Sunday, May 31, 2015

DEATHS: Two people who will be fondly remembered

Two deaths this week have touched a lot of people in our community.
Seema Sonnad, who was very active in the three-day eventing world, died of a cardiac arrhythmia that she suffered while running a 100K ultramarathon in Washington State. She was 52. I met Seema only a few times, while fence-judging at equestrian events, but her competence shone brightly in everything she did. I didn't realize that she had such a distinguished career -- she was Director of Health Services Research at Christiana Care’s Value Institute -- or that she lent a helping hand to so many young riders.
And of course you hear that Vice President Joseph Biden's son Beau died on May 30 at age 46 of brain cancer. Given that the Biden family is from Greenville, he had lifelong connections to many southern Chester County residents. I've read on social media many fond remembrances of Beau as a boy, a student, a public servant and a parent.

WAWA: A story straight out of a blues song

We were wrapping up a hot summer Saturday with an evening stop at the Wawa to purchase a lottery ticket and a half-gallon of milk and were standing in line when one of the deli guys started bringing around a large platter full of "free samples" -- the subs and sandwiches that people had purchased and never picked up.
What wretched timing! We had just come from a delicious late dinner at El Ranchero Mexican restaurant in Kennett (steak fajitas, a bean taco and a cheese quesadilla) and were too full to even think about eating.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

TRUCKIN': The area right behind the Kennett Post Office isn't a parking lot

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." The U.S. Postal Service motto doesn't mention a car blocking the parking lot, though.
The area directly behind the Kennett Square Post Office is designated as a no-parking zone because the trucks that pick up and deliver the mail need access to the loading dock. There's not a no-parking sign, though (it was knocked down by a tractor-trailer), so on Friday afternoon an unaware motorist parked in the lot.
When the mail trucks couldn't get to the loading dock, the drivers started complaining to the postal employees. The employees ran around to local stores, searching for the driver. They then called the borough police, who ran the license plate and found it belonged to a woman who lives at a local retirement community. It seems she had come into town to visit her accountant -- but the poor woman fell and had to be taken to the Premier Urgent Care clinic to be checked out. That's why her car was sitting in the lot for nearly two hours. Finally her grandson arrived and moved it.
Because of the car, the truck picking up the outgoing express mail was delayed in leaving the post office, possibly jeopardizing the guaranteed next-day delivery. The employees -- though they feel bad for the injured woman -- are bracing for complaints on Monday.


KENNETT Y: A rare evening for the grown-ups only

For the past few weeks many parents' calendars have been chock-full of end-of-the-year concerts, recitals and other school shows.
The other night we had a substitute teacher for our Kennett Y class because our usual instructor was on a Friday-evening date with her husband (minus the kids) to see Martin Sexton at the Queen in Wilmington. I explained this to a fellow class member.
"You mean . . . a real concert?" she asked, incredulously. "Not a kid concert?"
She looked off into the distance, wistfully, as if remembering those long-ago days.

Friday, May 29, 2015

FINANCIAL AID: Filling out FAFSA is a full-time job

It's not enough that your new graduate got accepted into the college of his or her choice: oh, no. A Chatham mom was telling me that she spent two hours -- on her day off, no less! -- trying to navigate through FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Under the new rules, not only the parent but also each student needs to create a unique login to fill out the forms, import financial documentation and so forth. Don't even think about using the same household email address for parent and child; it'll come up with an error message.
In the words of the "login help page":
"The FSA ID, which consists of a user-created username and password, replaced the PIN effective May, 2015.  It allows users to electronically access personal information on Federal Student Aid Web sites as well as electronically sign a FAFSA.
On the “Login” page:
Select Enter your (the student’s) FSA ID to enter your username and password.  Only the student should log in with an FSA ID.
Select Enter the student’s information to enter the student's name, Social Security Number and date of birth. (You may have to enter your FSA ID later in the process)."

CLASS OF 75: "Old friends" celebrate their 40th reunion

Unionville High School's class of 1975 will be celebrating its 40th reunion this summer. There's a get-together at the Half Moon Saloon at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, and then a buffet dinner at the Radley Run Country Club from 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8. "Come catch up with old friends! (no pun intended)" reads the invitation. For more information contact Wendy (Redifer) Neel at

Thursday, May 28, 2015

BTML: The library's Home & Garden Day Tour is June 6

Saturday, June 6, is the annual Home & Garden Day fundraiser for the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library/Kennett Public Library. As a volunteer I got a sneak preview of this year's houses and gardens, which are in the Landenberg, New London, West Grove and Avondale area, and they're wonderful.
Tickets are available at the library or online (, and at $35 they are a bargain. The tour is run by the library's Special Events Committee, who are a wonderfully creative and hardworking group of folks.
One of the organizers wrote in an email to me: "With all the controversies concerning the library this year, we are hoping that people will not associate those issues with the purpose of the Tour. It is really about the children and the excellent programming available to them. As you well know most of the funds raised goes to these programs and services."
I couldn't have said it better.

AT THE Y: Jogging and the argument from first cause

Yesterday I was copyediting a series of PowerPoint slides for an introductory philosophy book (no college text is marketable these days without accompanying lecture guides, reading summaries and sample tests, it seems). In one section the author was explaining the classical arguments for the existence of God, at one point using the term "infinite regression of creators."
I was reminded of that phrase later that day when I stepped onto the indoor track at the Y. As regulars know, you're supposed to run clockwise on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and counterclockwise the other days (to equalize wear on the track surface).
Well, it was Wednesday. But everyone was running counterclockwise.
What to do?
I joined 'em. It would have been pedantic to jog the "correct" way and disturb everybody else just for the sake of the rule. I decided to wait until everybody else on the track had finished running; then I would turn around and run the correct way, and everybody who came after me would follow my lead and do the same.
It didn't happen that way. More people kept coming in, and running the wrong direction, so I just gave up. I suppose the pattern had been established earlier in the day.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

PICNIC: Great food and great company

We went to a wonderful, relaxed picnic on Memorial Day afternoon. The hosts have a knack for inviting a mix of friendly, smart people who tell funny anecdotes and then enjoy yours in return.
Unexpectedly, the party split into a ladies' table (on the deck) and a guys' table (in the A/C). At the former, we discussed horses (of course; it was in Unionville, after all), the progress of our gardens, and new restaurants.
At the guys' table, I learned later, they were a little more philosophical. They talked about the changes they've experienced with age, categorizing them into "things you can still do," "things you can still do, but much slower" and "things you can't do anymore" (hanging drywall was an example). The host added a fourth subset: things you can still do -- but you forget why you're doing them.

SUN TEA: The squirrels rise to the challenge

I plunked three tea bags into a Mason jar of water and set it on the porch railing to brew, even though I was warned that it was a precarious spot to make sun tea.
"Oh, please," I scoffed.
Apparently one of my backyard squirrels took that as a challenge. When I went out to retrieve my tea later that afternoon, the jar was lying on the deck, completely empty. The edge of a nearby plastic pot was cracked off, as if by, say, a falling beaker. The saucer that had been covering the jar was under the deck by some ferns, and the tea bags were strewn about and perfectly dry.
Only one of the many squirrel victories in my backyard.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

TYCOONS: A high-tech success story at a young age

We are enormously proud of the business tycoon in our family. During his freshman year in college, he started a business for a class project. Seeing the potential in it (it's an app offering businesses instant feedback from customers), he applied to the YCombinator program in California and was selected to participate in the intensive, high-profile venture capital incubator. He promoted his company, sold it, and then went to work for the new owner. And he's still graduating from Harvard University, on time, this week. He'll take the summer off to travel before starting a lucrative job in Manhattan (where, he says thankfully, rents are much lower than in Silicon Valley).
Most importantly, he's a good, nice young man.
We were discussing this lad's success story at dinner last night, and the Young Relative, only in middle school but already with his father's and grandfather's taste for expensive vehicles, wonders how he might learn from his cousin's example. What math classes did his cousin take in middle and high school, and are they offered at Unionville? How many college credits did he accumulate before graduating from high school? Watch out, guidance counselors.
By the way, the Young Relative reports that the school year, extended thanks to snow days, is winding down, much to the relief of students and teachers alike. He is looking forward to a class trip to Dorney Park, where he and his classmates will do some hands-on investigations into the physics of roller coasters.

Friday, May 22, 2015

LONDON GROVE: Residents don't want to join a regional police force

At a public meeting on May 28, about 100 London Grove Township residents made it clear to their township supervisors that they're perfectly happy with current coverage from the Pennsylvania State Police barracks at Avondale and don't feel that joining a proposed regional police force would be worth the tax money.
The supervisors called the hour-long meeting, held at Engle Middle School, to get input from township residents. Under the proposal, London Grove, which doesn't have its own police force and relies solely on the state police, would join with Kennett Square Borough, Kennett Township, New Garden Township, West Grove, and Avondale (all of which do have their own forces or hire police from another municipality) to create one large unified department to cover the area.
Based on their estimates, the board said the cost for London Grove residents to join the proposed regional force would mean doubling the earned income tax or tripling the township millage rate (figures that drew gasps from the audience).
The supervisors said that they were considering joining the proposed regional force because the population and development are increasing in London Grove, and state police cannot handle "quality-of-life" issues like parking enforcement (one resident mentioned,  for instance, an ongoing problem in which Avon Grove Charter School students park on his cul-de-sac despite the prominent no-parking signs). But the residents at the meeting said they believed there were more cost-effective methods of handling these problems.
The supervisors explained that a decision on joining the regional force is needed within weeks. When asked why the issue wasn't put on the ballot in the primary election so that residents could give it a thumbs up or down, the supervisors said they are not the ones who can place a referendum question on the ballot; citizens need to collect a certain number of signatures on a petition before such a question can be added.
I have to say that Richard Scott-Harper, the London Grove Township board of supervisors chairman, did a great job running the meeting. He was respectful to all but moved the meeting along in very efficient fashion.

NEW BOLTON: The final "First Tuesday" lecture of the academic year

New Bolton Center's final "First Tuesday" lecture of the academic year will be on Tuesday, June 2, at 6:30 p.m. Dr. Laura Johnstone,  a Resident in Internal Medicine, will discuss cancer treatment in horses.
"Equine veterinary medicine, following in the footsteps of human and small animal oncology, has an increasing number of options when it comes to cancer therapy for horses," said a press release. "Those options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy."
The lecture, which as always is free and open to the public, will be in New Bolton’s Alumni Hall. Register with Barbara Belt at
I always find these lectures fascinating, and the speakers are simply top-notch.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

NOTTINGHAM: A great meal at the Nottingham Inn

We will be adding a new restaurant to our regular rotation. Last night we had a delicious dinner at the Nottingham Inn on Route 272, just off the Route 1 bypass, near the Maryland border. I had the evening's "special": a grilled ham steak with shrimp in an orange-cranberry sauce, with spinach and roasted potatoes. My date had the salmon cakes with sweet-potato fries.
It's a wholesome, friendly spot full of "regulars." As soon as we said it was our first visit, we got a warm welcome from everyone. Our cheerful waitress offered to tell us the history of the place. When one elderly woman came in with her son, two waitresses went over to her immediately and said how glad they were to see her and asked where she had been. Our fellow guests were two men who looked like they were talking business, several couples, and a family with two teenage girls who, judging from their clothes, had just come from sports practice.
In addition to the restaurant (which also serves breakfast and lunch) there's a "creamery" -- an outside window where you can get ice cream. (A family of ice-cream lovers I know who live nearby make a point of visiting the very day that the place opens every spring -- and many times during the summer as well!)
It took me about 25 minutes from my house to get to the Inn, and that was going "the back way." Had I used the Route 1 bypass, it would have been less.

SIDEWALKS: E. Marlborough homeowners would pay for sidewalks under new rules

On Monday, June 1, at 6:45 p.m. the East Marlborough Township supervisors will hold a public hearing on their proposed new sidewalk ordinance. Under the proposed ordinance, homeowners would have to foot the bill for sidewalk installation (the township would dictate where the sidewalk would be placed). The total cost would be capped at 15% of the property's assessed value, with the township picking up anything over that amount. The homeowners would be responsible for sidewalk maintenance and removing snow and ice.
The formal title of the ordinance is "An Ordinance providing for and regulating the construction of sidewalks abutting public roads or highways within East Marlborough Township and providing for the maintenance of such sidewalks, including the removal of snow and ice therefrom” (aka “The East Marlborough Township Sidewalk Construction and Maintenance Ordinance”).
The proposed ordinance is online at Or you can read a copy at the East Marlborough Township Building (721 Unionville Road) during the township’s business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Monday through Friday. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

PLUMAGE: Just one of the colorful residents of West Marlborough

A peacock is hanging out along Route 842 between Ryan and Thouron Roads here in West Marlborough, so please drive slowly along that stretch of road (near where the high-tension lines cross). On several recent evenings I've seen him calmly strutting across the road without looking both ways first. (He is not a stray; he lives at a nearby farm.)

PRIMARY: A predictably depressing turnout at the polls

Voter turnout was predictably -- but depressingly -- low for the May 19 primary election. Of the 322,060 registered voters in Chester County, only 39,324 voted (12.21 percent). Turnout was 12.49 percent for Democrats and 16.87 percent for Republicans.
Here are the Unionville-area results by precinct:
1. In East Marlborough East (Patton Middle School), 308 of 1,753 registered voters voted. Turnout was 17.57 percent overall (15.82 percent for Democrats, 24.27 percent for Republicans). Christine Kimmel beat Richard Hicks for a seat on the township Board of Supervisors, 184 to 34 (they were registered as Republicans, so they weren't on the D ballot).
2. In East Marlborough South, (Kennett Square Missionary Baptist Church), 125 of 1,468 registered voters voted. Turnout was 8.51 percent overall (5.95 percent for Democrats, 14.18 percent for Republicans). Kimmel beat Hicks, 66-28.
3. In East Marlborough West (Willowdale Chapel), 296 of the 2,180 registered voters voted. Turnout was 13.58 percent overall (12.05 percent for Democrats, 19.98 percent for Republicans. Kimmel beat Hicks, 127-67.
4. In Newlin, 143 of the 972 registered voters voted. Turnout was 14.71 percent overall (17.36 percent for Democrats, 17.99 percent for Republicans). Supervisor Bill Kelsall, running on the Republican ticket, received 78 votes, with two write-in votes.
5. In Pocopson, 374 of the 2,574 registered voters voted. Turnout was 14.53 percent overall (12.87 for Democrats, 21.24 for Republicans).
For comparison I always check the turnout numbers from the highly motivated senior citizens who lives in the Kendal/Crosslands community (Pennsbury North-1). Of the 661 registered voters (54 percent of them Democrats), 311 voted, for an overall turnout of 47.05 percent (57.66 percent for Democrats, 47.27 for Republicans).
6. Here in West Marlborough, 109 of 589 registered voters voted. Turnout was 18.51 percent overall (15.49 percent for Democrats and 27.74 percent for Republicans). In the hotly contested race for the District Judge nomination in District 15-4-04 between incumbent Matt Seavey and challenger Nicole Morley, both Democrats and Republicans chose Seavey over Morley, both in West Marlborough and in the entire district  (West Marlborough is only part of the district, which also comprises West Grove and Avondale Boroughs, London Grove, Franklin, London Britain, and New Garden Townships.)
In West Marlborough we had two write-in candidates, Hugh Lofting Sr. and Jake Chalfin, who were seeking to keep their seats on the Board of Supervisors. Both will be on the November ballot.
Don Silknitter, the majority inspector at West Marlborough's polling place (the township garage), told me that the first voter of the day arrived in a limo on her way to the airport. She had her driver make a detour to the polling place. Later in the day, a voter with limited mobility arrived, and, at the urging of Don and the other election officials, he pulled right into the garage so that he could cast his ballot with as little difficulty as possible.
For more election statistics, visit the Chester County Voter Services website. It is very user-friendly.

THE GALAXY: A sky tour on June 6 at Anson B. Nixon Park

One of the (many) great things about country life is that the sky is usually dark enough to observe planets and constellations.
The Chester County Astronomical Society is hosting a "sky tour" at the Anson B. Nixon Park's Tino Leto Athletic Fields on North Walnut Street starting at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6. According to a press release that the organizers sent me, "The program provides an orientation to the stars and planets with the help of a green laser light, which makes it easier to follow the leaders as they visit (point) to the stars. This is the first late Spring tour we've done and has the advantage of being warm while we view Venus, Jupiter and Saturn as the sky darkens."
 Visitors should bring a small flashlight and. Several telescopes will be set up for viewing. If you need more information, the people to contact are Don Knabb of the Chester County Astronomical Society ( or Pete Kennedy of Friends of Anson B Nixon (610-444-4479 or



AMTRAK: A sense of community among commuters

A West Chester man related the following heartwarming story.
He was on the train coming home from a meeting in Philadelphia when two young mothers boarded at 30th Street Station. Between them they had three children: a newborn, an infant, and a little boy age 4 or so. "They were packing all their mom regalia, and obviously struggling getting strollers folded and in the overhead bins. I offered to help, and then I witnessed an amazing scene. Everyone was tired, it was late, but half of the passengers pitched in to assist them. People were holding babies, schlepping bags, and offering seats."
He concludes that the world can be a sewer sometimes ... "but not tonight. Not on my train."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

MOGREENA: Celebrating the 7th annual Energy Independence Day

On Sunday afternoon we headed up to Modena for the seventh annual Energy Independence Day, hosted by Waste Oil Recyclers and Organic Mechanics Soil Company. There's a great vibe to the place (fondly dubbed "Mogreena"), a repurposed industrial park that sits along the Brandywine Creek.
I think there were more visitors this year than ever before. Musicians played throughout the day; we heard Brad Hinton and Beaucoup Blue. State Rep. Harry Lewis gave a brief speech commending the businesses for sparking a renaissance in Modena.
This year there was a demonstration of glassblowing by Glass Routes ( Robin Mastrippolito of Embreeville brought along her decadent homemade cupcakes. We tried two new varieties, one that involved white chocolate and a brandy-soaked blackberry, and the other that included oatmeal and walnuts. Both were delicious and disappeared immediately.
There were lots of kids, many with elaborately painted faces, and a wide variety of well-behaved, leashed dogs. We enjoyed meeting a pit bull mix named Harper, who brought his master to Modena all the way from their home in Center City Philadelphia.
There are beautifully tended vegetable, herb and flower gardens throughout the complex (thanks to Organic Mechanics' potting soil and volunteer "garden nights" held throughout the growing season).

BUCK & DOE TRUST: The annual spring fling brunch

It was a new location but the same great food for the Buck & Doe Trust's spring fling brunch in the Laurels on Sunday. The annual event was moved from the Speakman covered bridge to the newly renovated Mary Ann Pyle Bridge -- which meant that to reach the site, the guests drove into the Laurels off Fairview Road instead of Apple Grove Road.
The pancakes, strawberries, sausage and apple-cider doughnuts were delicious, and it was fun to eat on the bridge. I enjoyed seeing glimpses through the floorboards of the Buck Run underneath.
Amy McKenna, president of the Trust, spoke briefly about the group's successes. It's always heartening to learn how much of our area is protected. Virginia Logan and Edith Dondero from the Brandywine Conservancy also spoke about their organization's land-preservation activities.
After the formalities, several of us walked over to the Speakman bridge. It was fun to see the kids and puppies running around, in and out of the creek. Hats off to the talented, hard-working cooks and the volunteers who lug the grill, tables, tents, chairs and equipment a long way off the paved road just so we can show up and have a lovely time with friends and neighbors.

OPEN HOUSE: Chester County artists at work

You probably saw lots of directional signs all over the place for the Chester County Studio Tour this weekend. On Saturday afternoon we made it to four of the studios, each interesting in its own way. The first was maritime painter Annie Strack's home and studio on a cul-de-sac off Route 82 south of Kennett. Then we went to Ree Gallagher's jewelry studio and Lore Evans' stained glass studio, both in the Woodward Farms development off Kennett Pike. Lore showed us a stained-glass piece she is working on for the chapel at Paoli Memorial Hospital.
We ended up at the Willowdale Art Academy (above the Landhope store at Routes 926 and 82), where Karen D'Allaird paints still lifes and landscapes and teaches art classes for adults and children (Frank DePietro's waterlily paintings were also on display there).
There were almost 50 studios on the free two-day tour, all over Chester County. The artists said they'd had a steady flow of visitors all day. Doug Mooberry's Kinloch Woodworking in downtown Unionville was so busy that there were crossing guards on duty.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

LISTS: A journalist's favorite standby revealed

One tried-and-true trick that journalists use to start off a story (other than alliteration) is to list a widely varying group of intriguing items at an event. Say you're doing a story on a neighborhood garage sale: you'd list a bunch of stuff that you saw to highlight the staggering spectrum of things for sale, everything from, say, cuddly baby clothes to a book on "Medicare for Dummies," or 1970s record albums to an iPad. Bonus points if photographs of some of them actually show up in the paper.
Or you go to a potluck and the buffet table is groaning with everything from hummus made with organic chickpeas to gooey creampuffs with Grand Marnier sauce (I go to good potlucks).
You get the idea. It's easy and fun.
The reason I mention this is that apparently catalog copywriters are doing the same thing. I received a book catalog in the mail the other day and on the back page alone were books on metalworking, mushroom hunting, firearms, an autobiography of Davy Crockett, an off-color DVD, "What To Do When A Loved One Dies," and my favorite, "Great Book of Tattoo Designs" (the revised edition, no less).

Friday, May 15, 2015

PLANTATION FIELD: A horse show that benefits rescued dogs

Kathleen Crompton was good enough to send me some information about "Jump for Rescues," the canine and equestrian event that's happening on Wednesday, June 24, at the Plantation Field, 387 Green Valley Rd.
The horse schooling show (beginner novice through intermediate) starts at 9 a.m. At noon there will be a parade of rescued dogs (all dogs from anywhere are welcome). If you compete with your horse and have a rescued dog, $25 comes off your entry fees. Net proceeds from the entries will be donated to dog rescue organizations.
Pet Valu in Kennett is giving out dog treats to all the dogs, and there will also be a prize for the biggest and smallest dog.

UNIONVILLE: The renovated Hood's BBQ is open again

Bambi and Denis Glaccum, Joe Gallagher, Martin Tully, and my friend Susan and I were among the first official customers at Hood's grand reopening at 8 a.m. on Friday. You'll find your old breakfast favorites on the menu, but Susan and I both tried one of the new breakfast sandwiches: egg whites, spinach, tomatoes and avocado on an English muffin. Delicious!
We said hi to the Hoods -- Dawn, Larry Sr. and Larry Jr. -- who seemed very happy to have the place back up and running. It's hard to believe that Hood's closed for renovations all the way back in August!
It turns out that the opening two days were so overwhelmingly successful that Hood's actually ran out of supplies and couldn't open on May 17. "Please forgive us and be patient as we transition and work out the kinks," said the Hood's Facebook page. (They will be restocked and open again at 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 19.)

NEW GARDEN: Politics and then a walk in the park

I spent a few hours Thursday evening in New Garden Township, first at a political event at the Avondale Fire Co. station on Route 41. This was my kind of campaign function: casual dress, free ice cream (from the Woodside Creamery, no less!) and live music, and the candidate spoke for only about a minute.
Then we headed across the highway to walk through New Garden Township Park. The gravel path circled a soccer field, where there was a men's game going on. I was surprised to find a nice patch of haircap moss along the trail. The moss is green, but the numerous narrow vertical stalks are bright orange, giving the scene a hazy Impressionist vibe.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

EAST MARLBOROUGH: This is a hoops-playing development

Last night I was driving north on Walnut Road after a pleasant after-dinner stroll at the Anson B. Nixon Park and the motorist behind me was in a huge rush. Perhaps he had ice cream in his car. Tired of being tailgated, I pulled off onto Hadley's Mill Road, a cul-de-sac of twenty or so houses. I can tell you this: I wouldn't be surprised if local schools are fielding powerhouse basketball teams in a few years. Almost every home in the development had a backboard in the driveway.

Monday, May 11, 2015

WILLOWDALE: Three cheers for the red, white, and blue

I just received an email that, in response to an item I ran a few weeks ago, a brand-new American flag has replaced the bedraggled one that flew over the Willowdale Town Center shops at Routes 926 and 82. Great news! "And just in time for Memorial Day," notes my correspondent.
By the way, have you noticed the new flagpole at State and Broad Streets in Kennett, in front of the Longwood Art Gallery? The flag looks great as you're driving west on State Street into town.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

WILLOWDALE: The 23rd running of the Willowdale Steeplechase

We had a wonderful time at the Willowdale Steeplechase on Mother's Day Sunday. Our superb parking spots (thank you, Kennett Paper!) were right next to the paddock, so we got to check out the horses getting ready just before the race. Then it was just a short walk down to the finish line.
In a couple of the races one horse led by a considerable margin before fading near the end, opening up the race to the other contenders. Very exciting for us spectators!
A couple of the horses had foreign names, which the announcer seemed to love pronouncing. "Chamirey," he'd say with attitude, rolling the "r" like a native Frenchman.
Between races we walked all over the place and saw lots of friends and neighbors, which was great fun. Thanks to all the kind people who (a) fed me and/or (b) said nice things about my column!
Spectators tend to dress up for this steeplechase, and I saw some stunning outfits and hats. If your hat had a broad brim, you could congratulate yourself for being not only chic, but practical as well: the sun was very strong and we will all be sore tomorrow.
Lots of people bring their dogs to the races, so we got to see everything from a very handsome mastiff to an adorable little Boston terrier.
I always enjoy watching the photographers at work out on the course, carrying thousands of dollars of equipment around their necks. This year somebody had a very fancy drone that was able to follow the horses around the race course.
My favorite line of the day was at the Otto's BMW tent. Two elementary-school-aged boys were sitting in the front seat of a gleaming, brand-new Beemer that was on display, pretending to drive. The man standing by the car (I'm assuming their father) offered this sage advice: "You want a BMW, you need a J-O-B first."

UNIONVILLE: The renovated Hood's BBQ is reopening on May 15

Word filtered down to me that the renovated Hood's BBQ in Unionville was having a "soft opening" this past weekend, so of course we headed over there for dinner on Saturday. You will not believe how the place has been transformed over the winter! There are still the homey plaques and knick-knacks, but the ceiling is much higher, with exposed ductwork and a giant bison head, there are waiters and waitresses, the plates are large and square, and there's a bar with a couple of big-screen TVs running above it (Hood's is now a BYOB). The kitchen is brand-new and the raised "throne" toilet is no more.
Larry and Dawn Hood were there happily greeting customers and showing off the features of the new restaurant, including a side room where Dawn will sell her baked goods, Hood's hoodies and local food products. We chatted with East Marlborough supervisor Bob Weer, who was there with his family having dinner (he gave the place rave reviews), and Unionville teacher/theater director Betsy Ballard popped in to see the place and offer congratulations.
The menu is new but keeps many of the old favorites. I had a chicken sandwich with cheese, onions and BBQ sauce, along with mac-and-cheese, and my guy-across-the-table had fried chicken, which came with cornbread, broccoli salad and cheesy potatoes. Unfortunately we didn't save room for dessert.
Hood's will have another "soft opening" on Thursday, May 14, and it officially opens on Friday, May 15.
After dinner we took a lovely and much-needed stroll through the Unionville Community Park. We saw a mallard couple paddling in a little duckweed-filled pond and several red-winged blackbird perched on cattails in the marsh. The paved path takes you over to Wollaston Road and gave me a view of Unionville from behind that I'd never seen before.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

LONDON GROVE: Plants and the early birds who love them

We almost missed the London Grove Friends Plant Sale this year!
No, I don't mean we forgot about it. But by the time we got there, a little after 9 a.m., most of the customers had already shopped and hauled away their purchases. Though the sale doesn't officially start until 7 a.m., I'm told people started showing up an hour before that and were ready to check before the sale even started!
Not that it really matters: there were still lots of Rocket Snapdragons available in the Annuals tent, so I was happy. And it's quite possible that pink geraniums will be a nice change from my traditional red ones in the windowboxes.
Way more importantly, it was great to see so many people, either as volunteers or customers. The Plant Sale is always a great community event.
(And we were enchanted by the kindergartners' drawings. They had been asked to think up "Dr. Seussisms" and then illustrate them. My favorite was a wonderfully creative "dinkbug on a stinkbug.")

ANSON B. NIXON: Here is the concert lineup for summer 2015

Here's the long-awaited schedule for the free Wednesday-night summer concerts at Anson B. Nixon Park!
The concerts run from 7 to 9 p.m., and you can bring a picnic or buy dinner from a different local restaurant at the park each week. Bring a chair or a picnic blanket.
I was at every single concert last summer, and I assure you that they are perfect for a family outing (there's lots of room for kids to run around, and there are always plenty of leashed dogs) or "date night."
June 24: Dukes of Destiny
July 1: Christine Havrilla and Gypsy Fuzz
July 8: Beyond the Pale
July 15: Mason Porter
July 22: Kategory 5
July 29: Billy Penn Burger
Aug. 5: Bullbuckers
Aug. 12: SOS (Chicago Tribute Band)

OXFORD: Charlie Zahm visits the music of the 1960s

Friday night found me singing along to Pete Seeger, Peter Paul & Mary and John Denver songs at a 1960s concert by local troubadour Charlie Zahm at the Oxford Friends Meeting. I couldn't believe how many of my brain cells are occupied storing lyrics to "How Many Roads" and "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."
Charlie sang the Kingston Trio's "MTA" (a favorite of my Dad's), Harry Belafonte's "Kingston Town," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", "Annie's Song," "Puff the Magic Dragon," and lots more, even showing off his yodeling skills in the chorus of "Calypso." The first half of the show ended with a rousing version of "Those Were the Days," which was one of the first 45s I ever bought (Mary Hopkins' 1968 version, with the green Apple logo on it).
Charlie performed with fiddler Tad Marks and guitarist Stephen Hobson (from the Sin City Band), and Tad gave a tour-de-force performance to close the show, a railroad medley of "Wabash Cannonball" and "Orange Blossom Special."

Friday, May 8, 2015

TRACKLESS TRAIL: Two talks about the Underground Railroad

I have two Underground Railroad programs to alert you to. Both are free and the public is welcome.
On Thursday, May 14, at 7 p.m. the Kennett Township Historical Commission is presenting "Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd.” Chester County Historic Preservation Officer Karen Marshall will discuss the Harriet Tubman Freedom Trail (Harriet Tubman was a famed conductor on the Underground Railroad). Chris Densmore, curator of the Friends historical library at Swarthmore College, will talk about Kennett Township and the Underground Railroad. The talk will be at the Kennett Township building, 801 Burrows Run Road, Chadds Ford.
(The "Drinking Gourd" refers to the Big Dipper, which the fleeing slaves used for navigation.)
On Saturday, May 23, from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., there will be a symposium on current research on the Underground Railroad in southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York at London Grove Friends Meeting. Please RSVP by May 20 to Terry Maguire ( When you register, please also let Terry know whether you want to buy lunch (from Triple Fresh Market). The talk is sponsored by the Kennett Underground Railroad Center.

KENNETT: Strawberry Social at Kennett Presbyterian

Debbie Beley asked me to share some information about the Presbyterian Church of Kennett Square's upcoming "Strawberry Social." It will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.on Friday, June 5, in front of the church in the 200 block of South Broad Street, Kennett Square. Proceeds go toward the church's mission trip to Mexico at the end of July. "Broad Street in front of the church will be closed as there will be kids’ games, strawberry shortcake, and desserts for sale. Fresh strawberries will be for sale too!  Entertainment will be provided by PCKS members and friends in an informal talent show."
In case of rain, the festivities will move indoors to the church's Gilmor Room.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

LABYRINTHS: Seeking the Center in Wilmington and Kennett

Saturday, May 2, was World Labyrinth Day, and I marked it by walking the labyrinth behind the Delaware Art Museum. Labyrinth caretaker Carol Maurer gave a brief talk about the labyrinth, which is situated in what used to be a reservoir supplying water to local workers' houses. She said that all around the world, people would be walking at 1 p.m. in their local time zones -- even in devastated Nepal -- which means that a wave of peace would be encircling the globe. In theory.
The labyrinth is encompassed by tall rock walls and measures 80 feet across, with a circumference of 253 feet. It's not a maze; the path edges are marked by small stones. Walking from the edge to the center, you'll make 28 U-turns (to mark the 28-day lunar cycle) and six right-angle turns (there's one right as you think you're about to get to the center!).
Choristers from the Cathedral Choir School processed solemnly in and performed two songs -- the acoustics in the stone-lined site are stunning -- while the visitors entered the labyrinth and began their walks. Some paced slowly and mindfully, their hands clasped in prayer. Others crunched through the gravel, taking the twists and 180-degree turns in jaunty fashion.
I walked to the center of the labyrinth and back out again, twice (a total of a mile). There's something rhythmic, relaxing, and almost hypnotic about it.
A few days later I did a solo walk on a labyrinth closer to home, at the Episcopal Church of the Advent, adjacent to the church's memorial garden. It's smaller and has a different pattern than the one at the Delaware Art Museum, but it produces the same sense of "centering."
This photo is from the Delaware Art Museum's website.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: A quiet month for township business

It was a quiet West Marlborough Township meeting on May 5 (well, except for the birds singing lustily outside the township hall as the sun went down).
Supervisor Hugh Lofting reported that the township road crew was working along with neighboring townships to repair potholes, including the gaping ones on Hood Road in Londonderry Township, just outside of the West Marlborough Township line.
 Hood Road before.
Hood Road after.

In reference to a discussion at the March township meeting, Supervisor Lofting said the township is leaning toward keeping its vintage road grader rather than replacing it.
"It's a very good grader," he said. "At least, for its time."
Township engineer Al Giannantonio said he received no zoning applications in April. Building inspector Eddie Caudill reported that he made two inspections and issued a building permit for a generator that is being installed at a house in the 500 block of Upland Road.
According to Officer Robert Clarke's police report, he worked seven days in April, did one investigation, and handled 21 incidents (including issuing seven speeding tickets, three parking tickets, one ticket for driving-without-a-license and five warnings).
The supervisors also mentioned the refuse dumping and graffiti that have appeared along Big Spring and Thouron Roads. They will alert Officer Clarke to the problem.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

THE LIBRARY: Fallout from the Board members' resignations

Elsewhere in this week's Kennett Paper you can read the full text of the resignation letter that three Bayard Taylor Memorial Library trustees (Jim Nelson, Jerry Brown, and Carol Starzmann) wrote on April 27 to support their colleague Barbara Cairns, the Kennett Square representative on the board, who they said resigned from her position because of her treatment at the hands of the board president, Susan Mackey-Kallis of Pennsbury Township and the vice president, Geoff Birkett of Kennett Township.
The letter is long but it's worth reading. If you love the library like I do (I served on the board for 10 years, in addition to being an employee, donor and volunteer), the situation will appall and sadden you.
I posted the letter on my blog on April 28, and the Kennett Paper posted a link on its Facebook page, and it was read by hundreds of people. This week I talked to many former library trustees, employees and volunteers, in person, on the phone and via social media, and the response to the situation seems to be universal dismay.
On April 30 Ms. Mackey-Kallis, who is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Villanova University, issued a press release decrying the "inaccurate information" being reported and declaring that the remaining board is in fact "much stronger than before" (you can read her press release elsewhere in this week's paper, too).
The question that many are asking is this: How will this controversy, coming on the heels of the board's decision to change the library's name, affect the library's chances of raising the millions of dollars it will take to construct a new building?

BURR SOCIETY: The covered bridges of Chester County

On Saturday my West Marlborough friend and neighbor Helen Martin spotted a long line of packed cars headed south on Route 841 at Route 926, many of them bearing red flags and signs saying "Covered Bridge Safari." Having a well-developed sense of curiosity, she did some research as soon as she got home from her errands and found that they were members of the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania on their annual outing, which this year was here in Chester County. The covered bridge enthusiasts visited all 15 bridges in the county, including the two in the Laurels Preserve, and spent the night at Microtel Inn in West Chester.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

STROUD CENTER: Honoring scientists Drs. Sweeney and Newbold

Congratulations to Dr. Bernard W. Sweeney, the director of the Stroud Water Research Center, who was named the Berks County Conservation District’s Conservation "Individual of the Year" on April 27.
The honor was given for his “proactive work to apply the science of riparian forest ecology," District Executive Dan Greig said.
Dr. Sweeney and his Stroud Center colleague Dr. Denis Newbold published an article last year in "The Journal of the American Water Resources Association" about the optimal width of streamside forest buffers.
(I should add that Denis Newbold has some pretty good technology skills, too: he saved the day by running a lecturer's PowerPoint presentation on his own computer at West Grove Meeting the other evening!)  
The internationally known Stroud Center has its headquarters on Spencer Road here in West Marlborough.

KENNETT SQUARE: A hair salon in the former Liz Marden space

The space at 110 South Union Street in downtown Kennett that once housed Liz Marden Bakery is being converted into "Blown Away Blow Dry Bar and Salon." A sign in the window says the salon will open this autumn and is looking for employees, and a Facebook page is already up and running.
That block is becoming a personal services hub, with the Picone Beauty & Wellness Spa, Tribe Beauty Culture, My Polished Nail Salon (which Roxann and Olen Grimes of the next-door Artworks gallery recently purchased) and Fragale's Barber Shop.
You may remember Liz Marden as the bakery that made the wedding cake for the daughter of Vice President Joe Biden and gingerbread cookies for Longwood Garden’s Christmas display but closed abruptly in July 2012.

Friday, May 1, 2015

SUMMER CAMP: Sometimes it's easier just to write a check

Krysta, one of our Kennett YMCA instructors, is such a good sport! She teaches a terrific exercise class that I attend on Friday evenings that always includes a ridiculously large number of pushups (an exercise that never, EVER gets any easier; how can that be?).
When she mentioned that she was helping to raise money to enable underprivileged kids to attend the Y's summer camp, I had the zany idea of volunteering to donate $1 per pushup that I didn't have to do. Another pushup-despising classmate immediately said she'd join me in the scheme.
Krysta jumped at the chance. And when the pushup part of the class arrived, my friend and I made a big deal out of watching her like a hawk and counting out loud so she wasn't tempted to slack off.
"WOW, did you feel that?" she asked the class after one set that looked brutal.
My friend and I looked at each other: "No," we had the pleasure of saying. "We really didn't."
By the end of class she had done a total of 50 pushups. We each wrote a check for $50, and I saw other generous classmates chipping in as well.
I'm sure there's a sports metaphor for a win/win/win situation like this: We got out of doing pushups, we had the fun of watching our instructor do them -- and some kids get to go to the Y's excellent summer camp.

CELTIC MUSIC: RUNA is performing in Hockessin

After I write about a concert I attend, people will often tell me, "Wow, I wish I'd known about that!"
Well, here's a nearby show that sounds like it will be really special: the Green Willow Folk Club will present the Irish/American roots band RUNA at the Hockessin Memorial Hall at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 18. Tickets are $25 in advance ( or call 302-456-3242) and $28 at the door.
The band members are Dublin-born guitarist/vocalist Fion├ín de Barra; mandolin/banjo player Dave Curley, from Galway; percussionist Cheryl Prashker, from Montreal; fiddler Maggie Estes White, from Kentucky; and Philadelphia-born Shannon Lambert-Ryan, vocalist and band manager. Their website is
And en route to Hockessin, why not stop off for dinner ahead of time at the Taqueria Moroleon on Route 41?

RELIGION: The beliefs and culture of the Amish and Mennonites

In the final lecture in the "Faiths of Our Neighbors" series at West Grove Friends Meeting, Edsel Burdge Jr. discussed the culture, history and beliefs of the Amish and Mennonites. A Methodist-turned-Mennonite himself, he is a research associate at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College.
Horse-drawn buggies, one-room schoolhouses and Amish youths are familiar sights in western Chester County, but in his talk I learned a lot about the religious beliefs and rituals of the many different sects of Anabaptists that coexist. They share the belief -- revolutionary when it was first proposed in the 17th century -- that people shouldn't be baptized until they are old enough to choose to join the faith. Both groups are named after their founders, Jacob Amman and Menno Simons.
Mr. Burdge explained that the Amish don't consider modern technology like cars and electricity to be evil per se, but rather dangerous in the sense that they might disrupt the community's traditional fabric by speeding things up and decreasing face-to-face exchanges among the tightly knit group.
I very much want to read a book that he recommended, "Called to Be Amish," Marlene C. Miller's newly published autobiography about joining the Old-Order Amish as an outsider.
Let me take the opportunity to thank West Grove Meeting for presenting this second series of Wednesday-evening lectures. They have been about as varied and entertaining as possible in terms of the topics, the speakers and the presentations (everything from PowerPoint slides to ritual dancing).

LONGWOOD: Stop --- and then look and listen in the gardens

Let's say you're southbound on Route 1, it's a beautiful sunny day, and you decide to visit Longwood Gardens. You get in the right lane and turn onto the exit ramp. And then, whatever you do, don't ignore the stop sign at the end of the ramp! A friend said she was recently pulled over by the state police for failing to come to a full stop there, and she said several people she knows have had the same experience.
She also gave this vivid account of the new-ish Meadow Garden, which I haven't yet visited:
"Oh, it's wonderful! You sit there on a bench, aaahhh, you get to hear the birds, you see a hawk, you see the frogs, you see a snake. Well, I wasn't so thrilled about the snake, but you know, it IS part of Nature."

TRACK: These middle-schoolers are on the move

I watched The Young Relative in action at a Patton Middle School track meet one recent afternoon. Sitting in the bleachers, in the sun, with friends and family is not the worst way to spend a few hours. Thanks to his brightly colored sneakers, it was easy to keep track of the Young Relative as he was competing or waiting to compete.
There were some terrific young athletes, boys and girls, with graceful, effortless-looking form. I enjoyed seeing the kids outside, taking a break from their devices (yes, I know; I should talk), and cheering each other on. I especially admired the guts shown by those who got lapped and finished last by many lengths. They just kept plugging away, a skill that will serve them well in later life.