Sunday, January 31, 2016

SLEDDING: Lost and found in Pocopson

The Young Relative and his Patton pals spent the day after the blizzard sledding and playing football in the snow at Pocopson Elementary School. In the process, even though he'd stashed his phone in a securely zippered pocket, somewhere along the way it fell out. He was not happy when he noticed.
Simultaneously, his father started receiving odd text messages. It seems that the ingenious boy who found the phone started texting everyone in the phone's contact list. The father described to the texter what his son looked like and was wearing and -- happily -- the phone was soon returned to its extremely relieved owner, with great ceremony.
The YR's Dad added a fitting coda to the story. After all of this ruckus, he picked up his son at the end of the afternoon and they were ready to go home.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" he asked his son.
"No, Dad, here's the phone," replied the son, pointing to the cherished object.
"No," pointed out the father. "I meant your sled."

BRIDGE: Speakman covered bridge update

Repair work started on the Speakman #1 covered bridge on Frog Hollow Road in mid-December, and I stopped by on Sunday to see the progress. The covered bridge has already been completely dismantled, leaving only the stone abutment in place on the East Fallowfield side of the Buck Run. On the West Marlborough side is an arc of white sandbags.

The Speakman #1 covered bridge over the Buck Run has been removed for repair.
The project should be finished, and the long-closed Frog Hollow Road reopened, by September 2016.
  Here are the details of the project, according to the contractor, Eastern Highway Specialists:
"·        The wood portion of the covered bridge will be dismantled. It will be removed from the site and taken to the warehouse of Lancaster County Timber Frame (LCTF) who will do the rehabilitation work on the timber trusses and associated structural timber. In conjunction with this we have hired Rettew Associates, an experienced engineering firm, to inspect the timber and determine if any additional replacement is necessary.
 ·        During the winter months LCTF will be doing the timber rehabilitation. During this time we (EHS) will remove the remaining structure and the two abutments. We will then begin the reconstruction of the abutments. The new abutments will be modern cast in place and reinforced concrete but will have stone masonry veneer or stone walls on the exterior. In the end, the new structure will be encased in true stone masonry. One of the local masons, Dan Gallagher, will be doing the stone masonry work.
 ·        The new covered bridge structure will be supported by new steel beams which will be erected on the new abutments. This work is expected to take place in late spring of 2016. After this the covered  bridge will re-erected on the site."

LONGWOOD: Bluegrass in the Conservatory

On Saturday night we headed to Longwood Gardens to hear bluegrass performer Rhonda Vincent and her band The Rage.
What a trouper Rhonda is. She explained that she'd been suffering an upper respiratory malady for weeks, so while playing the mandolin throughout she shared the singing duties during the two-hour show with the other members of the band. She was right when she said she has a deep bench to rely on.
Sharing the stage with her were her daughter Sally Berry on guitar (her "The Grass I Am Playing Is Really Blue" was wonderful); joyful fiddle player (and Sally's husband) Hunter Berry; Brent Burke on dobro; Mickey Harris on guitar and mandolin; Aaron McDaris on banjo; and Josh Williams on bass.
Rhonda ruefully said if we wanted to hear what she sounded like normally, we'd have to buy one of her CDs from the merch table.
I love going to shows in the conservatory no matter what the musical genre. It's magical sitting there in the warmth surrounded by the flowers and their fragrances, especially when you can see snow covering the waterlily ponds outside. As part of the special orchid display, behind the performers was a "curtain" of purple orchids, and overhead were magnificent orbs of purple and white orchids.

PARTY: Balloons on the mailbox

I'm not around preschoolers much these days, so spending three hours at a birthday party for a four-year-old was something of an adventure this past Saturday. The party theme was "Paw Patrol" (a canine-themed animated show popular with this age group).
I had a great time sitting on the playroom floor and playing with the kids. Although some toys have certainly gone hi-tech since my day (the equivalent of an Etch-a-Sketch is now battery-operated and comes with a stylus for writing on the screen), dump trucks, excavators and bulldozers remain a perennial favorite. One boy was just learning his numbers and counted for me as I tossed plastic bottle caps into the back of a dump truck; he needed prompting only at "eight."
One sweet little girl was just learning to stand up. Her father was sitting next to her, and she would hold on to his knees, then grab his gray sweater and finally his beard as she pulled herself up to standing. Her dad explained that she actually learned to stand before she learned to sit back down again; "that was a problem," he said.
When it came time to open the presents, not only the birthday boy but all of his pals helped out. The wrapping paper was flying. And what an array of gifts, from books to stuffed creatures to games and BabyGap clothes! One special present was a carton of simple wooden blocks, made by the birthday boy's great-grandfather and passed down through the family.

LATE NIGHTS: Way past my bedtime

The fact the we have become old fogeys was borne in upon us the other night when we went to an Irish music concert in Coatesville. The two performers were young (but hugely talented) men, and the emcee apologized at the outset for the fact that the show really had to start and end on time. It seemed that one of the musicians had to be at work in New York the next morning: after the show, his friend was driving him to Philadelphia, where he planned to catch an 11:20 p.m. bus up to Manhattan.
And he was probably perfectly coherent and efficient at work the next day, too.

LENAPE: The Polar Plunge returns

After taking a year off in 2015, the craziness that is the Polar Plunge is back. People will willingly strip down to their bathing suits and jump into the frigid Brandywine on Saturday, Feb. 20, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Brandywine Picnic Park at Routes 52 and 100. Proceeds will benefit the conservation programs at Brandywine Red Clay Alliance (formerly the BVA). I know it's hard to believe, but several of my friends sorely missed the Plunge last year and are looking forward to reclaiming their much-coveted trophy (a toilet plunger). You can register online at
As for me, the Alliance event that I'm looking forward to is the annual Brandywine Hills Point-to-Point race, which will be on Sunday, April 3.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

SOLDIER JAM: Fundraiser on March 19 in Wimington

My pal Davey Dickens asked me to mention the third annual Soldier Jam concert, a March 19 fundraiser he's involved with. This year it's going to be at the Queen in Wilmington. All proceeds will going toward the Thorncroft Equestrian Center's therapeutic riding program for veterans (Davey is a military veteran himself). The headliner is Vinyl Shockley with Johnny Neel ("was with the Allman Brothers for a long long time," says Davey). Tickets are $25.

ROUTE 1: Reversing the tide

What a strange experience I had on Monday, Jan. 25! At 4 p.m. I was on the Route 1 bypass, heading south from Kennett toward Jennersville (a coffee-shop meeting), when I saw lots of emergency equipment tending to an accident in the northbound lanes. Then there was a stretch of empty road, and more equipment, with firefighters in bunker gear walking toward the first scene. Then came the strange sight: the road was being closed, and northbound traffic was being told to turn around, so cars in all four lanes of the divided highway, on both sides of the median strip, were heading in the same direction. They were crossing over and exiting at the Newark Road off-ramp.
I was alone in the car so couldn't shoot a good video of the oddity but was struck by how freaky it looked.
I learned later that the equipment was on the scene because of an overturned propane truck. That would also explain the wide buffer zone between the two areas where I saw the emergency crews. I must have been one of the last cars allowed to enter at Route 82 before the highway was closed completely.

MR. CUMMINGS: Goodbye to a hero

Thomas Cummings of Mortonville, a local history buff and a member of the Greatest Generation, died at age 91 on Jan. 23.

Thomas M. Cummings Obituary
Thomas Cummings
I met Mr. Cummings in early 2012, after I wrote about how Lone Eagle Road, in West Bradford, is so named because back in 1928 the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh made an emergency landing nearby ("Lone Eagle" was the name of his plane).
Shortly after the item ran, Mr. Cummings contacted me. He said he remembered the incident well, though he was only four years old at the time, and had some photographs of the plane that he wanted to show me.
I went over to his immaculate hilltop house one sunny afternoon, and we took a short drive to where the plane had landed. While we were talking, I learned that he had served in the Marine Corps during World War II, fought at Iwo Jima in the Pacific ("I didn't think I'd make it out alive," he recalled), and earned two Purple Hearts. He showed me the glass case where he kept them, along with his military ID card and other memorabilia.
I also learned he was a widower and missed his wife dearly. He and I took something of a shine to each other, and I made a few more visits over the years to talk about local history (I remember talking about the destructive Ercildoun storm, and local Native American history) and to look at his files of old photos and newspaper clippings.
One afternoon, out of the blue, he presented me with two equestrian-themed bracelets and said he wanted me to have them. They had belonged to his wife, he explained, and she would have enjoyed the life I lead.
I was pretty much speechless.
At his Funeral Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary church in Coatesville on Jan. 29, the Rev. Thomas Brennan spoke about how Mr. Cummings exemplified the Marine Corps motto, "Semper Fi," throughout his life, showing his faithfulness to God, his country and his family and friends.
It was an honor and a privilege to know Mr. Cummings, a war hero and an old-school gentleman. May he rest in peace.

Monday, January 25, 2016

BOOK SALE: Delayed donation pickup

The neighborhood book pickup for the annual Unionville used-book sale was a casualty of the blizzard and has been rescheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30. You are asked to leave your donations (books, videos, CDs, DVDs, computer software, audio books and video games) at the end of your driveway (not at your front door or garage door) by 9 a.m. with a tag. Make sure your bundle is visible from the road.
If your neighborhood isn't one of those covered, you can drop off your donations at any of the schools between Monday, Jan. 25, and Friday, Feb. 19. The book sale will be at the UHS gym on Friday, Feb. 26, from 4 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 27, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with the bag sale from 3 to 5 p.m.
For more information, go to the website

Sunday, January 24, 2016

JONAS: Tilda takes it easy

I apologize for the fact that my column is distinctly lean this week, but everything I had planned to write about was canceled because of the blizzard. While I was snowed in I did nothing more exciting than watch the birds at the feeders, edit a constitutional law book, watch "The Maltese Falcon" and "Mad Men" (season one), and solve a backlog of "Wall Street Journal" crossword puzzles.
I was living in the lap of luxury compared to my friends who had to go outside to take care of their horses, chickens and other critters -- especially if they had to drive. Photos of abandoned vehicles and impassable drifts filled Facebook, along with harrowing stories about awful commutes and pleas from emergency personnel to stay home if possible (by the way: thank you, road crew guys!). I ventured outside only to fill the bird feeders and shoot a video of my wind-chimes, which were practically horizontal in the howling wind and ringing furiously.
On Friday at lunchtime I stopped in at the Jennersville Giant for last-minute provisions and, predictably, they were out of milk. A shopper behind me saw the empty shelves, chuckled, and said, "Choices!" Another man just stood there staring, unsure what to do (I got the sense he didn't often do the grocery shopping).
"Do you think they have more in the back?" he asked me.
"Try slipping the guy a $20," I suggested. I don't think he realized I was kidding.

ALL SHOOK UP: A new start at the library

There was a HUGE shakeup at the Jan. 19 meeting of the Bayard Taylor Library board: Tom Swett is the new board president, Jeff Yetter vice president, and Bill McLachlan secretary/treasurer.
Mr. Swett, who lives in East Marlborough, served as the library board president back in the 1980s. In his remarks upon being elected, he gave a gracious, optimistic speech about the strengths of the library and its potential.
He and the other new officers have expressed their commitment to return to the traditional "Bayard Taylor Memorial Library" name; the outgoing board tried to change the name to the "Kennett Public Library" in early 2015, causing a firestorm of protest that has simmered all year.
Susan Mackey-Kallis stepped down as president and left the board. In her farewell speech, she acknowledged that the name change was a mistake in hindsight and was "a regret of mine." She admitted she did not realize how important the name was to the public.
Rosa Quintana, Margarita Garay-Zarco, Doug Thompson and Joan Weber also resigned from the board. Two new board members are Betsy Del Vecchio, named by Pennsbury Township to replace Ms. Mackey-Kallis, and Dr. Brenda Mercomes, a higher education professional appointed by Kennett Square Borough.
The other members of the board are Karen Ammon, Chris Britt, Stan Allen, Henry "Jerry" Brown, and Carolyn Mohr.
Mr. Swett, a member of the Wilmington Club and the Philadelphia Club, has considerable experience with fundraising and public relations, two areas that will be key if the library is to build a new facility. He served as assistant headmaster at the Upland Country Day School from 1964 to 1991 and did outreach and fundraising at the Stroud Water Research Center from 1991 to 2001. He has served on the boards of the Chester County Hospital, the CCH Foundation, Historic Kennett Square, the Upland Country Day School, and the United Way of Chester County and on the advisory boards of the First National Bank of Chester County, Kennett Square's History Station, the Jefferson School in Georgetown, Del., and the Northern Trust Company of Delaware. He chaired the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company's capital campaign in 1999-2001. He was named Citizen of the Year by the Southern Chester County Chamber of Commerce in 2001.

NEW MEMBER: An ESL tutor joins the board

Betsy Del Vecchio, the newly appointed Pennsbury Township representative to the library board, introduced herself at the Jan. 19 meeting as a "passionate" user of and donor to the library and said both she and her husband have been tutors in the library's adult literacy program.
"I'm very honored to be here," she said.
She said because her husband uses a wheelchair, she is more aware of the obstacles that handicapped people face and is committed to making sure the new library will be accessible.

BEAT THE CLOCK: Earlier meetings for the library board

One of the first actions new library board president Tom Swett took was to change the time of the monthly meetings to 5 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. He explained that he finds people's "cognitive processes" work better earlier in the day. So as not to conflict with library programs, the meetings will be moved from the library's board room to the conference room at the Market at Liberty Place at State and Center Streets.
Mr. Swett also said he wants to schedule an off-campus retreat for the board in the near future. 

CIVIL WAR: The art of conversation

At dinner on Monday night the Young Relative mentioned he had a midterm approaching for his Civil War class. Immediately we began peppering him with questions about that tragic, bloody chapter of American history, all of which he answered correctly. Fort Sumter, Emancipation Proclamation, Jefferson Davis: check, check, check. I thought I would catch him on where Lincoln's assassination took place, but he knew it. (I considered asking for the play name, but realized I wasn't 100 percent sure of it myself.)
After that we started talking about the war more generally. My brother the engineer said he'd always marveled at the complexity of managing the multiple supply lines for an army: food, ammo, communications, medical supplies. We discussed how radically different history might have been had cell phones been around, and a pilot at the table mentioned that the first use of aircraft in warfare was to gain intelligence. I mentioned an article I'd read recently saying that even with modern medicine, Lincoln's gunshot wound would have been fatal.
Of course, then this learned discussion veered to an unfortunate incident involving some Patton middle-schoolers, an errant ping-pong paddle and a gaping hole in the wall, and howls of laughter took over our table.

POLICE BEAT: Clarkie caught in the act

A friend and I sat down for a pre-blizzard lunch Thursday at the Longwood Family Restaurant (formerly Hugo's). We heard some animated conversation coming from the hostess station, and my friend said, "Isn't that your friend Clarkie?"
Sure enough, East Marlborough Township Police Chief Robert "Clarkie" Clarke was there chatting up the waitresses. We actually had to ask him to stop distracting them so we could order our lunch!
(Seriously, though: it's nice to have a police officer who is so visible and well known and liked in the community. But why does he call me "Speedy"?)

PANTO: Bad news for the "Beanstalk"

My heart goes out to the cast and crew of "Sherlock and the Beanstalk," the Kennett Amateur Theater Society pantomime that was to have been performed this past weekend. Given the predictions of heavy snow over the weekend, the director was forced to cancel the two Saturday performances but added a performance on Thursday. But then Thursday's show was "rained out" when there was a sprinkler mishap at Kennett High School, and then the snow predictions worsened, forcing the cancellation of the Friday show. I can only hope that they can come up with an alternative date for the show, for the sake of not only the performers but the audience, too. We've gotten used to the "panto" as part of our winter amusement!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

WALMART: In all the wrong places

What good service we encountered in the auto-parts section of the Kennett Walmart the other evening (running errands; doesn't it make up most of life?).
We were in search of an air filter, and the kind that fits my vehicle appeared to be out of stock. "It should be right here," said my companion, tapping the vacant spot on the shelf labeled with the correct number.
The clerk down the aisle overheard us, came over right away, picked up the correct green box from the shelf below and handed it to us. He explained that he does his best to keep the stock in "his aisle" tidy, but he has noticed that customers sometimes put boxes back on the shelves in the wrong place.
An excellent employee!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

FIRES: A great Facebook resource

The administrator of the Facebook page "Chester County Working Fires" asked if I'd give them a shout-out in my column and I am happy to do so. Talk about breaking news: they're regularly the first to report on emergencies throughout our area, no matter what the hour, and they keep on top of the situation until it's under control. They get their facts and locations right, and they post photos and updates as soon as they're available.
The motto of my first newsroom was "get it first, get it fast, get it right," and CCWF qualifies on all three counts. It's a must for curious residents like me.

WILLOWDALE: The Willowdale Country Store is closing

Best wishes to my friends Judy Fetters and Cintra Murray as they ease into a well-deserved retirement. Yes, over the next few months they'll be closing the Willowdale Country Store at Routes 926 and 82 (although they do hope to find a buyer for it).
Cintra and Judy knew their customers' tastes and lifestyles extremely well and always stocked charming scarves, jewelry, vests, sweaters and casual, comfortable dresses. They had a loyal following and were generous about supporting local artists and organizations. I'll miss going in for a chat -- they were always up on the latest news -- and I guess I'll now have to find a new source for my "bee soap."

Friday, January 15, 2016

GOOD-BYE: A friend heads across the pond

Bon voyage to our friend Melissa Wright, whose husband just started a two-year job assignment in England. Melissa, a former journalist who is the mother of an adorable toddler, was a popular group exercise instructor at the Kennett Y. In fact, one of her predeparture concerns was whether it would be OK for her to use the phrase "yoga pants" in England (where "pants" usually means "underpants").
Melissa also served as the volunteer coordinator for Plantation Field equestrian events and displayed unbelievable calm and poise in even very high-stress situations. It was also very hard to say "no" to her. Once I showed up just to watch a dressage contest, and the next thing I know she had roped me into measuring competitors' crops and checking that they were using the correct bits.
"Of course you can do it," she said, with utter confidence that I would be happy to do so. "And here's a cool T-shirt for you."

DUKES OF DESTINY: Dance party at West Grove Meeting

This past summer's Dukes of Destiny concert at Anson B. Nixon Park had to be cancelled because of a power outage, but here's your chance to see the popular blues and soul band in a hot dance concert. They'll be performing at West Grove Friends Meeting on Saturday, Jan. 30. Doors open at 7; music is from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Suggested donation is $15, with proceeds benefiting the kindergarten at London Grove Friends Meeting and the daycare program at West Grove Meeting.
I'm so sorry we'll miss this, but we have tickets to see Rhonda Vincent & the Rage at Longwood Gardens that night. I remember going to a very festive Dukes concert at West Grove Meeting years ago, back when it was an annual event sponsored by the late, lamented Turtledove Folk Club. The benches get pushed aside to make room for the most vigorous dancing you've ever seen at a Quaker meetinghouse!

STATE DEPT.: Heather Kalmbach is honored

Unionville High School grad Heather Kalmbach has been named the 2015 winner of the Warren Christopher Award for Outstanding Achievement in Civilian Security, which carries with it a $10,000 prize. 
According to the State Department announcement, "This selection was based on Ms. Kalmbach's outstanding performance as the senior national refugee coordinator. This prestigious award recognizes sustained excellence, and initiative in the substantive policy areas of civilian security, democracy, and human rights."
Ms. Kalmbach, who grew up in West Marlborough, is based in the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan.
(Thank you to Helen Martin for sharing this news. Helen said she had dinner with Heather in Israel several years ago.)

GROAN: Warning! Bad joke ahead!

Dialogue at the Unionville Post Office, Thursday afternoon:
P.G.: "You know what they say down on the farm, don't you?"
Tilda: "No, what do they say down on the farm?"
P.G.: "If I don't see you in the future, I'll see you in the pasture."

PANTO: Fairy tales done a la KATS

This year's Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society pantomime, "Sherlock & the Beanstalk," will be on Jan. 22 (7:30 p.m.) and Jan. 23 (2 and 7:30 p.m.) at the Kennett High School auditorium. The "panto" is always a great fun: not only do you get to see your friends and neighbors emoting up there on stage, but you also get to boo, and cheer, and sing along. Buy your tickets online ( or at the door ($10 for adults, $5 for under 12).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

FR. DENNY: Memorial service for a downtown fixture

The memorial service for Dennis Van Thuyne ("Father Denny") on Jan. 11 at St. Patrick's Church was a moving and appropriate send-off for a man who was a friend to so many in the community.
The Rev. Christopher Rogers, the pastor at St. Pat's, spoke about the first and the last times he met Father Denny, who served as a priest at St. Pat's many years ago. The first time was shortly after Father Rogers arrived in Kennett: while strolling through town, he encountered Father Denny sitting in his favorite spot, on the bench outside the "General Store" he ran on State Street, and they immediately struck up a conversation about Denny's beloved St. Therese.
Their last conversation, just a few days before Denny died, took place at the church, when he asked Father Rogers, "Are you getting ready?" Father Rogers thought he meant getting the church ready for Thanksgiving and then Advent -- but he said that after Denny died, the simple question took on a profound meaning for him.
Denny's brother, Mike Van Thuyne, gave the eulogy on behalf of the family, talking about his brother's faith and the importance of both knowledge and action in the life of a Catholic. "We cannot rely on the other person," he said. "We must look honestly in the mirror and realize, we ARE the other person." He asked Denny's friends to pray for him and to him.
After the service, we all went downstairs to the social hall for refreshments and fellowship. How fitting that on the food table was a pile of Denny's favorite snack, Philadelphia soft pretzels! There was also a display of photos of Denny at his store and in the community. A leaflet from the family read, "Your warm expressions of sympathy and prayers for the Van Thuyne family, at the loss of our brother, Denny, have been a tremendous source of strength and comfort for all of us."

THE VOICE: A priest's podcasts

Father Denny's service was the first time I had met the Rev. Christopher Rogers, who recently succeeded longtime priest the Rev. Victor Sharett (now pastor emeritus) in the pulpit at St. Patrick's. Father Rogers has a warm, engaging manner, but the first thing I noticed about him was his vivid, clear speaking voice. I mentioned this to a St. Pat's parishioner, who said he felt the same way. In fact, he told me, Father Rogers even posts podcasts of his Sunday homilies on

FIRE: Rocky Hill Castle

I had never even heard of Rocky Hill Castle, the Chadds Ford structure gutted by fire early Jan. 12. The 12-bedroom stone mansion on five acres at 119 Bullock Road was on the market for $674,000. It was built in 1821 as a summer house and also had a three-story, five-stall barn. Even before the fire, the real-estate listing warned that the house and barn "will need extensive renovations and being sold in as is condition." Photos on show a lovely old stained-glass door and split staircase, but it's clear that the place was very far from being in turnkey condition.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

APPLE PIE: Bake-off at the State Fair

As the apple pie champion at the Unionville Community Fair, Robin Mastrippolito of Embreeville got the chance to enter the statewide competition at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg this past weekend. But despite Robin's best effort with what I hear was an amazing apple-raspberry pie, Jeralyn Adams, a woman from Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, took the blue ribbon with a pie using Northern Spy, Jonagold and Pink Lady apples. Here's the winning recipe:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup lard
1/3 cup butter, unsalted
4-5 Tablespoons cold water
Mix together the flour and salt in a bowl. Blend in the lard and butter with a fork or pastry blender until the crumb is pea-sized or smaller. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, blending gently until the dough almost cleans the sides of the bowl. Divide the dough in half and shape it loosely into two balls. Roll out each ball in a circle on a floured surface to fit an 8 1/2 or 9-inch pie pan. Line the bottom of the pan with one crust. 
5-6 cups tart Pennsylvania apples (cored, peeled and thinly sliced)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 
dash of ground nutmeg
1 Tablespoon butter
Mix the apples, sugar, corn starch, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Pour into a crust-lined pan. Dot the top of the filling with butter.
Top with the remaining crust. Seal the edges. Pierce the top crust with a fork at intervals to release steam while baking. 
1 Tablespoon milk
1 Tablespoon cinnamon-sugar (1 Tablespoon of sugar combined with 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon)
Brush the top of the crust with milk. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. 
Protect the crust edges from over-browning by covering the edges with strips of foil or purchased crust protector. 
Bake at 425 degrees for 40-50 minutes, removing the edge protector for the last 15 minutes of baking. If the top of the crust starts to over-brown, cover it loosely with foil. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

LIBRARY: The latest library board news

My very best wishes to Betsy Del Vecchio, who has been named by the Pennsbury Township Board of Supervisors to replace Susan Mackey-Kallis on the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library's board of trustees. Ms. Mackey-Kallis's tenure as board president was marked by the resignations of multiple board members (who cited personal frictions with her for their departures) and a public outcry over the board's attempt to change the library's traditional name. Even a fundraising feasibility study commissioned by the library board urged her to resign.
However, Ms. Del Vecchio (a former tutor at the library's literacy program, I'm happy to say!) is joining a board that has been bolstered with some newer members with political savvy, people skills, and community connections -- experienced fundraiser Tom Swett of East Marlborough chief among them. I'm looking forward to the January 19 (7 p.m. at the library) board reorganization meeting, when the new board leadership will be chosen.
I have high hopes that they can mend fences and get the library moving in the right direction again.
In a bizarre footnote, even though the Pennsbury Township website now lists Ms. Del Vecchio as the township's representative to the library board, Ms. Mackey-Kallis has informed the press that she didn't really resign, that she is still president and intends to run the January meeting, and that Ms. Del Vecchio is just a temporary substitute board member named to fill her place while she is teaching in Japan until August. To me it seems a moot point. By the time Ms. Mackey-Kallis returns from Japan, a new group of people will be running the show on the library board, and from what I've seen they want no part of this kind of divisive and distracting bickering. To their credit!

BAD BEHAVIOR: Parking is not that tough

Parking is NOT rocket science, but judging from some of the sloppy parking jobs I've seen recently, some people need to spend a few hours practicing in an empty parking lot.
At the Kennett Y the other night, I saw an Acura parked with its front end at about 2 o'clock and its rear at about 8 o'clock, with the left rear tire completely over the white line. So what if you're late for your class! How long does it take to park properly?
The next day a friend sent me a photo of an extended-cab blue pickup truck (with trailer hitch) parked in one of the handicapped spots at the New Garden Giant supermarket, with no handicapped tag or placard. Adding to the offense, it was parked crookedly.
There's just no excuse for that. If I had been there, I would have blocked the truck in and called the New Garden police. (Oh, come on, Mother. You would do the same thing; you know you would!)
A friend of mine told me that when she had her leg in a cast after surgery, she obtained a temporary handicapped placard, but she still didn't like using it. She said on the spectrum of disability, she felt that she could still get around better than some, and she felt guilty taking a spot from someone who might need it more than she did.
On the opposite side of the spectrum: the other day I sat at a light at State and Union Streets in downtown Kennett watching a tractor-trailer driver make a turn and marveled at his skill.

BREAKFAST: No need for lunch!

We love attending pancake breakfasts, potluck dinners and spaghetti suppers because (1) the food is usually tasty; (2) we get to hang out with different people; and (3) such events directly support the community. This past Saturday morning we went to a marvelous hearty breakfast in Oxford where members of the Shiloh Presbyterian Church served up pancakes, cooked-to-order eggs, potatoes, biscuits, creamed chipped beef, sausages, bacon, and ham in the church hall.
The hosts and our fellow guests were very welcoming and friendly. One woman who was dishing out potatoes pointed out her grandson, who was sitting in a stroller a short distance away waving to her. She told me he had been extremely premature but was now thriving: "What a blessing," she said, beaming at him.

Friday, January 8, 2016

FRACTURE: A brother on the mend

My brother had something of a hiccup in his Christmas vacation down in South Carolina: on Christmas eve a dog ran out in front of his bicycle and he "came off." His girlfriend carted him off to the ER and an x-ray showed a broken right collarbone, with the ends of the fracture so far apart they could have been in separate ZIP codes. The ER docs sent him home with his arm in a splint because no orthopaedic surgeons were available.
My brother promptly posted the x-ray on his Facebook page and asked me to share it with my Unionville pals, many of whom have suffered similar equestrian injuries. They recognized the familiar image immediately and were full of advice about surgeons, narcotics, rehab, and so forth.
My brother's girlfriend, who has earned the undying thanks of our whole family, snagged him an appointment at a top-notch sports medicine clinic in Charlotte, N.C. (my brother was reassured by the photos of professional athletes in the waiting room), and he had surgery six days after the crash. As soon as his pain level allowed, he was back on his bike (probably not a photo he should have shared with our mother). A week later, with hardware and a brace holding the bone in place, he drove home to Chadds Ford.
If she could have, his girlfriend would have dispatched a drone to hover over his car so she could track him all the way home before she finally felt comfortable "clocking out." Our mother's concern was how, without assistance, he would manage to dress himself and make his bed. He is already back to work, so I'm assuming he has managed the former; I am less sanguine about the latter.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

TWELVES: A special-occasion restaurant in West Grove

As my regular readers know, I am fortunate to dine out a lot. I come by this genetically: a magnet on my mother's refrigerator reads, "My Three Favorite Words: Let's Eat Out." But on January 6 I had a truly memorable restaurant experience at Twelves.
Twelves is housed in a former bank in the middle of West Grove; you walk by the old vault on the way to your table.
Everything on the menu sounded so delicious that we had a tough time choosing, and our waitress only complicated matters by mentioning the evening's specials. I had almost made up my mind to order the three-course prix fixe menu until she mentioned the crab cake special, with smashed potatoes, asparagus and roasted carrots. Yes, please! My date was not dissuaded from his original choice: the short ribs, with roasted brussels sprouts.
The food was served beautifully and was so tasty that we just stared blankly across the table, savoring every bite. My crab cake was spectacular; his short ribs were melt-in-your-mouth tender. He commented that he didn't realize brussels sprouts could actually be tasty.
Fortunately we saved room for dessert: I had the homemade chocolate ice cream (too cold for ice cream? Never!) and my date had the cheesecake, which he loved.
What added to the entire experience was the relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere of the place. It's hard to describe; the adjective I keep coming up with is "intelligent" (that's a good thing). There aren't a lot of tables, so everyone gets special attention (it also means you need a reservation). The party of four next to us was celebrating a birthday, and the honoree's dessert came with "Happy Birthday" written on the plate in what looked like chocolate sauce.
The next day I was raving about our evening and I learned that Twelves has a special meaning to a gym friend of mine: she went there on her very first date with the man who will become her husband this spring. It's already a special place for us, too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

RENOVATIONS: Stimulating the economy

The financial news out of Wilmington has been fairly grim of late, but apparently someone still has money to play with. Today I drove down Old Kennett Road and saw a few huge houses being built, and others were getting serious additions. I saw some gracefully curving walls of windows and Tudor-style brickwork on one big place. Three or four HVAC trucks were parked outside of one large home on Kennett Pike, and a flatbed filled with lumber was headed down Nine Gates Road. One majestic house right at the state line appears to be undergoing a major renovation, including a new roof; I later found out that it's actually a brand-new replica of the classic early-20th-century house that used to stand there but had to be razed because of mold problems.
Closer to home, I saw some Amish workers renovating the stucco house on South Union and Mulberry Streets in Kennett Square; Wayne Simpson is the architect. I'll always think of it as "the pink house" because it used to be painted the color of Pepto-Bismol.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: A short monthly meeting

Because the West Marlborough supervisors had met just the week before to approve the 2016 budget, their regular January monthly meeting was a brief one.
Roadmaster Hugh Lofting Sr. reported that the township road crew hopes to receive some grant money this year to stabilize a steep bank along Rokeby Road that slopes down to the Buck Run. Residents have brought the problem to the supervisors' attention several times in recent years.
Township engineer Al Giannantonio said there had been no zoning or building permits issued in December. There was no police report.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Some new faces in the township garage

The West Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors met on Monday, Jan. 4, to reorganize. William Wylie will remain chairman. Jake Chalfin will be vice chairman. Hugh Lofting Sr. will remain township roadmaster and emergency coordinator.
Shirley Walton will remain secretary-treasurer; she and the township road crew (Hugh Lofting Jr. and "Brother" Wilson) will receive a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase.
Dwight Yoder of Gibbel, Kraybill & Hess, based in Lancaster, will remain the township solicitor. Al Giannantonio of Yerkes & Associates, based in West Chester, will remain township engineer. Because building inspector Eddie Caudill has retired, Ed Latshaw of LTL Consultants, a municipal engineering and code enforcement firm headquartered in Oley, will take over the building inspector and zoning officer roles.
Emery Jones Taylor and Roy Jackson were named to fill vacancies on the township's planning commission. Tom Brosius will remain the planning commission's chairman, and Anna Myers will remain secretary.
"Anna, how many years will this be?" Tom Brosius asked her.
"I have no idea," she replied, not even looking up from her notebook.
Tom Roosevelt arrived a few minutes late to find that he had already been chosen as planning commission vice chairman, but barely had time to sit down before the brief meeting was over.

Monday, January 4, 2016

KENNETT Y: A hopping (and lunging, and squatting) place

The Kennett Area YMCA was certainly a cheerful and busy place on New Year's morning. The gym opened at 9 a.m., and 10 minutes ahead of time eager members were already lining up outside waiting for staff to unlock the doors. Everyone was wishing each other a happy 2016 and talking about the fun they had at the Mushroom Drop (or the fun they had donning their PJs and staying home with the kids). The two exercise classes I attended were very well attended, and soon we Y regulars will start to see the yearly influx of new members who join because of their New Year's Resolutions. Welcome!

WENDY'S: Close to reopening?

By the time you see this in the newspaper on Jan. 7, the Wendy's restaurant on Baltimore Pike east of Kennett Square may be open again. From the outside it certainly looks like the renovation is complete, and there have been big "Now Hiring" banners up for a few weeks.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

PAINT-BY-NUMBER: Everything old is new again

The other night I learned, to my amazement, that there is a company that converts photographs into paint-by-number kits. You upload a photograph, and they send you a kit with the photo transformed into a canvas with lots of little numbered areas, along with little pots of matching paints. Brilliant!
The company is called Easy 123 Art, Inc., and it's based in Louisville, Kentucky. According to its website, the firm "began in 1998 with a simple product that would give anyone the experience of making their own masterpiece, and it incorporated something we all have and love…photographs. It was a modern take on the 1950’s era paint-by-number with a clever spin that initially set the stage for a mail order business. With the advances of digital technology, the mail order business evolved into an internet-based business with nearly 99% of all customer orders generated from digital photographs."
The website has a gallery where customers can show off their finished artwork. As one would expect, there are a lot of paintings of pets and kids.
I did those paint-by-number kits as a kid (this was long before the Internet, much less electronic devices), but I had no idea that so many grown-ups still enjoy doing them until I mentioned it in conversation. People tell me they find it relaxing and even meditative, much like I enjoy knitting. Who knew!

BOOK SALE: Book pickup is on Jan. 23.

UHS students and parents will be traveling through local developments picking up donations for the annual used-book sale on Saturday, Jan. 23. Leave your donations at the end of your driveway (not at your front door or garage door) by 9 a.m. with a tag.
If your neighborhood isn't one of those covered, you can drop off your donations at any of the schools between Monday, Jan. 25, and Friday, Feb. 19. The book sale will be at the UHS gym on Friday, Feb. 26, from 4 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 27, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with the bag sale from 3 to 5 p.m.
For more information, go to the website

SHOPPING: Business comings and goings

Three commercial bits of news to share:
1. Bedbugzz, the children's clothing store on State Street in downtown Kennett, is closing down as of Saturday, Jan. 5. Best of luck to the owner, Kathleen Caccamo.
2. A new State Store is under construction at the London Grove Village shopping center, which is on Route 41 across from the State Police barracks. That will make three in our immediate area: there are also State Stores in the New Garden and the Jennersville shopping centers, in addition to all the nearby liquor stores in Delaware.
3. Personal trainer Charlene Henry plans to open Anchor Life + Fitness in the old fire house at 112 South Broad Street in Kennett. She writes in her blog: "We will continue to offer in-home services, as well, but realize that having a facility can help maximize our teachings by providing more tools and services to our community. ... In addition, we will also have a small kitchen area where we will host small seminars, tastings, and healthy cooking demonstrations."

CHRISTMAS: Thanks for the effort

Two "Unionville in the News" readers sent me the following note about local Christmas decorations:
"Sincere Thank Yous to (1) the traditional Christmas Eve roadside luminaries along William Thomas Drive (Unionvillle) and (2) the also traditional extensive Christmas lighted lawn decorations at 817 Lisadell Drive (Unionville).
We know it takes a lot of effort, as do all the individual decorations both simple and complex, and we want everyone to know how much they are appreciated.  Unfortunately, in some areas the Christmas decorations seem to be tapering off a somewhat.  Therefore,  we simply want to offer a bit of encouragement."

In my reply to their email, I wondered whether those laser projectors that seemed to be all the rage this year (the ones that beam stars onto the side of your house) will return in 2016.

FATHER DENNY: Memorial service set

Joe Van Thuyne told me that the family will hold a memorial service for his brother, "Father Denny," at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11, at St. Patrick's Church in Kennett.
"The community has been so supportive and expressed their special relationships with Denny," he wrote.
Father Denny, a priest many years ago at St. Pat's, died in November. He ran "The General Store," a second-hand store on State Street, to raise money for brain-injury victims like himself.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

NEW YEAR'S: The mushroom descends

For the third year in a row, a giant glowing mushroom descended from the crane at State and Union Streets in downtown Kennett, and for the third year, we were there celebrating! This year's event was augmented by a very cool laser light show, and the stage for "The Funsters" oldies band was moved around the corner to Union Street between State and Cypress. The crowd was jovial, the temperature was comfortable (if you were well wrapped up, that is), and I didn't see any obnoxious behavior at all. The only downside was the number of young people I saw who were smoking.
I'm told Kennett Square's "falling fungus" made the national news in a wrap-up of towns that celebrated the New Year in novel ways. And one of my readers was thrilled to see that a mushroom-raising ceremony was held at 8 p.m. for people who didn't want to stay up until midnight (she had suggested the idea months ago).
The next day a friend told me she brought out-of-town guests to the mushroom drop and they had completely misunderstood the event: They thought that at midnight a giant pinata was going to be broken, showering the crowd beneath with mushrooms.