girl 1: It doesn't work that way.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

PRIMITIVE HALL: The Pennock family tree is a very leafy one

As I've mentioned before, I occasionally give tours at a local 18th-century house, and on Saturday morning it was my pleasure to show a couple from Cincinnati around the place. The husband proudly told me that he was descended from Joseph Pennock, who built the house, and showed me on his smartphone a list of seven generations of his ancestors.
They loved the house, as does everyone. But he was practically jumping up and down with excitement when he saw a sampler stitched by Hannah Pennock and a portrait of William Pennock as a boy, because both "Hannah" and "William" were mentioned in his family tree. He took oodles of photos and forwarded them immediately to his family members back in Ohio.
I didn't have the heart to tell him that "Hannah" and "William" were extremely common names, and given the huge families people had back then, the odds that those two were his direct forbears were pretty slim.

MEXICAN FOOD: Another great meal at a very busy La Pena

It's a good thing they were playing upbeat dance music in the kitchen of La Pena Mexicana on Saturday night, because the waitress and the chef were incredibly busy. Every table was full. Groups of friends, families (some with little kids), and couples were having dinner, plus there was a steady stream of people picking up their takeout orders.
At the table behind us were some first-time visitors who weren't familiar with Mexican food, and a family member was patiently explaining the menu for them.
As busy as the restaurant was, though, our food arrived very promptly and was completely delicious, as always (I had shrimp tacos, my date had sausage quesadillas).
It's great to see a deserving place doing such a good business.
La Pena is on West Cypress Street in Kennett Square, across from the Wawa.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

KENNETT: Ringing in the New Year at the Mushroom Drop

Like thousands of others, we rang in 2015 at the Mushroom Drop in the middle of Kennett Square. I thought the event was even better than last year: it didn't feel as jammed, and I didn't see any obnoxious behavior: the one woman who stepped on the back of my boot by accident apologized immediately.
Even though the temperature was in the mid-20s, it just didn't feel as frigid as it did in 2013, merely bracing. People were well bundled up (I am sure I walked right past lots of people without recognizing them), though I didn't see any red-and-white mushroom hats this year. One uncomfortable-looking woman on South Union Street had clearly just come from a fancy party. She was wearing a short dress, black stockings and high heels that I'm sure were great for stepping from limo to red carpet, but not so great for traversing the sidewalks of Kennett.
I briefly considered staying home and watching the live feed of the event, or perhaps a video the next day, but I'm really glad we went. Let's face it, a huge lighted mushroom dangling in mid-air from a crane is a sight not to be missed. The organizers did a great job, and from what I could see a lot of canned food was being collected from the revelers (a volunteer took our bag and loaded it right into the food pantry's truck).
We came into town from the west, and I didn't realize until after the event that only a block away, firefighters were fighting a blaze at a house at Broad and Linden Streets, just north of the Kennett Square Police Station.