Sunday, October 15, 2017

NEW GARDEN: A new pizza place

Liliana's Pizza and Grill, 1160 Newark Road, has opened in downtown Toughkenamon, and I'm happy to report that it's very good. We visited on Saturday evening and enjoyed a large white pizza with cheese, basil and tomatoes. The crust was excellent and chewy.
Liliana, the owners' daughter, is a little girl with a big personality. She greeted us when we walked in, announced that the place belonged to her and applauded when we said we'd be eating in.
The place seemed to be doing a good takeout business. The hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. through 9 p.m. on Sunday. Also listed on the menu are finger foods, salads, sandwiches, wraps, subs, burgers, strombolis and calzones.

ELKTON: Preserving the Bee Hive

On Saturday we stopped by the Elk Creeks Preservation Society's annual Apple Butter fest, held at the Bee Hive, a complex of Colonial stone buildings just outside Fair Hill in Maryland. Two vats of apple butter were being boiled over fires and required constant stirring with long paddles.  
I enjoyed reading a photocopy of a 1794 newspaper, "The Maryland Gazette," that was on display at the restored Wallace Tavern. It listed news from Europe, as well as ships' arrivals in America and the cargo they brought. The classified ads listed rewards for escaped slaves, an announcement about an upcoming Jockey Club horse race, and a somewhat cranky posting that, due to "depradations and robberies," the landowner of Strawberry Hill would no longer be allowing hunting or trespassing on his property.
Stirring the apple butter!






KENNETT: Let's do the Time Warp again

Don't dream it, be it! The Kennett Flash is screening the camp classic "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22 (doors open at 6 p.m.). Performing live during the movie will be "Formal Dress Optional," a Delaware troupe that specializes in dressing up and acting out scenes from the movie. Traditionally audience members dress up, too, so don't be surprised if you see some odd-looking characters in fishnet stockings and corsets lurking in downtown Kennett that evening. "Rocky Horror" is rated R.

PET VALU: Staying in business

Good news for those of you who buy your pet food from Pet Valu on Baltimore Pike: the store is staying open, even though the Sears Hardware next door has closed and is going to be replaced by an Aldi supermarket. I stopped in the other evening to purchase cat food, and the employees assured me they will indeed remain in business.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

UHS: The more things change

A copy of the UHS student newspaper, the "Indian Post," came my way recently, and I'm delighted to see that the young journalists are not shying away from controversy.
The lead story, with an accompanying editorial, was about the administration's unpopular decision to require all seniors to take final exams, a decision that "has prompted an outcry from the student body." I'm hoping there is a follow-up story with quotes from the unhappy students. 
And there was a full-page story about the recent suspensions of "a number of" students (how many?) who are accused of smoking and drinking at a football game. The reporters did their homework, interviewing not only the principal, James Conley, but also the assistant principal, Amy Jenkins, the Student Council president, Ian Quain, and two seniors.
The paper also featured a point-counterpoint about whether the high school team name (the Indians) should be changed, and both the pro and con sides were excellently and cogently argued.
And I see that dress codes remain a hot topic, just like they were in my high school days. 

UHS: Field hockey seniors

The Unionville High School field hockey team held a ceremony to recognize its 12 seniors on the evening of Oct. 9, just before the game against Coatesville. The underclassmen formed two rows, holding their hockey sticks aloft to form a sort of arch, and each senior walked down the middle with her parents (and sometimes a sibling) as family members in the bleachers cheered and applauded. The announcer shared each girl's favorite hockey memory and future plans.
I thought it was very sweet that the team also recognized the seniors on the Coatesville squad.

UNIONVILLE: German visitors

A group of firefighters from Cologne, Germany, stopped in at the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Co. on their recent tour of fire stations across America. After showing the visitors around the fire house, the volunteers from Station 36 treated them to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Ricky Tuel's house. I'm told that the camaraderie among the firefighters went a long way toward overcoming the language barrier.

GAP: The Cheese Shoppe

We had passed the Town Clock Cheese Shoppe on Route 41 in Gap many times, but either we were in a hurry or it was closed or about to close. But the stars aligned this past Saturday afternoon and we were finally able to stop in.
Unlike the completely empty cheese shop in the famous Monty Python sketch, this one is full of all sorts of very local, domestic and imported cheeses, as well as lots of snacks. The affable owner, Bill Houder, is immensely knowledgeable about his wares, loves to talk about cheese and is happy to provide you with samples and to suggest wine pairings.
On the walls are lots of old photos and news clippings about the shop, and the owner's collection of antique milk bottles is on display.
We made two purchases: Cromwell Double Gloucester cheese with chives and onion and Kerrygold Dubliner, imported from Ireland.
The shop is open on Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Next time I visit I will sample some of the dessert cheeses (sticky toffee cheese was one of them)!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

HARRISBURG: A mini-Lady Liberty

Next time you are heading to State College, don't miss the 25-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty sitting in the middle of the Susquehanna River. It's near the Route 443 exit of Route 322, just north of Harrisburg. It's wholly unexpected and a wonderful sight! I saw it for the first time on Saturday, when we took a day trip to Sunbury.
According to the Weird US website, "A local lawyer and activist-artist named Gene Stilp put together the first statue with some friends for a bit of a lark to celebrate the original Statue of Liberty’s centennial in the 1980s. When the ersatz replica was finished, they displayed it the closest thing they could find to the plinth on Liberty Island—an old railway bridge piling in the middle of the river.
"There it stood for years, raising a smile from motorists, until wind and weather finally carried it off in the 1990s. People missed it so much that Stilp and his team built a more durable replacement of wood, metal, and fiberglass, moved it onto the piling by helicopter, and lashed it securely to the plinth with cables."
 
 
 

UNIONVILLE: The Community Fair

It's been many years since I've seen so many vegetable entries at the Unionville Community Fair (aka the Farm Show). The display table was jammed, and the peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, herbs and other garden produce looked spectacular. The judges for the competition were students in the Longwood Gardens professional gardener program, and they said they had fun and were delighted at the high quality of the entries.
Another category with standout entries was preserved foods: there were almost 60 entries, everything from pepper jelly to raspberries to grape juice. After tasting some of the spicy salsa entries, the judges were calling urgently for bottles of water!
Anne Nuse and I were the directors of the baked goods competition. Our judges, Randy, Al, and Elaine, had superhuman constitutions, as the judging took almost three sugar-packed hours. Best of show in the adult contest went to a round loaf of white bread with a chewy, beautifully browned crust. Judge Elaine declared that it could have come from a hallowed South Philadelphia bakery. In the youth contest, the top prize went to a spice muffin that the judges deemed superior to most of the adult entries.
I enjoyed seeing my Fair friends -- Terry, Anne, Dave, Debra, Karen, Berta, Bonnie, Ray, Martin, Danielle, and all the rest -- and thank goodness the weather was perfect and dry for a change.
I've been participating in the Fair for almost 30 years, and I'm so glad the community continues to support this 93-year-old event that hearkens back to the time when Unionville was a largely rural area.

Friday, October 6, 2017

AT THE VET: A top-notch practice

I want to express my gratitude to everyone at Brandywine Valley Veterinary Hospital on Strasburg Road for their kind and professional treatment of my dear cat, Tina. She had some dental work done on Monday, and I felt dreadful about depriving her of her breakfast, stuffing her into the cat carrier, and hauling her to the vet. There is no way to convince a feline that it's for her own good, when she just wants to eat her kibble and nap on the windowsill per her usual Monday morning routine.
Everyone at the practice is so nice and compassionate. They go out of their way to create a calm, soothing atmosphere for both scared animals and worried, guilt-ridden humans. Dr. Carol Schafer called me as soon as the surgery was over (all went well) and prepared a folder of x-rays and photographs detailing the work she'd done. She even checked in with me the next morning to see how Tina was doing (healing perfectly).
I was interested to learn that although both European and American vets use the same postop pain pills for cats, the package sold in America contains only three pills, whereas European cats get six. Are American cats tougher?
Thank you from me and lots of affectionate head-butts and purring from the cat.

SKY: Stargazing with Kevin Witman

At 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, my gym friend Kevin Witman of Cochranville will be bringing some of his high-powered telescopes to the parking lot of the Londonderry Township building, 103 Daleville Rd., for an astronomy presentation. The rain date is the following evening. Kevin's enthusiasm for stars and planets is contagious and he is great with kids.

QUAKERS: A talk at Marlborough Meeting

Chip Thomas of Marlborough Friends Meeting reports that Henry Jason will be speaking about the principles and beliefs of early Quakers at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21 at the Marlborough meetinghouse, which was built in 1801. It is located at the northwest corner of Marlborough and Marlborough Spring Roads in East Marlborough Township. For more information about this small Quaker congregation and its peaceful, historic meetinghouse, you can visit their website or their Facebook page.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

WEST MARLBOROUGH: A new road grader?

West Marlborough residents may soon be saying goodbye to the township's venerable road grader, fondly nicknamed "Sisyphus."
Township roads supervisor Hugh Lofting Jr. believes he has found a suitable replacement for the early-1970s Caterpillar grader online, but because state funds will be used in the purchase, the township supervisors must go through a specified bidding process. At their Oct. 3 meeting, they approved publishing a request for bids, which will be opened later this month. 
If all goes as expected, Sisyphus (so named by Rob Mastrippolito of the Newlin Township road crew) will be sold.

Sisyphus, West Marlborough's workhouse road grader.

Also at the Oct. 3 meeting:
-- Township secretary/treasurer Shirley Walton reported that at the end of the third quarter of 2017, the township had received 79% of its budgeted income but had spent only 68% of its budgeted expenditures. (Mrs. Walton was quick to point out, however, that many one-time expenses arise in the final quarter of each year.)
-- The township's zoning and building officer reported in September that he issued two permits for building renovations, one at 1013 Old Hilton Road and the other at 135 Springdell Road.
-- Township roadmaster Hugh Lofting Sr. reported that work to shore up a steep slope alongside Rokeby Road is awaiting only a final approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
-- The Southern Chester County Sportsmen's and Farmers' Association, better known to locals as simply "the gun club," wants to tear down several dilapidated sheds on its Sportsmen's Lane property and replace them with a pole barn for storing tools, equipment and machinery. The club already received approval for the barn from the township zoning hearing board, but the plan now needs to be reviewed by the township planning commission and the supervisors. A discussion of the plan is expected at the township's next meeting, on Monday, Nov. 6.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

TIME TRAVEL: The Renaissance Faire

I have a low tolerance for role-playing and similar tomfoolery, but I have to admit I had an absolutely wonderful time on Sunday at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in Manheim. The costumes were amazing: people were dressed as wenches, monks, steampunks, pirates, wizards, elves, wood sprites, fairies, butterflies, knights, lords and ladies (Tudor AND Renaissance), and minstrels -- and those were just our fellow visitors. Shops sold costumes, jewelry, leatherware, candles, and all sorts of fantasy knickknacks. We watched a jousting tournament and a falconry display, ate pork sandwiches and ice cream (we skipped the turkey "legges" and boot-shaped glasses of beer), listened to singers and musicians, and just enjoyed the people-watching on a beautiful autumn afternoon. Where else can you hear a father tell his young son, "Get that sword out of your mouth!"
The Faire is open through the end of October and is an easy drive up Route 283. If you buy your tickets online and print them out at home, they are much less expensive.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

OXFORD: Starbucks heads west

There is now a Starbucks coffee shop in Oxford. Just groove on that for a minute as you realize how drastically Chester County has changed in the past 20 years. (I felt the same way when I saw that there was a sushi joint in Sadsburyville.)
The new Starbucks is in the Walmart shopping center on Route 10, north of town.

UNIONVILLE: Post office hours

I have a mental block about the hours when the Unionville Post Office is open. Maybe if I write them down they'll finally stick in my head. The window hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (with a lunch break from 1 to 1:45 p.m.) and 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
I was there the other day when a very happy customer received a shipment of his special type of tea. "My drugs!" he exclaimed with delight as Mini handed him the box.

CENSORSHIP: A timely book

The past few weeks I've had the honor and pleasure of editing a high-profile book about how "hate speech" should be countered not by censorship and "hate speech" codes, but rather by MORE speech and counter-arguments. The publisher has put the book on the fast track because this is such a white-hot issue, so I've been working at all hours with the author, Nadine Strossen, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Ms. Strossen was a delight to work with, thanking me for each of my queries and corrections, taking the time to think through some tricky style choices (should we use the actual odious words or bowdlerize them?) and apologizing when she had to keep submitting updates on this quickly changing topic. She even thanked me, a lowly copy editor, in the introduction.
Not only was her writing polished and clear, but her arguments were brilliant and backed by compelling evidence that "hate speech" codes, no matter how well intentioned and carefully worded, simply don't work and are often used against the very people they are meant to protect.
The book, titled "HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech Not Censorship," is excellent, readable and much-needed and I'll be happy to add it to my CV. I hope it's a best-seller.

SPORTS: A very hot afternoon

On Sept. 27 the Tally-hos went to Oxford Area High School to watch the UHS cross-country team run against the Kennett and Oxford squads, and we were delighted that the Unionville boys finished 1-2. (These two particular athletes are good friends and usually run together throughout the entire race. Do they arrange ahead of time which one is going to win? Do they alternate?) 
It was a sweltering afternoon even for us spectators, more like early August than late September, and I was glad to see that the coaches made sure everyone was well hydrated. Even so, three athletes were overcome by the extreme heat and had to lie down in the shade after they crossed the finish line (tough competitors!). Two ambulances arrived and the paramedics checked them out.

STINKBUGS: Foul and pestilent

I'm hoping that with the cooler weather that blew in on Sept. 27, the worst of the stinkbug season is over. My Bugzooka vacuum device was busy there for a few days. As soon as I'd clear one room of the disgusting creatures, they'd be all over another wall. The low point was probably when I shook at least a dozen of them out of my bathrobe one morning.
My friend Paul Haldeman wrote to share his experience with the pests:
"During this spell of hot weather we have had large numbers of stink bugs accumulating on the outside of the screens on our porch. Around 3:00 a flock of starlings has been coming by and picking the stink bugs off the screens. The stink bug population on the screens is now almost zero. Is this common in the area?"
I can only report that it certainly has not happened at my house! 

CONCERT: Take your mom to work day

The son of a friend of mine is traveling around the country as the videographer for an up-and-coming rock band (one of the many career paths for which a UHS diploma prepares you). He invited his mother and older brother to attend the band's hometown show at the TLA on South Street in Philadelphia. They accepted -- the VIP seats and limo sealed the deal.
My friend, who last attended a rock concert back in the days of Peter Frampton, gave a hilarious account of the evening. She said even with earplugs, the noise was deafening. She was baffled by the appeal of the "mosh pit" in front of the stage, where frenzied youths were hurling themselves about and banging their heads together. Part of the fun, apparently, is diving into the arms of your peers, who then (you hope) pass you overhead, conveyor-belt style, toward the edge of the pit.
She reports that two bouncers were assigned to stand at the end of this conveyor belt, reaching up and removing the overhead fans and setting them back on terra firma. 
Concerts are not what they used to be, she and her older son concluded.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

DINNER: The Hearth Kitchen

We had a terrific dinner on Saturday at the Hearth Kitchen, our first time at the newest restaurant in the Shoppes at Longwood Village. We went on the spur of the moment and didn't check out the menu ahead of time, but we had heard good reviews and observed that the shopping center's parking lot has been much fuller since the restaurant opened in June.
We found that the menu offers small plates, salads, pasta, pizzas from the wood-fired oven and a selection of creative entrees. I ordered the grilled swordfish with crushed potatoes ($28) and my dinner partner had the garlic chicken with farro (a delicious nutty-tasting grain), mushrooms and green beans ($24). For dessert we had a slice of utterly wonderful cake full of peaches, blueberries, and cinnamon crisp, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, and excellent coffee.
From our table we had fun watching the bartenders at work, stirring, shaking, straining and garnishing their pretty-looking cocktails. Our waiter was a calm, well-spoken young man who made us fresh coffee and took his time to check on us even when his other customers kept him hopping.
Our tab for two came to about $70 (we didn't have anything from the bar).
I suggest making reservations on the weekends: we arrived at about 5:30 and got one of the last unreserved tables. As we left every table was full, even the outdoor ones.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

APOLOGY: A dish served cold

An amusing friend of mine has been known to tell an occasional tall tale, but with such a straight face that it seems perfectly plausible. Knowing this tendency of his, I rolled my eyes and expressed utter skepticism the other day when he explained that "giving him the cold shoulder" originally meant showing displeasure for a guest by serving him cold mutton rather than a more palatable freshly prepared meal.
I went home, checked online and was chagrined to discover that -- he is right. That's exactly where the saying comes from.
Sorry, Bob!

KENNETT: Multicultural Night

The Kennett Y hosted "Multicultural Night" on Friday, with food, clothes, flags, music and artwork presented by Y members hailing from a dozen countries. The most exotic was probably the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean.
Wearing my "England" soccer jersey from last year's UEFA competition, I traveled down the hallway to the festival immediately after my gym class was finished, just in time to hear a Mexican singer and watch some wonderful Indian dancers. I ate a delicious chicken dumpling (an arepas), a traditional Venezuelan dish, and a pita sandwich with nuts and mint from Iran, as well as some crunchy chickpea snacks from India. One of my gym teachers offered me some Swiss chocolate, promising that we would work off the calories during his next class.

OBEROD: A hilly morning

On Saturday we watched the Young Relative and his Unionville cross-county teammates compete in the Oberod Invitational on Burnt Mill Road at the Pennsylvania-Delaware line. The course is beautiful but notoriously challenging, with one especially steep hill dubbed "The Oberod Beast."
"These hills are outrageous!" I overheard one boy exclaim while warming up, and I heard the word "brutal!" several times at the finish line, as the spent runners guzzled water and headed to the cooling mist tent.
In the boys' race, youths from Tatnall (the host school) took first and second, but the UHS boys nabbed three of the top 10 spots. In the girls' race, again a Tatnall runner was first, but two of the UHS girls (as well as a Kennett girl) were in the top 10.
Oberod, by the way, is a a former DuPont estate that now serves as a training facility for the Wilmington-based laboratory informatics company LabWare.


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MUSIC: Donna Beech recitals

Pianist Donna Beech from Kennett Square will be giving two local lecture-recitals this week to mark the release of her book "Piano Music of Ann Wyeth McCoy":  at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, at Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church (at the intersection of Old Kennett Road and Route 52), and at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3, at the Ware Recital Hall in the Swope Music Building at West Chester University. The suggested donation is $5 for the church concert; the university concert is free.
Donna writes: "Few people know that Ann Wyeth McCoy -- sister of world-famous painter Andrew Wyeth, daughter of  American painter N. C. Wyeth, wife of painter John McCoy -- was a composer and an accomplished pianist, in addition to being a gifted painter, and that music was a very important part of the Wyeth household."
Donna's book includes 12 of McCoy's piano works, reprints of the N. C. Wyeth paintings that inspired her, and commentary linking the two genres. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

KENNETT SQUARE: A Pet Blessing

Ellen Struble invited me (and my pets!) to attend a Pet Blessing at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1., at the Church of the Advent, 401 North Union St., Kennett Square.
She writes: "All pets are cordially invited to receive a blessing of good health and great happiness. . . . Pets of all faiths are welcome as are their people.  Even if you don’t have a pet, you are cordially invited to enjoy the animals. Please bring your pets leashed or caged for the safety of all."

 

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Respect for the neighbors

A resident on Federal Walk has taken exception to the meetings of a local car club, Nex Gen Motors, in front of the vacant Superfresh store next to his neighborhood. I happened upon one of the car shows by chance back in April and wrote about it in my column, noting that many of the drivers were "showing off their cars’ acceleration by peeling out of the parking lot with high-revving engines and squealing tires."
My reader was not at all impressed with the noise and told me he plans to contact local and state police as well as the shopping center owner to express his concerns.
The club's Facebook page describes the group as "a car club that promotes RideRespect, in which our philosophy is based on the idea of respecting your vehicle as well as the ones around you."

WEST CHESTER: Planetarium programs

A longtime reader was kind enough to send me information about the Friday-night public programs that are being offered this autumn at the Dr. Sandra F. Pritchard Mather Planetarium at West Chester University.
The hour-long programs start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6 per person (children under 5 can sit on a parent's lap for free) and can be purchased at the door or online. The planetarium is in the Schmucker Science Center at the corner of Church St. and Rosedale Ave. in West Chester.
Live shows -- "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on Oct. 13 and "Once in a Blue Moon" on Nov. 3 -- "are given by a PhD astronomer and consist of an overview of what is currently visible in the night sky. In addition, each show focuses on a specific aspect of astronomy."
On the other Friday nights, students in the university's Department of Earth and Space Science will present "a live 20-minute overview of the current night sky followed by an educational and entertaining movie, roughly 30 minutes in length": Sept. 29: "Back to the Moon For Good"; Oct. 20: "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity"; and Oct. 27: "Oasis In Space." The website notes that "Parents with young children may find these presentations more suitable for their family than the live shows."
Free parking is available after 5 p.m. for those attending the programs in the lot behind the Sykes Student Union building (Lot K), located on Rosedale Ave.

WEST GROVE: A dance party!

I just got word that popular local band the Dukes of Destiny will be returning to West Grove Friends Meeting House for a dance party on Saturday, October 21. In the words of the band: "This is a place we have played for almost 20 years, starting back in the days of the wonderful Turtledove Folk Club. Nonalcoholic, it is an all-ages crowd of people who love to dance, sing along and have great fun. . . . If you have seen us here over the years you know how special this place is. If you haven't, you need to have the experience."
Tickets are $15 at the door. The music starts at 7 p.m. and goes until 10 p.m.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

PLANTATION FIELD: The Real Rider Cup

During the Sunday lunch break at the Plantation Field International Horse Trials, trainers, jockeys, veterinarians and owners took part in a celebrity show-jumping competition in an attempt to win the first-ever "Real Rider Cup."
Each team had five members, and their times were totalled, with a penalty of four seconds added for each fault. In keeping with Plantation Field's focus this year on the versatility of retired racehorses, all of the horses in the competition were off-the-track thoroughbreds, and many of them were age 12 years and up.
The trainers (Leigh Delacour, Tim Keefe, Chuck Lawrence, Sanna Neilson and Joe Sharp) ended up taking the blue ribbon with the winning time of 326.98 seconds. The owners clocked in at 327.19 seconds, the jockeys 329.79 seconds, and the vets 386 seconds. Jockey Mark Beecher, the first to ride, also recorded the fastest round of the day: 49.2 seconds, and no faults.
The competition was light-hearted and entertaining. At one point the announcer misidentified renowned New Bolton Center surgeon Dean Richardson as one of the jockeys.
"Do I LOOK like a jockey?!" Dr. Dean called out with a laugh as he cantered past the announcers' booth.

COCHRANVILLE: Canine Partners open house

We were bowled over by the open house at Canine Partners for Life in Cochranville on Saturday, which was very well attended by both humans and service dogs.
We watched fascinated as Krystal, paralyzed from the waist down from a spinal cord injury, demonstrated how her service dog Teddie helps her to live independently. Teddie is trained to pick up the young woman's keys if she drops them, take her wallet to a cashier, open doors, closets and drawers and even alert her when she's about to experience a migraine or a drop in blood pressure. The love between the two was obvious and heartwarming.
Although the open house was held on the grounds of Manor Presbyterian Church, busses took visitors just up Faggs Manor Road to the CPL campus itself. The campus tour highlighted the major renovations that have been underway since March as part of the Marian S. Ware Program Services Center, including more wheelchair-accessible parking, more accessible bathrooms, additional office space, and a larger harness shop (we got to chat with Gerry Ortega, a longtime volunteer who crafts the custom-made harnesses the service dogs wear). Our guide pointed out that some of the ceiling tiles will have embossed paw prints.
(The improvements are part of an $8.5 million capital campaign, The Partnership for Independence Campaign. More than $5.4 million has already been raised, and when the rest of the funding is secured, work will begin on the Mollie and Minor Barringer Training Center.)
Unfortunately we couldn't visit the kennels because kennel cough was going around.
What an impressive organization Canine Partners is, not only in terms of the amazing services they offer but the way they pulled together such a well-run event -- with a tasty free BBQ lunch, to boot (of course we left a donation). Months of work must have been required to plan the facility tour, schedule the multitude of volunteers, set up the sound system, coordinate with the church and vendors, hire the shuttle busses, design the programs, print the cow bingo tickets, map out the parking, and manage all the other vital behind-the-scenes details.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Local cheese makes good

The Farm at Doe Run's St. Malachi cheese took second-place honors in the "Best of Show" competition at the American Cheese Society's annual conference in Denver. The cheese is made from the milk of the cows who live at Dick Hayne's farm here in West Marlborough Township. 
In its account of the winners, the Wall Street Journal described St. Malachi thusly: "A hybrid Gouda/Alpine-style cow's milk cheese, aged 11 months in the farm's stone-quarry cave, it's a nutty brown-butter bomb with a firm, crumbly paste, made by a team that's leading the evolution of the state's artisan cheese industry."
St. Malachi and other Doe Run cheeses are sold at the Country Butcher in Kennett Square.
FYI, first prize went to a cheese named "Tarentaise Reserve" from Spring Brook Farm in Vermont.

KENNETT: Picnic in the park

As regular readers know, every Wednesday evening in the summer we visit Anson B. Nixon Park for the concert series. But even though the concerts have finished for the season and the days are getting much shorter, we took a picnic supper (from the China Garden restaurant in West Grove) to the park last week and had a delightful time. After eating, we took a stroll around the lake, quacked at the ducks, watched a dad teach his son how to cast a fishing line (the boy did a great job!) and admired the tomatoes and peppers ready for harvest in the community gardens.

JENNERSVILLE: National exposure for Dansko shoes

Dansko shoes, headquartered right here in southern Chester County, got a rave review -- in a backhanded sort of way -- in the fashion magazine "Vogue." The reviewer, Emily Farra, called them "a new ugly-chic shoe to covet" and described them as "the latest patently hideous, yet wildly comfortable shoe to get the high-fashion treatment."
She writes: "I’d argue they’re less ugly than Crocs, but definitely more polarizing than Birkenstocks, which actually look chic with slip dresses and dark-rinse jeans. . . . Danskos have long been part of the eccentric-Upper-West-Side-lady equation, and I recently saw a hipster girl wearing them with vintage Levi’s and a cropped sweatshirt at a Toro y Moi concert in Bushwick."

LONGWOOD: Great fireworks

An ever-enthusiastic friend from Wagontown joined us on Saturday for the Longwood Gardens fireworks, which, being cheapskates, we always watch from lawn chairs in the parking lot of the Longwood shopping center. Sue said she actually enjoyed it more than watching the display from inside the Gardens, even though we nonpaying spectators don't get to hear the music and don't get to see the lower-altitude fireworks.
I especially liked the skyful of flashing red fireworks, which reminded me of an onslaught of camera flashes. This must be what's it's like to be a celebrity walking down a red carpet, a fashion model gliding down a catwalk or a "perp" being paraded before the media. Not that I'm likely to experience any of those.

STINK BUGS: They're back

Like clockwork, the stink bugs start invading my house on the same day each year: the Saturday of the Plantation Field International event. Sure enough, I spotted four of them crawling on my screen door Saturday morning and immediately sucked them up with my Bugzooka vacuum device (which I highly recommend).
But it was nothing like the memorable September of 2012, when I returned home from Plantation Field to find the west wall of my bedroom covered with dozens of the smelly arthropods.
It's still warm enough that the stink bugs can move quickly; in a few weeks they'll be logy and won't fly off.

AVONDALE: Wawa set to reopen Oct. 6

The Longwood Wawa is back in operation after its summertime facelift, much to the relief of those who rely on it for coffee, snacks, gas, and bathrooms, but now the Avondale Wawa is shut for remodeling as part of an extensive company-wide updating program. The extremely busy (I speak from experience) convenience store at Route 41 and Baltimore Pike closed on Sept. 5 and is set to reopen Oct. 6.

WEST GROVE: Mindful motion

The Light Within yoga studio will be moving at the end of September from its current location on Exchange Place in downtown West Grove just a few blocks west to the northeast corner of Evergreen Street and Guernsey Road, the former location of the Curves exercise franchise.
According to the studio's website, the new space "will provide more practice area, fewer parking issues, a much easier entrance to navigate, and many other upgrades. . . . We know many of you really love our space at 11 Exchange Place. We do too. It has been a wonderful space and will always have lots of incredible memories, but it is time for growth through change!"

Sunday, September 10, 2017

KENNETT SQUARE: Another pizzeria

There's a "Papa John's Pizza" sign up in the window of the long-vacant Chester County Auto Parts store on West State Street at Lincoln Street. There's no indication when the new pizza shop might open. Currently the closest Papa John's franchise is in Lantana Square, Hockessin. 

HARLEYSVILLE: The Raw and the Cooked

On Saturday we attended the 140th annual Oyster Picnic at the Old Goshenhoppen Reformed Church in Woxall, near Harleysville, in northern Montgomery County.
On the menu were raw oysters, fried oysters, oyster stew and oyster sandwiches, along with bratwurst, burgers, smoked salmon sandwiches, side dishes like potato salad and pickled cabbage, funnel cakes, ice cream and pie. We overheard some of the organizers saying that even though they had ordered 5,000 Delaware Bay oysters, they were concerned that they might run out.
After enjoying plenty of the bivalves in the picnic grove (nice old oaks and hickories), we walked across the street to explore the graveyard and visit the church and the old log schoolhouse behind it.
A bluegrass gospel group and the Red Hill Jazz Band played in the picnic grove, and in the church there were performances by several organists and a dulcimer group that opened their set with the song "Acres of Clams," fittingly altered for the day to "Acres of Oysters."
According to an account of an early picnic, excursion trains would bring Philadelphia residents to Salford station, where farm wagons would be waiting to transport the "rusticators" to the picnic. "At the end of the day the steam train would return to the station and sound long blasts of its whistle to signal that it was time to return to the station or risk being stranded in the country."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

KENNETT SQUARE: A Y member's view

I am hesitant to raise any complaint about the Mushroom Parade, which I am sure was well run and gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of community residents. But may I suggest that just a small tweak in the traffic arrangements would make a giant improvement?
Because Race Street was closed well in advance of the parade, motorists (meaning me) couldn't get to the Kennett Y. I found myself tantalizingly close to the parking lot but simply unable to access it. The friendly borough police officer guarding the Race Street/Cypress Street blockade suggested I drive around the block. I did so, in heavy traffic. But then his colleague on State Street was diverting traffic off before the Y. I asked him how I was supposed to get to the Y and he chuckled and said it was flat-out impossible. 
My suggestion is that the detour should be planned so that we Y-goers can turn onto Race Street. If that is impossible (which it's not; it has been done in prior years), the traffic planners should communicate with the Y well in advance so the Y can give us a heads up to stay home.
The parade road closures during already busy Friday afternoon rush hour also had an impact far beyond downtown Kennett Square. At 5 p.m., traffic was already backed up along Newark Road from the Route 1 bypass all the way down to the Toughkenamon intersection. (At that point I should have cut my losses and just turned around and gone home.)
An acquaintance who lives east of the borough reported that he tried multiple routes to get through town, but everything was so backed up that he ended up four-wheeling over the median strip in frustration and taking the bypass.

CHATHAM: Traffic islands to be installed

Roadwork on PennDOT's "Chatham Gateway Project" is set to begin Tuesday, Sept. 12. The contractor, Road-Con Inc., will be installing two traffic "islands" in the middle of Route 41 in an attempt to slow traffic through Chatham along the busy road. One island will be built north of the village near Mosquito Lane (near the SECCRA landfill) and the other south of the village near Penwyck Lane.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

HARRISBURG: A good PennDOT experience

So that new DMV policy you've heard about has actually come to pass, and we Pennsylvania drivers will no longer receive those little registration stickers to affix to our license plates each year.
I renewed my registration using the commonwealth's website (www.dmv.pa.gov) and found it to be extremely user-friendly. "It's fast and easy," reads the blurb, and it actually is. They tell you at the outset the information you'll need to complete the renewal, so before even starting I was able to dig out my insurance card from my wallet and run out to the car and check the odometer. Well done, web designer! 
Another change that I didn't know about allows you to renew your vehicle registration for two years. This is actually a bargain because although you pay $37 for one year and $74 for two years, when you renew for two years you have to pay the $5 county surcharge only once. 

WEST GROVE: A 10 in Tilda's book

We had an amazing birthday dinner at Twelves in downtown West Grove the other night. This former-bank-turned-restaurant tops my list, by far, as a place to go for a special occasion meal. The setting is peaceful and conducive to meaningful conversation; the servers are genuine, amusing, unobtrusive and professional; the food is beautifully presented and every bite is astonishing. Though we were tempted by the seared crabcakes, an old favorite, I ordered the salmon with sweet corn risotto, grilled asparagus, and tomato, cucumber and crab gazpacho; my date had the grilled wild striped bass with roasted fingerling potatoes and asparagus. We shared two home-made desserts, a piece of walnut pound cake with grilled peaches and vanilla ice cream and a piece of chocolate cake with salted caramel, chocolate mousse and ganache.
Words cannot do justice to how tasty everything was. The place is just top notch and never disappoints.


UNIONVILLE: Our fur children!


My friend the Rev. Annalie Korengel asked me to help spread the word about the Fourth Annual Pet Blessing at the Unionville Presbyterian Church, 812 Wollaston Rd., on Sunday, Sept. 24 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
You can bring your pet, a picture of your pet, a stuffed animal, or even a picture of an endangered animal. There will be games, raffles, and ice cream, and donations will be collected for LaMancha Animal Rescue.
Our guinea pig Gilbert has a certificate hanging over his pen from a prior Pet Blessing at the church. This year it's going to be Clarence the Cat's turn; we adopted him from the Brandywine SPCA last October.
 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Strings attached

At their September meeting, the West Marlborough supervisors discussed their concerns about the strings attached to a $250,000 state grant they received to fix a bridge on lightly traveled Runnemede Road.
The supervisors agreed that the bridge, which crosses a tiny tributary to the Doe Run, needs repair, but by accepting the grant, "we might not have 100 percent control over the design," said supervisor Jake Chalfin. Chalfin, who lives along the narrow, scenic road, said the project might end up significantly widening the road and changing its "charming" character.
The supervisors agreed to discuss their concerns over engineering issues with the Chester County Conservation District, which administers the low-volume-roads grant program.
Also at the monthly meeting, supervisor Bill Wylie said the township's traffic consultant, Al Federico, is still collecting vehicle counts and hopes to have a report to submit by the October meeting. 

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Complying with FEMA

The West Marlborough supervisors updated the wording of the township's floodplain ordinance at their Sept. 5 meeting. Before voting to approve the changes, the supervisors held a brief hearing to hear any input from residents. The only comment came from Mark Myers, who asked if the new ordinance would prohibit the installation of fences in areas designated as floodplains. Supervisor Bill Wylie said he had researched that question and concluded that fences would not be affected.
The supervisors made the changes because the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been updating its flood maps statewide and is requiring all municipalities to redo their ordinances this year for consistency. Court reporter Bill Handy commented afterward that it was probably the eighth similar hearing he had recorded recently in the county.

UNIONVILLE: Start spreadin' the news


It may seem trivial to some, but I was delighted to hear that a new community bulletin board was installed at the Unionville post office on Sept. 6. The old one was removed some months ago, and I for one really missed checking out the fliers for local events, blood drives, help wanted, houses for rent, and tack and horses for sale. And when I was trying to publicize an event it was the best possible place to thumb-tack a poster.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

BLUEGRASS: A chilly, rainy, terrific fest


We had a great time Saturday listening to old-time music and people-watching at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival, which is held each Labor Day weekend at the Salem County (N.J.) Fairground.
The music started on Friday, but we got there on Wednesday evening for two reasons: to pitch our tent and to claim our space in the main performance pavilion by setting up our folding chairs. Even though the campground had just opened, dozens of RVs were already there; you could hear people jamming, and the folks in the space next to us had already set up and lit their tiki torches (South Jersey mosquitoes don't mess around).
The entire main pavilion was already full of chairs by the time we got there, but we found a good spot in the secondary pavilion.
The most memorable performers were Tuba Skinny, an ensemble whose style was more New Orleans street jazz than traditional old-time music. The band included, yes, a tuba and other brass instruments, a clarinet and even a washboard, played with gusto by an extremely loose-jointed fellow. The audience seemed to love it, dancing around while bobbing their umbrellas up and down.
The rain, sometimes heavy, actually added to the fun. To stay dry, there were folks wearing firehouse bunker gear, nautical foul-weather gear, floor-length Western-style canvas dusters, and those nubby Mexican ponchos that were all the rage in the 1970s. A guy in a transparent orange poncho looked just like a Creamsicle.
I stared fascinated as one very tall man, wearing a desert-camo jacket and matching knee-length skirt, unfolded a pair of camo pants, threaded a belt through the belt loops and then managed to put it on while simultaneously removing the skirt.
Hat-wise, I saw people wearing clear-plastic pixie hoods, a beret, a conical Chinese-style hat, Stetsons, straw hats and ball caps. The rainbow of umbrellas included an impractical white Mary Poppins parasol, a full-sized two-tiered porch umbrella, and umbrellas with newspaper logos on them (do newspapers still give away premiums?).
The many kids at the fest, of course, didn't mind getting wet in the least. We had fun watching them jump into puddles and steer their bikes across the flooded grassy areas, the deeper the better.
Along with the rain, it didn't get above 70 degrees all day Saturday. A woman said to me in the ladies' room that she was wearing so many layers of clothes, she was sure she'd walk out of the restroom with the wrong layer pulled up and the wrong one pulled down.
My still-soggy hat goes off to the Brandywine Friends of Old-Time Music, the group who organizes this fest.

ETHICS: Who mispriced my cheese?

So on Sunday I was at the Giant, buying the ingredients for one of my favorite comfort-food suppers: angel-hair pasta with garlic, olive oil, basil (fresh from the garden) and Romano cheese. I was looking through the cheese case and found a wedge of Romano priced at $0.05. Yes, five cents for a good-sized triangle of cheese. There were other chunks priced at only one cent.
Now: what would you do?
Would you say, "Sweet! With all the money I spend at Giant, they totally owe me one!" Or would you say, "Let us recall Kant's Categorical Imperative from Philosophy 101. I must point out this error to the manager because if everyone took advantage of this obvious mistake, the store would suffer. Perhaps they could no longer afford to stock fancy cheese at all!"
Discuss with your family over the dinner table.
Without even running the scenario, I know I would be on the losing end of this one in my family, by a 2-1 vote, with the Young Relative's ethical position wavering, depending on whose favor he was attempting to curry on any given evening.
Who am I kidding? I'd be down 3-1 for sure.

UHS: The Oakbourne Relays

Sadly, the Young Relative's support crew is now missing its two most senior members, but we still mustered his parents, one grandmother and one aunt to cheer him on as the Unionville High School cross-country teams competed in the Oakbourne Relays tournament at Stetson Middle School on the afternoon of Sept. 1.
This was an unusual race format and a challenging one. The runners pair up, and athlete A runs a mile over a hilly cross-country course, then athlete B runs the same mile, then athlete A, then athlete B again. So basically you warm up, run a mile, and then have to stay limber while your partner runs his or her leg. The YR's times for the two legs differed by only three seconds -- excellent consistency.
We noticed that the students were extremely vocal in their support of their team-mates, especially the spirited team from Emmaus High School, whose cheers were almost deafening during both the races and the awards ceremony.
By the way, on the way home I took a detour just so I could drive over the newly reopened Route 926 bridge over the Brandywine for the first time. I am not often impressed by road projects, but wow! It looks great.


MAPS: Collecting data

Twice in recent days I've seen the white Apple Maps vans driving around in Kennett and even all the way out here in West Marlborough. Camera rigs are mounted on the roof.
According to Apple, the purpose is "to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps. Some of this data will be published in future Apple Maps updates. We are committed to protecting your privacy while collecting this data. For example, we will blur faces and license plates on collected images prior to publication."
My brother reports that an Apple van passed him while he was on his bike. I'll be eager to see if his chiseled legs appear in the final product.
The Apple website also lists the places  the Apple vans are visiting during each two-week period. Along with Pennsylvania and 18 other states, they are also in London, Paris, Rome and Biscay, Spain, through Sept. 10.

VAPING: Carrots are better for you


I saw a sign on a car on Concord Pike the other day: "Don't Be an E-Cig Guinea Pig," it proclaimed. As a longtime cavy fan, I was intrigued.
It turns out that the Delaware Division of Public Health is trying to persuade e-cigarette users that "vaping" is not a safe alternative to smoking because it still involves inhaling lots of toxic chemicals.

Clever, but using a guinea pig paw instead of a human hand would have been a witty touch.

Wilmington ad agency Aloysius Butler & Clark used the "guinea pig" angle (one ad shows a very cute guinea pig wearing a hoodie) in a public-service announcement for Healthy Delaware showing a bunch of teens vaping and ostracizing one of their peers as "paranoid" when he suggests their e-cigs are just as bad as the old-fashioned kind. You can watch it on YouTube.

SLUG: Don't tread on me

A spotted, eight-inch-long slug slimed its way onto my front walk the other day. Honestly, at first I thought it was a garter snake. I looked it up and learned that its Latin name is Limax maximus, and its common names are great grey slug or leopard slug. All are certainly appropriate monikers! This particular slug is a native of Europe, and the scientists who study such things seem especially intrigued by its means of reproduction, which is both acrobatic and hermaphroditic.
I snapped a photograph of the creature, with a door key next to it for scale, and posted it on social media. Leave it to my amusing friends to chime in: "Has it moved in? Looks like it's got its own key!" A taxman friend warned that if I tried to claim it as a dependent on my 1040, I could expect a knock on the door.

Image may contain: outdoor
Limax maximus on my front walkway.

Monday, August 28, 2017

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Charlie Zahm returns to the Hall

For the third year in a row, the weather was utterly perfect for local balladeer Charlie Zahm's outdoor concert in the walnut grove at Primitive Hall. Charlie and fiddler Tad Marks played a wide variety of songs, from "This Land Is Your Land" to Irish and Scottish folk tunes to the stirring "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables." "The morbid side of Charlie Zahm," as Tad put it, emerged as Charlie sang "The Green Green Grass of Home" (about a man awaiting execution) and a song about a massacre in 17th-century Scotland. The two musicians closed the show with a rousing version of "Those Were the Days," the 1960s hit by Mary Hopkin that was in fact one of the first 45s I ever purchased.
About 50 people attended the show, many bringing coolers and picnic baskets. Charlie, who lives in East Fallowfield, has a loyal following of locals, who call themselves "The Zahm-bies."

KENNETT: A Sky Tour on Sept. 9

Was your interest in all things planetary piqued by the solar eclipse? The Chester County Astronomical Society is holding a Sky Tour for adults and kids on Saturday, Sept. 9, starting at 7:30 p.m. at the athletic fields at Anson Nixon Park.
The astronomers write: "The program provides an orientation to the stars and planets with the help of a green laser light, which makes it easier to follow the leaders as they visit (point) to the stars. Come view planets, star clusters and galaxies using our members' telescopes.
"As the sky darkens we will see Jupiter, the king of the planets, sinking toward the glow of the Sun. Then take a long look at the most beautiful planet in the solar system, Saturn. As the sky becomes fully dark we’ll dive deep into the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy to see Messier 22, a large globular cluster, faint nebulas: the Lagoon, the Trifid and the Swan.  Last but not least we’ll gaze upon our neighbor the Andromeda Galaxy and we’ll see 2.5-million-year-old light coming from a trillion stars!"
Star-gazers are asked to bring a small flashlight (light pollution) and dress for the weather.The event will be cancelled if it's raining or if there is heavy cloud cover.

 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

RED TAPE: Yes or no?

Sometimes things get so absurd that you just have to laugh. As my late mother's bills arrive, I've been either paying or disputing them. One bill from a doctor that should have been paid by the insurance company had been rejected, so I called the company. Alas, because I was not the person named on the account, the customer service rep told me that HIPAA regulations would allow her to provide only "yes" or "no" answers to my questions.
Not having the energy to argue -- it would have been futile anyway -- I shifted into "Twenty Questions" mode and phrased my questions in closed-ended fashion, like a careful trial attorney. It was an interesting exercise in efficient communication, and I actually got the answers I wanted. (It helped that the rep was a cooperative human being and didn't stick strictly to the format.)

UNIONVILLE: Horse Trials coming up

And just like that, it's September, which means that the Plantation Field International Horse Trials are coming up. This is a hugely prestigious international equestrian competition, with top-level riders and horses and rising stars in the eventing world, and it's right in our backyard.
Here is this year's schedule:
-- Thursday, September 14: dressage in the main arena
-- Friday, September 15: dressage in the main arena
-- Saturday, September 16: CIC 2* & 3*  show jumping in the main arena, 8 a.m.  to 4:30 p.m.; CIC 1* cross country in the morning
-- Sunday, September 17: CIC 2* & 3* cross country, 8:30 a.m.; CIC 1* show jumping in the main arena
(The asterisks indicate the level of competition, with 3* being the most advanced.)
At the lunch break on Sunday, according to the website, "American legends from the racing world come together to compete in the Real Rider Cup. Jockeys, trainers, owners and veterinarians will test their mettle over a show jumping course in the main arena in a must-see event."
This year the Retired Racehorse Project is the event's beneficiary. Again, from the website: "These horses can have successful second careers in other disciplines after they leave the track, and our aim is to highlight their talent and heart throughout the weekend. The Retired Racehorse Project will give a demonstration on Saturday featuring horses that will compete in the Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park in October. We will also have celebrity Thoroughbreds like Icabad Crane making an appearance at the event."
As a spectator, I always have a great time at Plantation Field. It's a beautiful venue, you get an amazing close-up view of the action, and there are also shops and food vendors to visit and friends' tailgate parties to stop by. Volunteers are always needed; go to the website for more information.

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Wawa has reopened

The renovated Longwood Wawa on Baltimore Pike reopened on schedule last week, much to the relief of road warriors who rely on it for bathrooms, sodas, coffee, subs, snacks, lottery tickets and cash. A friend who is a connoisseur of all things Wawa in the Philly suburbs visited early on and said that the renovation appears to be a hybrid of two different Wawa styles. He was amused when he saw a customer walk into the store, pull out his wallet and then gaze around him in confusion as he realized that the ATM machine was not where it used to be.

EAST MARLBOROUGH: A silent officer

I was driving home through Unionville the other day and spotted an East Marlborough Township police vehicle parked in the upper lot across from Hood's BBQ. I pulled in, looking forward to a chat with Chief Robert Clarke, who always has some interesting news to share.
Alas, there was only a realistic-looking, uniformed police dummy sitting in the passenger seat. I imagine just seeing the police vehicle sitting there, with or without Clarkie, is incentive enough to make speeders slow down, which is after all the whole point.

Friday, August 25, 2017

MORTALITY: A life well lived

Perhaps you've noticed that Tilda's column has been a little, well, thin for the past month. There's a good reason for that: instead of going to concerts, hanging out with friends and generally getting out and about, I spent the past month caring for my mother after she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia.
Thanks to the amazing people at Heartland Hospice, my mother got to spend some true quality time with her family and died peacefully at home, in her own bed. She was proud of the fact that she far outlived the original prognosis of "days" that sent my brother and me dashing to the airport on July 21 to catch the next flight to her condo in Florida. My brother drove her back to Kennett Square, a two-day road trip, and he, my sister, and I pulled together so that one of us was there with her 24/7.
I bought a new computer so I could set up shop and do my editing over at my mother's house ("I hope you're getting your work done," she'd say about five times a day, worried that she was being a burden). My kind friends rallied round to take exceptional care of my animals back home, even texting me photos. My wonderful neighbors made sure the mail, packages and newspapers didn't pile up too much.
And the Young Relative totally stepped up to the plate, volunteering to prepare his grandmother's lunch every day and happily doing chores around the house. He would report in after his shift was over, telling us how much soup she had eaten and whether she'd been strong enough to get outside for a few steps. He showed a natural compassion, creativity, strength and poise; after this, I would not be surprised if he goes on to become a medical professional (after a stellar college track career, of course).
Mother was bound and determined to get some legal paperwork taken care of, and Peter Temple and his staff bent over backwards to complete it as quickly as possible.
Matt Grieco and his team at the funeral home were compassionate and efficient and made things as easy as they could throughout the whole process; special thanks to Martha and Maribeth.
The flowers, cards and kind messages we've received have been a wonderful source of support.
An optimist to the end, my mother insisted that we focus on all of our happy family memories rather than to feel deep sadness at her loss.
I'll let you know how that goes.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

WILLOWDALE: Tilda is easily swayed

Just put an "S" next to my name -- S for Sucker, that is. I felt so guilty every time I pushed the "No Loyalty" button at the Landhope Farms cash register that I finally signed up for their loyalty card, though I'll probably never use it.
Whoever came up with that phrasing has a profound understanding of the human mind. Really, who wants to keep declaring, with every sub, milk, soda, coffee or ice cream purchase, that they are not loyal to such a key institution in Unionville life?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

STORMS: Weird light

What a remarkable aftermath of that strong thunderstorm that blew through our area the evening of Friday, Aug. 18. I saw a rainbow over the New Garden Shopping Center -- some people reported a double rainbow -- and the sky contained so many different types of clouds that it looked like the Golden Book of meteorology that we pored over as kids. A patch of dark clouds would be flanked by bright blue sky, and next to that would be horizontal lightning, and then the pouch-like mammatus clouds. My car's automatic headlights kept going on and off as I traveled up Newark Road, and I felt like I needed to switch from my sunglasses to my regular glasses every minute.

OXFORD: A spelling fail

The funniest typo of the week appears on the roadside signs that have popped up for the Oxford "Flee" Market. In one sign along Baltimore Pike in Toughkenamon, someone actually tried to make the "e" into an "a." Every time I see one, the "Guys and Dolls" lyric comes into my head: "It's the oldest established permanent floating craps game in New York."
And speaking of roadside signs ... every single summer the organizers of the Chester County Pond Tour put up hundreds of signs publicizing their event, many times multiple ones at the same corner, and after the event they remove perhaps dozens of them. It's been three weeks since the event and there are still at least three at the Schoolhouse Road/Baltimore Pike intersection.


Spell-checking programs don't always work. This sign was on Route 10 north of Oxford.




 
 
 

SCHOOLS: Changes in school start times

In the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, the upcoming school year will bring some changes in the timing of the school day as well. For elementary school pupils, the day will start at 9:10 a.m. and will end at 3:40 p.m. For students at Patton Middle School and the high school, the school day will run from 8 a.m. to 2:43 p.m.
In the words of the district administrators: "We are all now in the mode of transitioning from summer to the start of the school year. This year that transition includes new routines around new school start times.  Bus pick-up times will shift, drop off times have changed and so have the bell schedules. We are here to help all stakeholders with the transition. The School Start Time website is a central resource for all items related School Start Times, providing background for the decision and now continuing as a resource for the implementation and ongoing evaluation."
The URL for that website is https://sites.google.com/a/ucfsd.net/ucf-school-start-time-committee/.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: An outdoor concert

Local favorites Charlie Zahm (on guitar and vocals) and Tad Marks (on the fiddle) will be playing an outdoor concert on Sunday, Aug. 27, in the walnut grove at Primitive Hall, 830 North Chatham Road in West Marlborough Township. The Hall, the historic homestead of the Pennock family, will be open for tours from 3 to 5 p.m., and the concert will start at 5 p.m. Bring your lawn chairs or blankets and a picnic. Suggested contribution is $25 per car.

BUSINESS: Clothes, plants, food

A few business notes to share with you:
1. Trail Creek Outfitters expects to open a branch store in downtown Kennett the first week of September. They are moving into the storefront at 120 West State Street formerly occupied by the ladies' clothing boutique Chantilly Blue (which moved across the street to 117 West State Street). "We will have a selection of your favorites from Patagonia, The North Face, Prana, Kuhl, and Smartwool. Also popping up will be some fresh, new brands like Hippy Tree, True Grit, Dylan, Cotopaxi and Ten Tree. Our space is cozy so we won’t be able to stock everything that we have in the Glen Eagle store, but we will be travelling back and forth and will have what you want by the next day (maybe even the same day)."
2. Richard and Kathy Pratt, who own RP Nurseries in Willowdale, are trying to spread the word that they are NOT closing their business. They wrote on their Facebook page: "Did we sell some of our land? Yes. Did we sell ALL of our land? No! Our garden center, gift shop and landscape services division are all still here to serve you for many years to come!"
3. Hood's BBQ in downtown Unionville will be closed from Saturday, Sept. 2, through Monday, Sept. 11, so the Hood family can take a well-deserved vacation. Regular business hours will resume Tuesday, Sept. 12.

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.