Sunday, August 13, 2017

FAMILY: Together again

It's been many years since I've actually lived in the same house with my siblings, so the past few weeks have been instructive. I have learned, for instance, that my sister detests bananas and microwave ovens and uses sunscreen from India, herbal cough drops from Switzerland, and headache "powders" from England. My brother, an engineer and a serious athlete, can go through a two-pound barrel of mini-pretzels in a matter of days and washes everyone's dishes immediately after use. And neither one of them likes the ticking of a clock, which I find soothing. In fact, they actually took the offending timepiece down from the wall and stuffed it under a sofa cushion.

LONGWOOD: A great fireworks show

After a week of wall-to-wall challenges, it was a pleasure to just sit and watch the Longwood fireworks on Saturday evening. How do they keep coming up with new pyrotechnics every time?There were fireworks that blinked at random, ones that multiplied like the sorcerer's apprentice, orange ones with a green eye, like a celestial fiber-optic cable, roller-coaster ones that rose and then fell, and even some that resembled Longwood's beautiful pink-and-white hydrangeas. My favorite may have been the ones that lined themselves into rows and then burst into multiple colors, like a monitor screen full of icons.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

KENNETT: Furry fun

The Treetops Kitty Café, 305 W. State St. in downtown Kennett, is having its grand opening from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19.
"Admission to the cat lounge for that day will be $1 per person and as always, there will be drinks and snacks available to buy. We’ll have a face-painter and some cat-centric activities for kids and at 2 pm, we’ll be featuring cat stories and books. At 3 pm we’ll have presentations about cats  (e.g., bottle-feeding, socializing young kittens, general cat care, health  and behavior), as well as information on cat rescue and volunteering for the café."
What is a kitty café, you ask? It's a place where, for a small fee, you can hang out and play with the dozen or so cats up for adoption who wander around the lounge. There's Wi-Fi, and there are drinks, snacks, and pet supplies for sale, with all income going toward operating expenses and animal care. 
Treetops Kitty Café is run by the non-profit TreeTops Animal Rescue.  Normal hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
 

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Peace in our time

A fed-up East Marlborough reader writes:
"Why is it some folks decide on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening to mow their lawn, blow off a deck, trim their yard or do some other very noisy activity?"
She says she and her husband were enjoying a glass of wine on their deck one recent weekend evening when a neighbor decided to fire up some yard equipment and then proceeded to operate it for more than an hour. She said she was so angry she got in her car and made the rounds of the neighborhood, asking residents to be more considerate and not use power equipment after 6 p.m., at least not on weekends.
"I never did identify the culprit, but I did meet more neighbors than I had previously known," she writes.

FAIR HILL: Spotlight on Cecil County

Three-day-eventing fans are excited that Fair Hill International, just across the line in Maryland, has been nominated by the U.S. Equestrian Federation to host a prestigious four-star competition. The sport's governing body, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), will make the final decision this fall. If approved, the first four-star event at Fair Hill would be in fall 2019.
If selected to host the event, the 5,613-acre property would see major upgrades (funded privately), including "an irrigated turf racecourse, new cross-country course, rings and graded grass field on the infield, and a grandstand overlooking the turf track and rings," according to a press release.
The competition would also bring a significant number of horses, riders, grooms and spectators to Cecil County, all of whom would need a place to stay and food to eat. 
A three-day-eventing competition comprises dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping phases. A four-star event indicates the highest level of competition.

KENNETT: The final show

The blue-shirted musicians of the West Chester Community Concert Band filled the stage at Anson B. Nixon park on Aug. 9 in the final concert of the summer series, and they played a wonderful mixture that ran the gamut from marches and ragtime to Sinatra and Gershwin (hearing the sublime "Someone to Watch Over Me" brought a smile to my face). During a medley of early 20th-century dance tunes, the woman in front of us was inspired to get up and dance the Charleston with considerable spirit.  
The crowd skewed toward the more mature end of the spectrum; in fact, the Friends Home mini-bus brought a whole row of residents and staffers to the show.
And one friend told us that this show was by far her favorite of the summer; she admitted that although she attends all the concerts, she wears earplugs during the louder rock-and-roll ones.
The State Street restaurant Portobello's was the food vendor for the evening, and their exotic mushroom crepes were just delicious.

SUMMER: A few more weeks

"Where did the summer go?" is a lament I've heard repeatedly this week. There's a "Welcome Back" banner at UHS, school supplies of innumerable variety are on sale, and at least one student of my acquaintance really needs to get cracking if he hopes to finish his summer reading ("Brave New World" and "Animal Farm," never more relevant). It will be interesting to see how the high school's delayed-opening experiment goes this year: will the students actually get more sleep?
The man next to me on a recent flight told me that in June he and his family had moved from Iowa to Florida. His kids were dismayed to learn that their summer vacation would last only a few weeks, as Florida schools start in early August. (However, the children were mollified by the fact that their new house has a backyard swimming pool.)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

TECHNOLOGY: Getting above itself

I am really enjoying my new computer (thank you, Best Buys on Concord Pike), but I find its slogan a bit presumptuous: "HP Pavilion All-in-One: The Centerpiece of Your Modern Family," it proclaims on a sticker on the base. The computer apparently has a pretty high opinion of itself.
Also: wireless peripherals have improved vastly since I last tried them. The keyboard and mouse work perfectly.

KENNETT: A special open house

Hosting an open house is all in a day's work for real estate agents, but this one was really special: on Aug. 3 Jayne Bair and her colleagues at Century 21 Pierce & Bair threw a party to celebrate the opening of their new office at the historic Chalfant Mansion at 220 North Union Street in downtown Kennett.
I stopped in at 6:30 p.m. on my way to the Kennett Y and the place was full of well-wishers chatting and enjoying the raw bar, all kinds of hors d'oeuvres, and luscious-looking desserts. And on my way home 90 minutes later I saw that the party was still going strong.
Jayne renovated the Queen Anne-style home after a fire in November 2014 and the results are spectacular: the charred woodwork has been repaired and polished, the ornate fireplaces have been cleaned, the soot and grime have been removed from the mirrors and the building no longer smells like smoke. It looks wonderful. At the party a video screen showed dramatic photos of the "before" and "after." 
Built in 1884 for William Chalfant, the house was an important work by architect Frank Furness, who also designed the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts on North Broad Street in Philadelphia, the old library at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Wilmington train station.

Friday, August 4, 2017

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Go fish!

I was at the Megalomart the other morning looking for a deck of playing cards for someone who likes to play Solitaire the old-fashioned way. I thought they'd be in the office supplies section, or maybe the crafts section, but they weren't. I spotted a clerk in the back-to-school section.
"Excuse me," I said. "I'm looking for a deck of playing cards."
"Toys," she said, without looking up.
"And where is that?" I asked.
With this, she looked up and gave me a glare.
"In the back. Where there's a 'Toys' sign."
I just had to laugh.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

POCOPSON: It will open soon!

I'm not sure which is more eagerly anticipated: the reopening of the Longwood Wawa convenience store (set for Aug. 23) or the reopening of the Route 926 bridge over the Brandywine Creek (set for Sept. 1).
Some friends who live near the bridge wandered down there the other day and reported to their surprise that there are actually two bridges being built, plus the intersection of Routes 100 and 926 is being moved.
In PennDOT's crisp (that's a compliment) engineering lingo: "PennDOT’s contractor will improve Route 926 (Street Road) by replacing the 79-year-old bridge with a new three-span structure built at a higher elevation; rebuilding and raising 1,700 feet of the roadway approaches to make them less prone to flooding; replacing the nearby culvert over Radley Run with an 84-foot twin arch concrete culvert; and realigning 800 feet of Creek Road at its northern intersection with Route 926 (Street Road)."
The latest report from the contractors, as of July 27, is as follows: "Everything is starting to take shape, last week crews poured the new 926 bridge concrete deck, and began the improved culverts at Radley Run. The causeways are out of the waterway, and most importantly the project continues to advance on time, and on budget." 
Perhaps trumping both the bridge and the Wawa reopening is the much-anticipated return of the Bread Ladies (the Bakers at Red Lion). Finding that they couldn't stand the heat, they very wisely got out of the kitchen for July and August. "See you in September!" reads their sign. 

KENNETT: Bring the lava lamps

Nostalgia was rampant among the crowd on Aug. 2 as Kofi Baker's Cream Experience took the stage at the next-to-last summer concert at Anson Nixon Park. The rain stopped just in time for the 7 p.m. show, the sun came out, and the temperature was perfect.
Kofi Baker is the 48-year-old son of Ginger Baker, legendary drummer for the 1960s supergroups Cream and Blind Faith. Kofi, too, plays the drums -- including one lengthy solo -- and told some entertaining stories of growing up in a psychedelic house. He mentioned that unlike his hippie parents, he leads a healthy lifestyle and is a regular at the gym -- and it certainly showed in his strength and endurance.
The band performed extended versions of all of Cream's hits, like "White Room," "I'm So Glad," and "Sunshine of Your Love," bringing "awws" of remembrance from us boomers. They did Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" as an encore.
One thing I love about the Anson Nixon concerts is their small scale. At intermission we saw the other two members of the band -- Mike Keneally and Robert Pagliari -- hustling up to the refreshment area to order some pulled-pork crepes from Yor So Sweet. Kofi had given the crepes a rave revue, and rightly so: they were delicious.
The West Chester Band will play at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9, to close the season, and the Kennett Food Cupboard will be collecting donations at the show. Apparently there is plenty of empty space on their shelves.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

UNIONVILLE: News central

Those of use who don't work in an office miss out on having a traditional "water cooler" to serve as a conversational hub, but the Unionville Post Office is a great substitute. Ther other morning I ran into an acquaintance there who introduces himself to me every time I see him, as if he's not a memorable enough character as it is.
I shook hands with him and gave him a hearty good morning.
"Friendliest post office in the world!" he exclaimed.

UNIONVILLE: Summer vacation

Driving past the Unionville high school/middle school complex, you might think that school was already back in session. I was there at breakfast time one recent morning (en route to Landhope for a half-gallon of milk) and the place was a hive of activity. Members of the cross-country team were running around the track (the Young Relative's practice starts at 6:30 a.m. to beat the heat), football players were stretching out their shoulders using wooden poles, and dozens of soccer balls were spread out on the grass like dandelions, just waiting for the soccer camp participants to show up.
And just up the road at St. Michael's church, a canopy was set out ready to host Vacation Bible School activities.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Only a few more weeks

Aug. 23 is the date that the Longwood Wawa on East Baltimore Pike is expected to reopen. The extremely busy convenience store shut down on July 24 for remodeling. The fuel pumps remain open during the work.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

POCOPSON: Kids and animals

The Barn at Spring Brook Farm, which provides animal-assisted activities for kids with disabilities, is looking for one-on-one volunteers to serve an hour a week for twelve weeks beginning in September. No experience is needed. Training is from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Barn (located on 17 acres off Locust Grove Road in Pocopson).
"With miniature farm animals, the children explore their potential, gain skills and have fun," reads the flyer.
Contact info: email laura.feininger@springbrook-farm.org; phone 610-793-1037; website www.springbrook-farm.org.

UNIONVILLE: A photo exhibit

I got to catch up with a lot of friends on July 26 at Ellie Glaccum's exhibition of photographs of the horses, hounds and humans of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds. The event also served as an open house of sorts for the commercial space that formerly housed the Unionville Saddle Shop. The real estate agent's brochure describes the now-empty, newly renovated store (1712 West Doe Run Road) as "a perfect location for any equestrian-related business."
I especially enjoyed chatting with my always-enthusiastic friend Andie Chalfant, who is busy helping to organize the Plantation Field International Horse Trials, coming up September 14 through 17 (only seven weeks away, she pointed out with some trepidation). Andie was telling me her latest task is trying to find a local brewery to sell its ales there. She also said that PF has a new beneficiary this year, the "Retired Racehorse Project," in addition to the Land Preservation Fund and the Chester County Food Bank.


CHADDS FORD: Agave restaurant

Agave Mexican Cuisine (catty-cornered from Hank's) got a rave review from "Unionville in the News" readers Fred and Mary DeVries. They sent me this email: "This most pleasant spot opened not too long ago down the strip from the Chadds Ford Post Office. We've sampled both their take-out and their in-house dining and been highly impressed. If you don't mind crossing into Delaware Co., we recommend you try! (We brought our own bottle!)."

DELCO: Bacon Fest

A friend who knows my guilty fondness for a certain smoked breakfast meat said he thought of me when he saw a flyer for the upcoming Bacon Fest 2017 benefiting the Recreation Department of the borough of Trainer, Pennsylvania (near Marcus Hook in Delaware County).
"We need one of these in West Marlborough!" he suggested.

NEW GARDEN: Foot in mouth

The funniest autocorrect typo I've seen recently appeared in a Facebook post about some roadwork: the detour involved "Big Toe Road" instead of "Bucktoe Road." A friend quipped, "Is that anywhere near Plump Sock Road"?

UNIONVILLE: Fair photography exhibit

The Unionville Community Fair is looking for a director (or two, to share the job) for the adult photography competition and exhibit. I am assured that you don't need to have any photographic skills yourself; your duties will include accepting the entries, overseeing the judging process and then displaying the photos. Hours would be 2 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, to accept the entries; judging starts at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5. You will have helpers.
The photo competition is always a popular part of the Fair, so please think about volunteering!

UNIONVILLE: Home delivery

"Unionville in the News" reader Ann Baines writes:

"I wanted to sing the praises of Kevin Quinlan of Logical Living (http://logical-living.com/)! He delivers fabulous Baily's milk, eggs, and wild caught Alaskan salmon right to my door - the quality and service can't be beat.  Except, today he went above and beyond!  I forgot to leave a cooler for him but didn't worry because I was just at the Y for a quick workout; but Kevin didn't know that...  He left my delivery in one of his coolers, complete with an ice pack to keep the salmon frozen.  Really outstanding!"

 

FLORIDA: The off-season

I apologize that there was no column last week, but a family emergency took me to Punta Gorda, Florida. You've heard the saying, "We caught the next flight"? Well, my brother and I caught the next flight.
My travel adventures -- not to mention the amazing Florida fauna and flora -- would be enough to fill this column for a month straight, but alas few are Unionville related.

Sunset over the Peace River.

I need to do a lot of Googling to identify all the new plants I saw. This one was in Port Charlotte.


The airport in Fort Myers. I approached the kind Delta gate agent because I wasn't quite sure what to do (last-minute ticket purchase). "You got to the airport," she said. "That's a great start!"

On the way back, we were on the tarmac in Detroit when the pilot announced that, due to thunderstorms, the Philadelphia airport was shut down. Eventually the freeze was lifted -- just in time for shift change. We finally touched down at midnight. You know it's been a trying trip when the captain tells you upon landing that "It could have been worse" and invites you to fly with his airline again "the next time the entire East Coast is shut down with thunderstorms and you feel like taking a little airplane ride."
Silver lining: Had we landed on time, Route 1 would still have been closed at Chadds Ford due to Brandywine flooding and I would have been diverted up to West Chester.

Monday, July 17, 2017

KENNETT SQUARE: Some business changes

A few random observations from downtown Kennett Square:
1. Chantilly Blue, the ladies' clothing store, has moved just across the street from 120 West State Street to 117 West State Street.
2. Mala Galleria will be taking over the vacant storefront at Broad and State Streets that used to house the Longwood Art Gallery.
3. The fish tacos at Michoacana Grill at Cypress and Union Streets, Kennett Square, are so delicious. And should you feel the urge for La Michoacana ice cream while you are in West Chester, Noelia, the owner, tells me she has opened Tropical Delight Homemade Ice Cream at 125 North Church Street (the former soft pretzel shop). They feature La Michoacana ice cream!

The fish tacos at Michoacana Grill.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

ELKTON: Cecil County Fair

The Cecil County (Md.) Fair opens July 21 and runs through July 29. It's quite an experience: barns full of prize animals, flowers, vegetables, baked goods and crafts as well as carnival rides, a demolition derby, tractor-pulling competitions, live music, farm equipment displays, and food vendors (I cannot recommend the deep-fried Oreos). The people-watching alone is worth the price of admission.
The fairgrounds are located at 4640 Telegraph Road (Route 273) in Elkton.

MARSHALLTON: Keeping cool

A Marshallton friend reports that her refrigerator broke and she had to wait two weeks to get it fixed -- apparently it needed a special, and expensive, part. Living without a fridge was especially challenging given that she had guests staying with her.
I was reminded of the hot-weather advice given in "Domestic Cookery," written in 1845 by Avondale resident Elizabeth Ellicott Lea: "Where persons live a distance from market, and have no fresh meat but what they kill, it is important to know how to keep it fresh... In the summer, if you have an ice-house, you can keep it without trouble. If rubbed with salt and pinned in a cloth, it will keep in the cellar two days; or by lowering it down your well, attached to a rope, and changing the cloth every other day, it will keep good a week in hot weather."
My friend used a cooler.
Another of Mrs. Lea's household tips: to keep water cool, store it in "a large stone vessel" wrapped in a wet cloth. "This will keep it cool for some hours, which is a comfort in warm weather."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

KENNETT: Four concerts are left

There are four more Wednesday-night concerts at Anson B. Nixon Park in this summer's series: Grady Hoss & the Sidewinders (food by Kennett Brewing Company) on July 19; The GTVs (food by the Sawmill Grill) on July 26; Kofi Baker's Cream Experience (food by Yo'r So Sweet) on Aug. 2; and the West Chester Community Concert Band (food by Portabellos) on Aug. 9.
The music starts at 7 p.m. It's always a fun and relaxing evening in a pretty venue.

EAST MARLBOROUGH: An Aldi supermarket is proposed

The rumors are true! An Aldi supermarket wants to take over the Sears hardware store and the PetValu store at 817 East Baltimore Pike (across from Applebee's). To do so, the investors will need to obtain a conditional use permission from the East Marlborough township supervisors, and a hearing is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19. I have never been to an Aldi, which is an international supermarket chain, but I have heard very positive reviews for the quality of their service, prices and products. The closest one to us is at 154 Airport Road, between Coatesville and Sadsburyville.
In other grocery news, everyone is always asking me what's happening with the long-vacant SuperFresh store in the Longwood shopping center. I don't know.
Also on the agenda at that meeting, the supervisors will be hearing a request from Landhope Investors to allow (once again) wedding receptions to be held at the Yellow House in Willowdale and to allow events in other buildings on the same 156-acre property (where the Unionville Fair takes place every October). In the formal zoning-code language:
  1. Grey Barn – to use this building for event space for functions of not more than 300 attendees . . . and for occasional retail sales . . .
  2. Yellow House and Little Yellow House – to use the Yellow House as event space for functions of not more than 300 attendees, . . . and, in addition, as a bed and breakfast operation . . . with the use of the Little Yellow House as a bridal suite or overnight suite for family members of event sponsors, and to use both buildings for occasional retail sales
  3. Red Barn – to use the Red Barn for event space for functions of not more than 300 attendees . . . and for occasional retail sales related to special events . . .
            1. COATESVILLE: Jaywalking geese

              On Thursday morning we were driving through downtown Coatesville on our way to a funeral in Eagle and got stuck in something of a traffic jam: roughly two dozen Canada Geese were taking their sweet old time moseying single-file across Business Route 30. Apparently they like hanging out near the West Branch of the Brandywine Creek, which flows right through town. Fortunately, drivers were patient and allowed the birds to take their time crossing.
              On our way back, a few hours later, the geese were gathered on the grassy area at the northwest corner of the intersection.
              Canada Geese crossing Business Route 30 at Route 82 in Coatesville.

              POCOPSON: Bluebird Chat

              My friends at Brandywine Ace Pet & Farm (the hardware store at the intersection of Route 926 and Pocopson Road) wrote to tell me that they hold a "bluebird chat" at the store every other Wednesday at 10 a.m. (There is one on July 19.) It's a roundtable discussion led by Ken Liester from the Pennsylvania Bluebird Society. Those who attend qualify for discounts on bluebird houses, feeders and seed. No registration is required.
              I probably shouldn't mention cats and birds in the same item, but this hardware store offers a wonderful selection of cat food, including the aptly named "Fussie Cat," which Clarence prefers paws-down over any other brand of canned cat food.

              EAST MARLBOROUGH: The art of rock

              Outside the Unionville Post Office the other day I found a small flat stone, painted blue, with the timeless advice "Know Thyself" painted on it in red. Naturally this piqued my curiosity, and after a little Internet research I discovered that "rock sharing" is this summer's equivalent of the Pokémon Go craze.
              What you do is paint a picture or a saying on a rock and just leave it for someone to find. There's a certain random, low-tech, non-commercial quality about the whole thing that I like.
              This rock advises, "Know Thyself."

              WEST MARLBOROUGH: Swept away

              In the latest episode of that long-running comedy of Tilda's life, "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished":
              In the middle of last week, to beat the predicted record-high temperatures, I spent a few hours doing a meticulous job of weeding the garden. It looked beautiful, with neat rows of flowers separated by weed-free spent compost. I even weeded between the rows of sunflowers.
              Fast-forward to Friday afternoon's flash flood. I returned home to find that a good portion of that spent compost had been washed out of the garden and into the grass. Had I left the weeds in place, of course, they would have held back the mulch.
              That was a memorable storm indeed. My phone was chiming all afternoon with incoming weather alerts, and even a friend who doesn't subscribe to the warnings received one. I'm still not sure how it got through his phone's Invisibility Cloak.

              Sunday, July 9, 2017

              POCOPSON: Bliss on the Brandywine

              We spent Saturday afternoon having a great time at a big annual picnic along the Brandywine.
              The host, a gregarious fellow, spends the day of the party driving around the sprawling property in his Gator, grinning and welcoming everyone. A highlight of the party is when we are driven upstream in a battered truck and then get to float down the creek in inner tubes.
              To get into the creek you have to descend a ladder leaning against the bank. I clambered down gingerly, but one man in our group who walked with a cane made the descent gracefully and without hesitation. The instant he hit the water he leaned back in his tube and closed his eyes with an expression of bliss. (I felt bad when I bumped into him downstream, still with his eyes shut. I felt like I'd interrupted him just as he was approaching nirvana.)
              The Brandywine was in perfect condition for tubing on Saturday: unlike the previous time we made the trip in August, there was plenty of water and we had to "portage" over the shallow parts only a few times.
              Three people brought a multi-compartment raft that looked like a fidget-spinner writ large. It was easily ten feet across.
              A pig roast is another tradition at this picnic, but usually by the time we get to the food table there's nothing left but a big aluminum tray with charred remains. This time there was ample pork, and it was delicious.
              As people ate and socialized, a changing array of musicians played on a makeshift stage. We were fascinated to watch the sound guy walking around the audience, tweaking the sound levels using only his tablet.
              One rock band featured a very poised young woman on vocals. "That's my grand-daughter!" announced the woman sitting behind us, bursting with pride, as the singer finished the 4 Non Blondes hit "What's Up." "And this is her grandfather!"
              I think what we'll remember the most about this year's picnic was an enchanting eight-week-old pit bull puppy named Bubba. Bubba's owner brought him along so he could get used to people, and she let anyone hold him who wanted to. Bubba fell asleep in my lap for a while, exhausted with all the attention, then woke up re-energized and squirmed around, wagging his little tail. I'd hold ice cubes in my hand and he'd lick them. I don't think socialization is going to be a problem.
               

              WEST MARLBOROUGH: Increase in traffic volume and speed

              It was an uneventful meeting of the West Marlborough Township supervisors on July 3.
              Supervisor Bill Wylie updated the public on the progress of the township's ongoing traffic study, which is being conducted by Al Federico, a traffic engineer with the firm Kimley Horn. Mr. Wylie said the updated traffic counts have confirmed residents' reports that both traffic volume and speed have increased. He said the supervisors will use the data to review possible steps the township could take to control traffic, such as installing four-way stop signs, lowering speed limits, and assuming maintenance responsibilities for roads that are currently owned by the state. The full report is expected by the end of July.
              Roadmaster Hugh Lofting reported that the road crew has been busy mowing roadsides, spreading dust oil on the gravel roads and oil-and-chipping some of the township roads. He said the township received a state grant for $224,683 to repair a bridge on Runnemede Road as part of the commonwealth's low-volume road maintenance program.
              And resident Ana Myers told the supervisors she was pleased that PennDOT had replaced the "Stop Sign Ahead" sign on Newark Road at Route 926 that had been missing since a truck ran over it in January.

              RESPECT: An open-and-shut case

              I belong to a community-minded organization that prides itself on its member relations, so management encourages us to submit comments, which are then posted in the lobby for all to read. The sentiments expressed sometimes make me shake my head. For instance, a few members expressed their anger that the organization was closed for a recent major national holiday and said their membership fees should be reduced accordingly.
              As humor writer Dave Barry might say: I am not making this up.
              Perhaps it didn't occur to them that opening the facility would mean that some employees would be required to work on a holiday rather than spending the time with their families, or their pets, or even all by themselves communing with nature or Facebook.
              I've said it before and I'll say it again: All teenagers, especially those from a privileged background, should be required to work with the public in a menial job. I believe this would go a long way to helping them understand how unreasonable and entitled people can be and, ideally, inoculating them against such behavior in the future.
              I know; I can dream.

              EAST MARLBOROUGH: A menace in an Audi

              On Thursday evening I was heading west on 926, between Willowdale and London Grove, near Mill Road. It was raining, so I was doing slightly under the 45 m.p.h. speed limit.
              All of a sudden a white Audi zoomed past me on a double-yellow line, going up a hill. I didn't even see the driver pull back into the right lane, the car was already that far ahead of me. Had the driver passed me literally three seconds later, he or she would have been in a head-on crash with an oncoming car.
              What on earth could have been so urgent for the Audi driver to risk not only his or her own life but that of other people? I will never understand why people are in such a hurry and drive so recklessly.

              Thursday, July 6, 2017

              KENNETT: A nostalgic night

              Musically speaking, I was transported back to my college dorm in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday evening when Kategory 5 took the stage at Anson B. Nixon Park. The band specializes in the hits of my youth (don't you dare call them "oldies" or "classic rock"), like Steely Dan's "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," Boz Scaggs' "Lido Shuffle," Boston's "Foreplay/Long Time" and "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas.
              One of the friends we were at the show with used to play in a band himself and revealed himself to be a master of "Name That Tune." He'd hear the first few notes or even drum rolls and knew what song was coming, and who performed it.
              "Turn Me Loose. Loverboy," he'd proclaim with absolute certainty.
              He even -- and this amazed his wife and me -- delayed eating his popsicle so he could focus his full attention on the guitar duel during "Hotel California."
              Wonderful show. A great evening!

              STEREOTYPES: Don't judge a book...

              I love it when someone blows a stereotype into smithereens.
              On Independence Day I was standing in line for food at a picnic. The procedure was that you filled your plate from the buffet set out in the garage and then, carrying your plate, returned to the backyard seating area past the people still waiting in line. By pure chance, I happened to be standing next to a burly, heavily tattooed stranger who, according to a patch on his denim vest, was the vice president of a motorcycle club.
              We were making pleasant small talk about how hungry we were and how hot it was standing in the sun -- I was perspiring through my little summer frock and he kept wiping his brow with a red bandana -- when a fellow guest passed by carrying a plate full of sushi.
              "Ooh!" my new friend exclaimed. "Aww, man! There's sushi!"
              He went on to describe his love for sushi in vivid language. But when we finally reached the buffet table, I noticed he skipped the tray of seaweed-wrapped rolls and dug into the bowl of tortellini salad instead.
              "What?!" I asked him. "Weren't you just saying you loved sushi?"
              He explained that yes, he was -- but he was also very particular about what kind he liked, and this just didn't meet his standards.

              Monday, July 3, 2017

              BOOKS: A new biography of Douglass

              The new biography "Women in the World of Frederick Douglass" is not your average light summer selection, but it's an excellent read. The author, Leigh Fought, covers Douglass's childhood as a slave, his two marriages, his family life, his involvement in the abolitionist and feminist movements and particularly his friendships with female activists. The personality clashes and the petty quarrels between the various factions sound very contemporary.
              I proofread the book for the Oxford University Press before it was published, so I read the review in the "Wall Street Journal" with trepidation lest the reviewer had spotted some whopper of a typo that I had overlooked. If he did find one, he didn't say anything.

              WRENS: Birthday for the birds

              Some wrens built a nest in my bird feeder and laid four speckled brown eggs. I've been checking out the nest every day, and on Saturday I got to watch a hatchling emerge from his egg. He was about an inch-and-a-half long, gray, and naked except for a tiny tuft of light-gray feathers atop his head. He was soon joined by another little guy, both wriggling around.
              The parents have been flying into the feeder often, caring for the infants, and I've been reluctant to lift the lid to see their progress lest I disturb them. I haven't heard any peeping noises yet, but I'm sure I soon will.
              What a privilege it was to see this new life emerging!

              Saturday, July 1, 2017

              FAMILY: A summer reunion

              Last weekend we drove to Lafayette Hill, near Conshohocken, for an old-fashioned family reunion. I come from a small family, so this large annual gathering of clan is a new experience for me. I've stopped trying to sort out how everyone is related --  even some family members aren't sure -- so I just slip into default mode and chat cordially with whoever is sitting next to me.
              The schedule never varies. First there was time for socializing, reminiscing, swimming and looking through old family photos and newspaper clippings. Then the host decided it was time for lunch, gathered everyone's attention (a challenge) and offered a brief prayer of welcome and thanks. Our hosts supplied platters of various sandwiches from their favorite deli, and everyone brought side dishes. I heard a few of the older guests reminiscing about the pots of home-made apple butter that used to be set out at every table as a garnish.
              After lunch we had a "business meeting," punctuated by the clanging of horseshoes, where everyone shared his or her significant news or lack thereof. The 94-year-old matriarch reported drily, "Same old, same old." We heard about graduations, vacations, and new jobs. To much laughter, one man said that RD4 was still for sale (I had to ask what that meant; it's a piece of family property that got its nickname from the old Rural Delivery days).
              After the election of officers (to no one's surprise, not contested), a discussion of the plans for the next summer's reunion (pretty much a formality), and a vote of thanks for the hosts, dessert was served. I can only say that this family likes its lemon squares, and I far exceeded my suggested daily sugar grams.
              The host then offered a closing prayer that everyone would get home safely.

              PHL: Stress-free airport pickup

              My friends couldn't believe it: a hassle-free trip from Unionville to the Philadelphia airport despite the extensive construction on Route 322? Expecting delays, I left at 6:30 p.m. on June 26 to meet my brother's 7:45 p.m. flight.
              Not only were there no delays on 322, but I even merged smoothly onto I-95. I arrived in the cell-phone lot shortly after 7, and it's just as well: my brother's flight landed at 7:23, significantly ahead of schedule. To top it off, our drive home was just as uneventful, and we got to spend some quality time together.

              SUMMER: Frayed tempers

              I was waiting in a parking lot at about 8:15 Friday evening when a mother was trying to corral her brood into the minivan. It was hot, everyone was tired and the children were squabbling.
              The mother had had enough.
              "I am SO OVER you kids today!" she commented.
              With that, the noise level diminished.
              I was both amused and sympathetic. Honestly, what parent hasn't felt that way occasionally?

              EAST FALLOWFIELD: Route 82 is open again

              I was delighted to learn that after a six-month closure, Route 82 is once again open to Coatesville. A two-mile stretch of the road had been shut down between Strasburg and Valley Roads since late January so that PennDOT could fix a bridge over a tiny tributary to Sucker Run.
               

              WILLOW STREET: Apples and Vulcans

              Usually at the start of outdoor concerts, the emcee takes the stage and goes over a few housekeeping items: the upcoming schedule, the sponsors and so forth. It's a little different at the Hans Herr House in Willow Street, Lancaster County. The shows are held in an apple orchard, and the emcee at the June 24 show instructed the audience that it was fine to eat any apples that had fallen on the ground, but please don't pick any from the trees. (The performers that evening were The Vulcans, a trio of young men from central Pennsylvania. We've seen them twice now and they are excellent.)

              Sunday, June 25, 2017

              WEST GROVE: A plan to reduce composting odors?

              My West Grove correspondent reports receiving an intriguing postcard in the mail with the headline "Come hear about our plan to reduce odor . . . Needham's Mushroom Farms invites you to a community Open house to learn about a construction project that will reduce odor at Hy-Tech Mushroom Composting." He said he will be attending the meeting, which is set for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 29, at the London Grove Township Building, 372 Rosehill Road.

              GIANT: Caring for our companions

              This week's gold star for outstanding customer service goes to Vince at the New Garden Giant supermarket. It was 9:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, and we stopped in on our way home to buy one of those boxes of salad for Gilbert the Guinea Pig; he'd eaten the last of it that morning.
              As we were checking out, my companion suddenly recalled that we'd forgotten to buy cat food (the Purina Fancy Feast variety "with broth") for Clarence the Cat.
              "Oh, no!" I said, at a loss for what to do.
              Vince, who was manning the U-scan control station, heard what was going on and suggested that I simply leave my items there and go back and buy the cat food. It would not be a problem, he said; in fact, people did it all the time. And, he pointed out, business was slow and it wasn't like there were impatient customers waiting who would be fuming at the delay.
              I did so. Thank you, Vince, from both Clarence and me.

              CONCERTS: Free summer series starts

              June 21 was the first concert in the Wednesday-night summer series at Anson B. Nixon Park. We all had doubts about whether it would be rained out, but the storm ended, and I even spotted a rainbow over Willowdale. The sun came out right on cue for guitarist Eric Ambel to start his show, and it turned out to be a lovely evening. We caught up with lots of friends, had fun watching the dogs and little kids, ate delicious food from the Nomadic Pies food truck, and strolled around the lake at intermission eating popsicles from La Michoacana.

              RIP: Curtain call for the Dame

              I was sad to hear that Kirk Fetters died on June 21. A longtime English teacher at Kennett High School, Kirk delighted audiences for years with his fabulous performances of "the Dame" in the annual pantomime staged by the Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society. Nothing was too outlandish or gaudy for the Dame: Kirk would come on stage sporting a series of ever-larger wigs, earrings, and hoop skirts. Offstage he was friendly, smart and a terrific conversationalist, as well as a tireless promoter for KATS.
              Condolences to his friends and family. He was one of a kind and will be remembered with great fondness.

              KENNETT: Before the battle

              On Thursday evening we had a fun time serving as guides for the history tour through Kennett Square. This tour was based on Kevin Sheridan's book "The Timepiece Chronicles: The Battle of Brandywine Creek," and as visitors walked around the block they met costumed actors portraying characters from the American Revolution. Some of them were General Cornwallis; a bar manager furious that the British soldiers were vandalizing his establishment; the Hessian General Knyphausen; a Loyalist;  a Quaker woman worried about the coming violence; an entrepreneurial "camp follower"; and sentry Captain Patrick Ferguson. 
              The tours officially started at 5:30 p.m., but by shortly after 5 p.m. visitors were already lining up in the Genesis walkway. I think the tour attracted upwards of 150 people.
              We guides got to read from our script, but the actors had to memorize their lines -- and the youthful actors did a particularly great job. Lynn Sinclair, owner of the Sunrise Café on State Street, not only organized the tour but also made all the wonderful costumes.

              FRAMED: A good frame shop

              First Bert Proscino closed her framing shop on State Street. Then Lorraine at the Frame Cellar in Willowdale retired.
              Where do we get our artwork framed?
              I just had a great experience with my friend Mindy Dole, who runs her shop, Framing by Mindy, out of her home on 526 Newark Road in Landenberg. She did a nice job helping me chose a frame and mat for a family photograph, and I was especially delighted with the creative way she framed an old hand-drawn birthday card from The Young Relative (I wondered whether the red frame and blue mat we chose would be over the top, but it was a perfect fit).
              The projects were finished days earlier than the time she projected, and I thought her prices were commensurate with the neat, professional quality of her work.

              UNIONVILLE: A joyful noise

              Church bells across the country, including those at Unionville Presbyterian Church on Wollaston Road, will be ringing at 2 p.m., Tuesday, July 4, to celebrate the birth of American independence.
              The patriotic ceremony at Unionville Presbyterian will start at 1:30 p.m., and an ice cream social on the church lawn will follow the pealing of the bells. The Rev. Annalie Korengel said that people of all ages and faiths are welcome to attend.

              Wednesday, June 21, 2017

              MOVING: A rite of passage

              A young friend who is moving into a new apartment July 1 has, for the first time, actually hired someone to help him move rather than recruiting his friends and family members to heft furniture and boxes. He made the decision after one of his volunteers suffered mightily while hauling boxes to the Goodwill store on a hot day and decided that, friendship or no friendship, moving was no longer for him.

              UNIONVILLE: Rescue dogs on parade

              About 30 rescue dogs took to the ring at Plantation Field at noon Wednesday, June 21, for the third annual Rescue Dog parade.
              Winners were: smallest dog: BJ, a Dachshund puppy up for adoption at All Mutts Matter; largest dog, Ed Weisbrod's Boomer, a "Lab mutt" showed by his wife, Betsy DeMarino; and dog rescued from farthest away, Mary Ellen DeRuschi's English bull terrier, Cordelia (adopted from Arizona).
              PetValu of Kennett Square provided the prizes, and two rescue agencies were on hand: All Mutts Matter and Greenmore Farm.
              Making a special guest appearance (though not a rescue dog!) was Betsy Harris's Border Terrier Poppet, who won Best of Breed honors at the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York.
              The parade was being held in conjunction with the "Jump for Rescues" horse schooling show, proceeds from which went to benefit local dog rescue groups.

              Mary Ellen DeRuschi's English bull terrier, Cordelia, won the prize (which she is already putting to good use) for the dog that was adopted from farthest away. 

              Boomer, owned by Ed Weisbrod and showed by his wife, Betsy DeMarino, won the prize for largest dog.



              Puppy BJ won the prize for smallest dog and is available for adoption.

              
              Betsy Harris's  Border Terrier Poppet was a spectator rather than a competitor.

              Tuesday, June 20, 2017

              UNIONVILLE: The Quilt has a home!

              The Unionville Tricentennial Community Quilt finally has a home!
              The quilt was created in 1982 to mark Chester County's 300th birthday, but since then it has been largely out of sight.
              On Monday, June 19, 35 years to the day after it was unveiled to the public, the quilt received an official welcome at its new home: the lobby of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Office.
              Three of the original quilters -- Bette McConnell, Jill Benjamin and Ella Sestrich (the former owner of Sestrich's General Store) -- were on hand, and Jill gave a presentation about the quilt's history.
              In early 1982 Nancy Fenstermacher (one of the Bakers at Red Lion) came up with the idea of creating a quilt to honor the village, which had been recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places, largely thanks to the efforts of John and Pat Montague.
              About two dozen women, working from sketches by Ron Fenstermacher and Barbara Churchville, sewed the blocks of the "album quilt." Everyone worked from a common pool of fabric to prevent the colors from clashing. Jill said the women ranged in age from 17 to 81 and had "all skill levels" when it came to sewing.
              The subjects included the Farm Show (now the Unionville Community Fair), the Unionville Academy, the Grange Hall (which has been incorporated into the current Grace Fellowship Church building), a fox-hunting scene, Indian Hannah, the Unionville High School (now the elementary school), and various other historic scenes around town. 
              Nancy Fenstermacher herself sewed the central block, depicting a map of the town. (A key hanging next to the quilt gives details about each block.)
              After the individual blocks were created and sewn together, the women spent April and May 1982 doing the quilting stitching, using an oyster shell motif as a nod to the three oyster bars that once flourished in Unionville (Jill said oyster shells were used to pave Wollaston Road, and she still find them in her garden).
              Jill ended her presentation by thanking school district superintendent Dr. John Sanville for providing the quilt with a permanent home where people can see it and it can be protected. Dr. Sanville said he loves having the quilt hanging in the office and receives frequent compliments about it from visitors. 
              "I've learned so much about our local history" from the quilt, he said.
              The quilt square depicting the Grange Hall and the Unionville Cemetery. Note the intricate oyster shell quilting. 

              A fox-hunting scene, created by Jill Benjamin.
               
               
              The entire quilt.

              Bette McConnell, Jill Benjamin, Ella Sestrich and Superintendent Dr. John Sanville at the June 19 presentation.

              Sunday, June 18, 2017

              BICYCLISTS: Sharing the road

              A "Unionville in the News" reader shared with me that when she is driving on our winding back roads, she blinks her car's headlights to alert oncoming motorists "to slow down if I have just passed bikers or if there are bikers in their lane on down the road." I thought I would pass this advice along, as my brother could well be one of those bicyclists and I am always concerned about his safety.

              WEST MARLBOROUGH: Mulch for the taking

              Thank you to the good folks at Marlboro Mushrooms here in West Marlborough for making their wonderful spent compost available free to the public. I had my annual Mulch Day on June 12, and yes, it was a hot, sweaty morning's work, but having the garden thickly covered with mulch equates to both moisture retention and minimal weeding for the rest of the gardening season.
              You can pick up as much mulch as you can haul, 24/7, from Marlboro's compost depot on the south side of Route 842, just east of the Route 841 intersection. Bring your shovel.

              LONDONDERRY: The 926/41 intersection

              On June 12 I attended a meeting at the Londonderry Township building to check out the four options being proposed for the crossroads of Routes 41 and 926. Let me try to describe them by explaining how a motorist who is westbound on 926 and wants to cross 41 would be affected.
              Alternative 1: 926 would no longer cross 41 head-to-head; the junctions would be staggered. The motorist would have to travel on the re-routed 926 (which would enter 41 just south of where it does now), turn right onto 41, then turn left on the re-routed other side of 926. Price tag: $1 million.
              Alternative 3 (an earlier Alternative 2 was taken off the table): Instead of crossing 41 directly, the motorist would enter a four-armed roundabout connecting the four parts of the roads in question. 926 west of 41 would be slightly rerouted, as would 41 just south of the roundabout. Price tag: $4.1 million.
              Alternative 4: Instead of crossing 41 directly, the motorist would turn right onto 41 and would enter a three-armed roundabout connecting directly with a slightly rerouted 926. Price tag: $3.5 million.
              Alternative 5: The motorist would travel on a rerouted 926 to enter 41 just south of (toward Chatham) the current intersection. He or she would travel north (toward Cochranville) to enter a three-armed roundabout before turning left on a slightly rerouted 926. Price tag: $4.0 million.
              Bear in mind that the dollar figures are for construction only, not the costs of obtaining right-of-ways or handling utilities.
              Detailed maps of all of the options are available online at the website pa41.com. When you're looking at the online maps, bear in mind that Cochranville is to the left, Chatham to the right.
              At the meeting I heard residents, including truckers, people hauling horse trailers, and people who live near the crossroads, telling the PennDOT engineers in no uncertain terms what they liked and didn't like about the alternatives. The agency is seeking additional comments; you can send your feedback via the website or to Rob Nuss, Erdman Anthony, 100 Sterling Parkway, Suite 212, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050.
              According to PennDOT, "over the next several months, PennDOT will review the engineering considerations, environmental impacts and public and agency comments on the alternatives to determine which alternative provides the best balance in meeting the project needs and minimizing environmental impacts."

              BASE BALL: The Mohicans will play July 9

              I very frequently drive past the red, white, and blue Mohicans Base Ball Club banner attached to a fence at the northwest corner of Route 842 and Newark Road, and I finally remembered to check the schedule for the team, which plays using traditional nineteenth-century rules and equipment and wearing old-fashioned uniforms (without baseball gloves). The Mohicans will be hosting the Diamond State Base Ball Club and the Eclipse Base Ball Club of Elkton at Walker Field (which is where the banner is) on Sunday, July 9. The games usually get started around 1 p.m. Spectators and their dogs, children and refreshments are welcome.

              Saturday, June 17, 2017

              AVONDALE: Route 41 in the summer

              The craziness that is Route 41 on summer weekends is in full swing, with southbound vacationers heading to the shore, bikes and beach chairs strapped precariously to their vehicles, just as others are returning home from their week's rental or heading north to visit Amish country.
              The additional traffic is not news to anyone trying to negotiate the already challenging Chatham intersection.
              At mid-day Saturday, coincidentally, we were at a key hub on this heavily traveled migration route: the Avondale Wawa. It was jammed.
              One man, who was apparently taking his family on a road trip, eyed the long line at the deli counter and suggested, "Why don't we just grab a box of donuts and keep going?"
              His wife vetoed the idea and they waited in line for presumably healthier fare.

              Thursday, June 15, 2017

              UNIONVILLE: The Cheshire Puppy Show

              The female hound "Telltale" was named the champion at the puppy show at the Cheshire Foxhounds Kennels on June 11, a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. After Anne Moran, one of the Hunt Masters, welcomed the guests and introduced the Hunt staff, the show -- the first in many years at Cheshire -- got started.
              Huntsman Barry Magner, dressed in the puppy handler's traditional white lab coat and black bowler hat, would name the hounds he wanted to be brought out, and whipper-in Mary Taylor Miller would carefully open the metal kennel gate just wide enough so they could come out. 
              Barry (whom all the hounds quite obviously adored) would then put them through their paces as the judges, Bruce Davidson and Joe Cassidy, watched closely. (Cheshire is hunting with both male and female hounds this year after many seasons of using females only.)
              The judges then asked for several hounds to be brought back for further scrutiny (the woman next to me told me she was a fan of Malcolm's, and her hopes rose when the judges looked at him again). But finally, after much discussion, they chose Wilbur as the best male hound (with Matchbox and Tenor in second and third place). 
              Joe explained to the crowd that they based their decision on such qualities as the way the animal stood, the line of his back and the appearance of his feet: "Wilbur," he said, "has the most substance." 
              Barry then showed five female hounds, and Telltale was the judge's immediate favorite. "She has such presence!" exclaimed Joe. 
              
              From left, Bruce Davidson, Joe Cassidy, and Barry Magner (with three of the male hounds) at the Cheshire puppy show.

              
              The female hound Telltale poses for the cameras after winning the puppy show.

              NEW GARDEN: A crab feast

              The Hilltop Crab House on Route 41 is the place to go if you're looking for a terrific and hearty seafood meal. Almost every table was filled when we were there for dinner on June 14, and many of the guests were there to devour blue crabs. Crab picking is, of course, a messy business: the waitresses put down brown paper on your table and bring out wooden mallets so you can extract every bit of crab from the shell. Instead of napkins they just give you a roll of paper towels.
              The two of us shared the "seafood sampler" (Alaskan snow crab legs, shrimp, and a crab cake) and crab mac-and-cheese. Delicious! They also have crabs to go by the dozen, half-bushel or bushel.
              The Hilltop is now a family place and, although there's a bar, it has completely shed that "biker bar" vibe of many years ago. I remember there used to be a sign posted prominently at the door that forbade guests from wearing gang colors.

              MEMOIR: South Philly in the old days

              Kennett Square resident Josephine B. Pasquarello has written a memoir about growing up in South Philadelphia in the 1950s and 1960s and was generous enough to send me a copy. The book, "Love & Loyalty," focuses on the extraordinary efforts of her mother, Romania, an immigrant from Italy who raised a dozen children on her own after her husband's death. She includes many pages of family photographs. I look forward to reading it!

              WEST MARLBOROUGH: Outdoor Meeting for Worship

              London Grove Friends Meeting, located at the intersection of Newark Road and Street Road (Route 926), will be holding Meeting for Worship outdoors next to the 335-year-old Penn Oak at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, June 25. Visitors are welcome to share in traditional Quaker worship, and refreshments will follow.

              Sunday, June 11, 2017

              LONGWOOD: "HMS Pinafore"

              On Saturday evening three of us attended the Savoy Company's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore" at the outdoor theater at Longwood Gardens. It was an enjoyable show, with familiar songs like "Little Buttercup" and He Is an Englishman," amusing wordplay, and a "switched-at-birth" plot that came to light in the last scene and miraculously solved everyone's romantic problems.
              Longwood was multitasking on Saturday night, so toward the end of the first act the fountain display started, with booming noises and jets of colored water causing many in the audience to turn their attention westward.
              Between the operetta and the fountain display, the main parking area was full and we had to park in the huge new overflow lot across Route 1. The shuttle bus service was speedy, comfortable and efficient, getting us to the Gardens and back to our car without delay.

              KENNETT: Two history tours

              History-minded residents are in for a treat: there will be two free walking tours of downtown Kennett Square.
              On Saturday, June 17, the Kennett Underground Railroad Center is sponsoring a tour highlighting nineteenth-century abolitionists in Kennett Square. It runs from 2 to 4 p.m. and starts in the Genesis Walkway. (The same tour was held back in February and drew overflow crowds despite the below-freezing temperatures.)
              On Thursday, June 22, folks can learn what it was like in Kennett the day before the Battle of the Brandywine in 1777. The tour script is based on Kevin Sheridan's book "Timpiece Chronicles: Battle of Brandywine Creek," with actors portraying various key figures like General Cornwallis, General Kynphausen and Captain Patrick Ferguson. The guided tours will start at 5:30 p.m. (the 6 p.m. tour will be in Spanish); assemble in the Genesis walkway. And you can meet Kevin Sheridan after the tour at the Sunrise Café.

              WEST MARLBOROUGH: Good-bye to Al and Eddie

              At their June 6 meeting, the West Marlborough township supervisors held a reception in honor of township engineer Al Giannantonio and building inspector Eddie Caudill. Both gentlemen are retiring after many years of service, and residents and township officials got to say good-bye to them while enjoying a tasty spread of cake, cookies, fruit, cupcakes and iced tea.

              POCOPSON: A great hardware store

              Since it closed its "downtown" Unionville location a few years back, I haven't visited Ace Hardware in Pocopson very often and I'd forgotten what a great store it is. My mother and I stopped in the other day to buy a pair of heavy-duty leather gardening gloves. They cost about $15, which means we had to make an additional purchase to qualify for the "spend $20 and get $7 off" coupon.
              After we discovered that the store offers an excellent variety of cat toys and unusual cat food, we had no absolutely trouble meeting the $20 threshold. And Clarence gives a definite paws-up to the Healthy Gourmet "salmon entrée" and the Fussie Cat "tuna with chicken formula in aspic."

              ROUTE 926: Phase 2 of the bridge construction

              Starting Thursday, June 15, Creek Road (Route 100) will be closed from Meetinghouse Road to Route 52 until the new Route 926 bridge over the Brandywine is completed (although residents will be allowed access). Creek Road traffic will be detoured onto Route 52 and Route 1
              I stopped by the construction site the other day and it looks like excellent progress is being made. The old bridge was demolished this past winter and a new one already spans the creek: the beams were installed in May. The approach ramps will be much higher in elevation so that the road will be less likely to flood -- which was one key objective of the whole $8.6 million project. The work is on schedule and the new bridge should open Sept. 1.

              Thursday, June 8, 2017

              WEST MARLBOROUGH: Code Appeals Board formed

              Also at the West Marlborough meeting on June 6, the township supervisors created a Code Appeals Board to review any situations in which the zoning officer finds that a proposed construction plan does not comply with the Universal Construction Code (UCC), and the resident submitting the plan disagrees. The fee to appeal a finding will be $500 for residential cases and $750 for nonresidential ones.
              Named to the board were Richard Buchanan, Skip Powell and Conrad Somers. Township supervisor Bill Wylie remarked the township was fortunate to have residents who were both familiar with construction matters and willing to serve in a volunteer capacity.
              The next township meeting will be July 3, due to the Independence Day holiday.

              LANDOWNERS: Finding missing people

              Reader Daniel Schwendeman, who works with a nonprofit K9 search-and-rescue group called the ChesCo Search Team, wrote and said he wants to get in touch with "any private land owners or conservancy groups in the area in search of places for my team to train our members and our dogs. . . . Might you know anyone that owns any land or trail area that might be willing to allow us access to train one night a week/weekend every now and then?" He said the group can provide proof of insurance if needed.
              Readers, can you help him out?
              ChesCo Search Team is on Facebook and their website is http://chescosearch.org.

              STAPLES: Impressive service

              If you've ever worked with the public, you know how challenging it can be. Yet a young woman, Jennifer, at Staples seems to have a genius for keeping customers happy.
              I went in the other day after lunch to have some family photos printed out from a disc. As she was loading them onto her computer, an older gentleman came up and asked for help making photocopies of a Pearl Harbor lecture he was giving. He didn't know how to use the self-service kiosk. A woman wanted to return the notary stamp she'd bought because she had ordered the wrong size. Meanwhile, the large-format printer was spitting out somebody's logos.
              Jennifer was suddenly so busy that she left her Venti Starbucks drink sitting on the counter, untouched. But she dealt with the onslaught calmly and efficiently, without becoming the least bit flustered. She showed the gentleman how to use the copier, even joking a little with him about their odds of winning the Powerball lottery. She processed the complicated paperwork for the custom notary stamp replacement. She scooped up the freshly generated logos and put them on the counter.
              And not only did she print out exactly what I wanted, and perfectly, but she spotted an error on my invoice that saved me about $30.

              WEST MARLBOROUGH: Under the speed limit

              I was driving home from breakfast on Sunday and found myself behind a slow-moving hay rake. When we both turned on to my road, the considerate driver (from one of our local farms) pulled over so I could pass.
              I pulled up alongside him, rolled down my window, and told him that he didn't need to pull over, that I was in no hurry at all.
              He chuckled and said many motorists are furious at what they consider to be the glacial pace of farm equipment.
              "People don't understand where their food comes from," he observed.

              Monday, June 5, 2017

              KENNETT SQUARE: It's called "Kennett Squared"

              A friend asked me to explain the meaning of the metal sculpture that has replaced the kiosk in the Genesis Walkway in downtown Kennett.
              I asked Kennett Borough Council member Doug Doerfler when I saw him on Sunday afternoon, and he told me it's called "Kennett Squared" -- see the "K" and the superscript "2"? -- and was created by local metalworker and farrier Rob Sigafoos. It was dedicated the evening of June 2.


              The base of the "Kennett Squared" sculpture.

              See the "K" and the superscript "2"?
              .

              Sunday, June 4, 2017

              UNIONVILLE: Support for a beloved jockey

              A wise neighbor of mine likes to say, "There are many measures of a man." I would argue that the stunning success of the GoFundMe fundraising drive for injured Unionville jockey Paddy Young speaks volumes about how loved and respected he is: in less than two weeks, people have donated more than $120,000 to help him and his family.
              Fellow jockey Willie McCarthy started the drive on May 23, writing, "Paddy needs no introduction, but I can honestly say he's the most respected man inside and out of the jockeys' room, a champion on & off a horse!"
              The first goal set was for $10,000. That was met in maybe a half-hour.
              They raised it to $100,000, and that was surpassed within a week. When I last checked (June 4), 730 people had contributed, everywhere from $5 to $1,000.
              That's because in addition to being a champion jockey and a legendary horseman, Paddy is a great human being. His hilarious Facebook videos of himself and his kids are classics. His barn is down the road from me, so I used to see him riding out most mornings, in all weather. He always would give me a cheerful wave and greet me in his Irish accent. I miss that so much, and I have rejoiced at the remarkable progress he seems to be making thanks to his own toughness, his family's support and love, and the skilled professionals at Paoli Memorial Hospital.

              GARDENS: I can dig it!

              After the cold spring we've had, I'm sure a lot of folks, like me, were very tardy getting their gardens planted. I finally headed out to the nursery to buy my annuals and had fun browsing through all their greenhouses, in addition to the large shaded area where they display a dizzying variety of hostas. (As a bonus, there are also sweet little cats wandering around the greenhouses.)
              In addition to the usual signs about whether the plants like the sun or shade, when they flower, and whether they tolerate heat and drought, the owners of this place share useful bits of information. For instance, a sign hanging over the holy basil plants informs us that new-age celebrity Deepak Chopra starts his day with a cup of holy basil tea. Good to know.
              I always have to laugh when I see lamium, pachysandra and lemon balm actually being sold at nurseries when I spend hours cutting it back or yanking it out. It should come with a warning sign!

              UHS: The show must go on!

              On Saturday evening we went to "Selections From Broadway" presented by the UHS May Play Society. 
              A week before showtime the kids found out they didn't actually have the legal rights to perform "Sweeney Todd," as they had planned, so in the timeless theatrical tradition of "the show must go on," director David DeMarco and his team scrambled and completely revamped the production.
              The first act comprised most of the "Sweeney Todd" songs. Troy Macie played the murderous Demon Barber with spirited malice; Dina Spyropoulos was his accomplice, the inventive pie-baker Mrs. Lovett; and Jeremy Do and Alex Koban-Hogue were young lovers Anthony and Johanna (Jeremy got a raucous cheer from his friends in the audience at their first kiss).
              We were astonished at how professionally the kids handled the Stephen Sondheim songs, notoriously some of the most challenging in musical theater. We also loved the clever set (designed by stage manager Megan Belgam and moved by the quick, silent ninjas of the stage crew).
              The mash-up of "Johanna"/"16 Going on 17" was hilarious, an instant classic.
              Act 2 consisted of songs from "Phantom of the Opera," "Annie," "Sound of Music," and "Les Miserables." It was so wonderfully done that if you didn't know the back story, you'd never have known that it was pulled together in only a week, complete with costumes and choreography.
              Jeremy Do, this time as Valjean, sang a moving, show-stopping "Bring Him Home" from Les Miz. After the show a parent told me that it was Jeremy's first time on stage. I almost couldn't believe it: his first show EVER, and he comes out on stage for a solo completely poised and absolutely nails it. Magic! 
              It was my mother's first time ever at a UHS show. She had read my reviews over the years and thought I was just being kind with my generous praise. But after the first act, she said she was shocked at how talented the kids were and what fabulous voices they had.
              "I feel like I'm at a Broadway show," she said. "I can't believe these are high-school kids!" She was still talking about the show at breakfast the next morning.  
              I was pleased to note that there were a number of freshmen in the cast, so we can look forward to more of these wonderful shows for years to come.

              UNIONVILLE: The library tour

              I invited two companions to go with me on this year's Library Home and Garden Day tour around Unionville, but I also put them to work: after each stop, I asked them for their impressions (the companion with legible handwriting was assigned the role of scribe). It was surprising how different our reactions were. The house that one called "magnificent" was dubbed "too angular" by another. One preferred a simple woodland path with deer-eaten hostas to the perfectly in bloom, weed-free bed nearby. The senior-citizen member of our group greatly appreciated the places where there were sturdy railings to hold on to.  
              Because we took our time and asked questions, our merry band made it to only half of the stops: two farms on Hilltop View Road and the two "sister houses" formerly owned by longtime Master of Foxhounds Mrs. Hannum and her sister Mrs. Walker (now owned by Nancy and Crosby Wood and Cuyler Walker).
              We greatly enjoyed the family portraits and foxhunting photographs but felt sorry for the guides who had to try to explain all of the complicated Hannum/Smith/Harriman/Stewart/Davidson family connections.
              We were delighted to chat with two of the homeowners, Mike Rotko and Nancy Wood. One member of our party is a dog lover (dogs reciprocate the feeling, too) and had a wonderful time getting to know the canines at several of the houses. At Rotkos', my scribe noted, "There were carrots in the horse barn. We could feed them!"
              Also at Rotkos' we had the pleasure of meeting the new library director, Megan Walters, who went on the tour in the company of Tom Swett, president of the library's Board of Trustees.
              This year's tour took visitors on some narrow, winding back roads like Green Valley and Hilltop View that normally see little traffic. We saw one car pulled over on Mill Road shortly after it became a gravel road; the driver was studying his map and looked quite concerned, as if he must have taken a wrong turn somewhere (he hadn't).
              The members of the library's Special Events Committee and their helpers did a beautiful job, as always, getting visitors parked safely (a definite challenge in a few of the sites with long driveways) and in and out of the houses efficiently. They even took down all the directional signs shortly after the end of the tour (politicians, take note!).