Monday, March 27, 2017

DESSERT: News from Landhope

One of these days we WILL make it to Dylan's Desserts, the brand-new shop in the Liberty Place market in downtown Kennett. The first time we passed by, it was open but we were too full for dessert, having just chowed down on Buddy Burgers. The second time (Sunday night) Dylan's wasn't open, so we drove to Landhope at Willowdale to get our ice cream (scooped by Sue). Landhope is in the process of replacing its gas pumps and canopies so the southern parking lot is torn up and fenced off, but the store is still open.
"We appreciate your loyalty and hope you love our upgrade!" reads the sign on the door.

NBC: Two meanings

"Your Exclusive Invitation to NBC Insiders," read the email teaser. "Become an NBC Insider!"
Well, OK, I thought: New Bolton Center is starting some kind of "neighbors" group and they want me to join. Nice! I'll check it out.
But alas, I realized I was mistaken as soon as I read the first line: "Are you a loyal NBC viewer? Want the scoop on our shows before anyone else?"
I guess that outside of Unionville, NBC stands for something other than New Bolton Center.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

OPTOS: An improved eye exam

I've been wearing glasses since the fourth grade, so I've long been accustomed to going for my annual eye exam and getting my pupils dilated so they can examine your retina. It's a strange sensation, and you have to squint and wear sunglasses for several hours afterward because suddenly the sun seems to have gotten exponentially brighter.
No more! I went for my checkup on Monday with Dr. Renny Sardella in Willowdale, and he has a new type of high-tech camera, called the Optos Optomap, that takes a photo of your retina in a matter of seconds, with no need for dilating drops. The enlarged image, which immediately pops up on the computer screen, shows the optic nerve, the macula, and the blood vessels in great detail. It was fascinating to see.
It's such a benefit to have healthcare people who know their clients well and live locally. When I described a momentary phenomenon in my eye as resembling the surface of the water in Longwood Gardens' "Eye of Water," Renny knew exactly what I meant.

JIM HURST: A finger picking master

On Friday night we headed to Newark to hear Nashville bluegrass guitarist Jim Hurst in concert. Though he is an amazingly talented musician -- he said that just for fun he plays one song in a different key each night -- Jim is a humble and self-deprecating performer.
I enjoyed his between-songs musings. He talked about the power of music as a deterrent to and a distraction from political divisiveness. A former long-haul trucker, he said he used to bring his guitar with him and use the vibrations of his truck and the rhythmic sounds of the highway as musical inspiration. He also talked about the scary experience of "white line fever," when you realize you've driven across an entire state without being fully alert.
Jim performed a few songs about his deep Christian faith and, and I was surprised he felt it necessary to say he hoped they didn't offend anyone. He spoke about the ways in which being an entertainer and being a Christian sometimes conflict.
Most of the musicians we go to see sell their CDs at intermission, and Jim was no exception. Before the break he encouraged us to take a look at his wares, and he said that even financial advisors tell you that CDs should be part of your investment strategy.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: April meeting coming up

The West Marlborough supervisors will be having their monthly meeting on Tuesday night, April 4, at the township garage in Doe Run Village. Meetings have been quite routine of late, which is good for me as a resident but not so good for me as a reporter. Come out and see local government in action, visit with your neighbors and see the township road equipment up close and personal. The planning commission meets first, at 7 p.m., followed by the supervisors at 7:30 or so.

DINNER: Supporting the Scouts

On Saturday night we enjoyed a delicious spaghetti dinner at Kennett Friends Meeting, a fundraiser for Boy Scout Troop 24. They load your plate up with linguini, tomato sauce, and two giant meatballs and then ask you what should be a rhetorical question in the Kennett area: "Do you want mushrooms?" Of course we want mushrooms! They also give you rolls, a salad and home-made dessert, and the boys, in their Scout uniforms, bring you drinks.

MEETING: Learning about gun laws

My West Marlborough neighbor Starr Bright asked me to share some information about "Gun Sense Chester County," a group she is involved in.
"I am a gunshot survivor and am interested in responsible gun ownership as well as sensible gun legislation," she wrote. "My husband hunts and I have no interest in banning guns, but I am interested in sensible solutions to what has become a polarizing issue."
She said the group will be holding a public meeting at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, at the Church of Loving Shepherd, 1066 South New Street, West Chester. The topic is “Guns Around Town: Current & Proposed Regulations.” Starr said that "the goal is to educate citizens who hear about gun violence every day yet often don’t know about gun laws." Speakers will be Jeff Dempsey of CeaseFire PA and Ann Cummings, chairperson of Gun Sense Chester County.

BREAKFAST: Best meal of the day

There's a new breakfast and lunch place in town: Café Americana in the Giant shopping center on Scarlett Road. We ate there last Sunday morning and the place was quite busy with families, couples, friends and two women who looked like they'd just finished their barn chores (and were hungry: they ordered creamed chipped beef). The waitresses were cheerful, and we enjoyed a hearty breakfast of eggs and home fries. Cafe Americana is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Speaking of breakfast: on Sunday, April 2, the West Grove-Avondale Rotary Club and the Avon Grove Lions Club will be holding their annual pancake breakfast at the Avondale Fire Co. firehouse on Route 41 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Avondale and West Grove fire companies.

NUMBERS: Best marathon ever

At first I thought those oval "13.1" car stickers had something to do with advocating the unification of Ireland. Then "26.2" ones started appearing, and I knew there weren't 26 counties in Ireland.
Of course, what the numbers refer to is the miles in a half-marathon and marathon, respectively, and putting this on your car declares that you participate in this sport.
My interest in running extends only to watching the Young Relative compete as part of the UHS track team, and in Downingtown on Friday I saw the perfect car sticker on a Ford Explorer.
"0.0," it read. "I don't run."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

SEASONS: Welcome spring!

After the weird winter we've had, I was delighted to see the green skunk cabbage leaves poking their heads up in a swampy place I often walk past. Lured by the warmth, stinkbugs are emerging from wherever they secreted themselves in the house over the winter. And on Saturday, I heard peepers, those wonderful harbingers of spring, for the first time!
The early daffodils and crocus were "sapped" by the cold and snow, and the flowers on the magnolia tree at Kennett Friends Meeting got nipped by the cold, turning the edges brown. I'm hoping more daffodils will be coming into bloom soon.
Some years back I created a ritual of burning my Christmas wreath on the first day of spring outside on the back deck. This year was a little different: my back door was snowed shut. Not only did we have to clear the deck, we even had to dig the wreath out of the snow. A fair amount of newspaper was needed to get it burning.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Scope of practice

Overheard Wednesday at the eye doctor's office in Willowdale:
Patient: "These glasses don't fit right. I think my head is crooked."
Optician: "I can only fix the glasses."

CREATURES: A venue of vultures

As important as they are in the circle of life, I've always considered vultures to be disagreeable creatures in a memento mori ("remember, you must die") kind of way. But the other day I drove past a group of them were sitting peacefully on a fence along Upland Road with their wings outstretched, basking in the sun and warmth. It was actually an enchanting sight. I suppose even scavengers need to get their vitamin D.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

LONGWOOD: Don't miss the Orchid Show

Longwood Gardens' Orchid Extravaganza closes March 31, and you'll be sorry if you don't stop by. The gardeners at Longwood have placed masses of orchids throughout the conservatory: climbing the trunks of the palm trees, for instance, and adding brilliant color to the silver garden, among many other places. As always, it was fun to watch the families from around the world enjoying the gardens: surrounded by fabulous flowers, one boy focused just on jumping into a puddle. I overheard one father, upon entering the Children's Garden, tell his offspring, "This is where they grow children!"
There were a lot of serious photographers toting lots of gear, and we kept running into a couple getting their engagement photos taken.
We are very much looking forward to seeing the Spring Bulbs display next -- when the snow melts, that is. According to the winter mailing we received, this year's display will include nearly a quarter-million tulips.

MUSICAL: Step in Time

After the curtain came down on Unionville High School's production of "Mary Poppins," I turned to my date and said, "So how am I supposed to describe this?" What a wonderfully entertaining show, with terrific performances, spectacular production numbers, and jaw-dropping special effects.
The leads were Karalyn Joseph as Mary (she played Fiona in last year's musical, Shrek) and Adam Kimmel as Bert (unbelievably, this was his stage debut; he formerly played in the pit orchestra).
All of the actors and dancers are so talented, and based on the polished performances by Patton Middle Schoolers Kaeli Kaymak-Loveless and Bobby Mozzani as Jane and Michael Banks, UHS musical theater has a bright future.
We even got to say hi to canine star Willoughby during intermission.
I urge you to watch a couple of clips from the show and from rehearsals on YouTube.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

SPRING: Getting out of the house

Judging from my observations, a collective case of spring fever swept through our area this past Friday evening, driving people out of the house. A half-dozen new people showed up to my gym class at the Kennett Y. I happened to be wearing my "Y Ambassador" shirt, so I gave them a hearty welcome and urged them to return. And there was actually a line at the Dairy Queen, a very uncommon sight during these cold months. Hungry people kept walking in the door even after the official closing time.

CHESHIRE: Point-to-point is cancelled

I was sorry to learn that there will be no 72nd Running of the Cheshire Point-to-Point Races, which was set for Sunday, March 26. The decision to cancel was made from safety considerations: due to the snow and ice, the ground conditions are terrible, jeopardizing the welfare of horses and jockeys.
The "Cheshire Races" are an immensely popular fixture on the spring calendar. Not only do they kick off the steeplechase season, but they bring together Unionville folks who haven't seen each other all winter. Plus this year there was going to be a side-saddle race that I was greatly looking forward to.
I'm sure it was a tough decision for the committee to make, but of course safety comes first.

MAGAZINE: It's now online

The Horse of Delaware Valley, which ceased printing its popular monthly magazine back in November, has started publishing a free twice-monthly online newsletter. You can subscribe by going to their website ( and entering your name and email address. That's good news, but it still won't be as much fun as watching people eagerly extract the magazine from their post office box and immediately look to see if their photo is on page 2.

SURVEY: Tilda's Travels

As promised, I received a $20 check in the mail from the U.S. Department of Transportation for completing the National Household Travel Survey. I filled out an online questionnaire about my use of roads (by any means) on Sunday, Feb. 19, which involved taking a walk, having a family dinner at Hood's BBQ, and stopping at Wawa and Walmart. I found it interesting that the survey didn't ask what routes I took, just my beginning and ending points and any stops along the way. And I'm curious why they selected a Sunday as the time of interest instead of a weekday.

MUSHROOMS: Lampshades from mycelium

Last weekend the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting piece about Danielle Trofe, a Brooklyn lamp designer who creates lampshades using mycelium (mushroom roots). "Ms. Trofe packs a mix of corn-crop debris, mycelium and hemp into a mold, then adds water and flour to activate the mycelium," wrote the reporter. After five days, "she plops the solidified shape out like a bundt cake and lets its outer layer turn white with exposure to the air for a day." The biodegradable shades are part of her "Mush-Lume" collection.

SHOPPING: Shorter hours

The Giant grocery store on Scarlett Road in New Garden is no longer open 24/7: as of March 12 it shortened its hours to 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Those are the same hours at the Giant at 830 East Baltimore Pike. The Giant in Jennersville remains open all the time.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

BANQUET: Fellowship and firearms

Saturday night we attended the annual Chester County Friends of the National Rifle Association banquet. I don't think I've ever seen so many tables packed into the Red Clay Room, and there was not an empty seat. Among the guests were East Marlborough Police Chief Robert "Clarkie" Clark, Chester County Sheriff Carolyn "Bunny" Welsh, State Rep. Becky Corbin (who represents the Exton and Lionville area), and at least two candidates for the district court seat in Kennett now held by Dan Maisano.
The wait staff, working at top speed to tend to so many people, was a little too efficient in our case. While we were going through the buffet line they cleared our salad and bread-and-butter plates and cutlery, so we returned with plates full of prime rib to find . . .  no knives on the table. Fortunately I always carry a good sharp pocket knife in my purse, so I pulled it out, cut up my meat and then shared the knife with my neighbors. Others at the table just ate caveman style (but very neatly). It's hard to disconcert this crowd.
The whole point of the NRA dinner is to raise money, and they do so very skillfully by selling chances on a number of popular firearms arranged around the room. The winning tickets are drawn throughout the evening and announced. No one at our table won anything this year (unlike last year), but it was amusing anyway to hear the shouts of joy from other winners. I noticed that two men won at least two guns each -- what are the odds?!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

HALF-MOON: Staff will stay on

"So what's moving in to the Half-Moon?" is a question I've gotten several times this past week. The popular saloon and restaurant served up its last plate of crab nachos on March 11. It will be shut for several weeks for renovations and then will open under new management as the Grain Craft Bar & Kitchen (there is one on Main Street in Newark). I'm told that many of the Half-Moon staff will stay on, and several big-screen TVs will be installed. I can't speak to whether the crab nachos will stay on the menu.

NEWLIN: Closed "indefinitely"

Janie Baird, who chairs the Newlin Township supervisors, wrote to me to try to clear up the confusion over the correct Brandywine Creek Road detour. Because of the eroding slopes on the river side of the road, part of the road is being closed to westbound traffic, and PennDot has installed concrete barriers to reduce the already narrow road to one lane.
Janie said the official detour for westbound motorists is not Harvey's Bridge Road but rather Strasburg Road and Mortonville Road.
According to PennDOT, the road will remain closed "indefinitely" to westbound traffic.
Janie also notes that Newlin Township is pursuing state grant money to repair Laurel Road, which has been completely closed to through-traffic since May 2014, when part of the road collapsed after a heavy storm.
"The damage is considerable and the cost has been estimated at $1,003,000," she writes. "This amount is more than our small Township can afford on its own. We have been encouraging residents on Laurel Rd. to write letters of concern to Senator Killion and Representative Roe."
The one-way section of Brandywine Creek Road.


Lee Schlingmann's photograph of the Doe Run Valley in autumn won first prize in the county's photo contest, but where exactly was she standing when she took it?
Several life-long residents at the West Marlborough Township meeting on March 7 stared at the photo, trying to identify roads, buildings, fences and treelines, but just couldn't figure it out. I turned to social media the next day for help.
It took "Brother" Wilson of West Marlborough's road crew only five minutes to pinpoint it: It was taken from north of Covered Bridge Road, looking south across "Misty Valley." The house on top of the hill is Swaynes' on Ryan Road.
I contact Lee, the photographer, and she confirmed Brother's hunch. Lee said her prize was a gift certificate from Dansko and she is still picking out her shoes. She said she submitted the photo on a whim and then forgot about, so it was a happy surprise to hear she had won.

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and nature
Lee Schlingmann's prize-winning photo of Doe Run Valley.

DINNER: Scouts spaghetti dinner

Boy Scout Troop 24 will be holding its spring spaghetti dinner from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at Kennett Friend Meetinghouse, 125 Sickle Street in Kennett. We attend these dinners often: it's a great organization and a great meal (spaghetti, homemade sauce, meatballs, sauteed mushrooms, salad, bread, drink and dessert). Plus we always get a chuckle watching the boys at work. Tickets (adults $8, kids 4-12 $5, 3 and under free) are available at the door.
Thank you to Kathy Salameda for letting me know about this event; her two sons are in the troop!

QUAKERS: Worship, living and plants

Here are a few Quaker notes for you:
1. West Grove Friends will be celebrating the spring equinox by holding meeting at the "New" West Grove meetinghouse at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 19. The 1831 meetinghouse, which is open only a few times a year, is on State Road. 
2. Kevin Arnold, former clerk of London Grove Meeting, will be talking about "living as a Quaker in the world today" at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, at West Grove Meeting on Evergreen Street in West Grove, as part of West Grove's ongoing "Faiths of Our Neighbors" series. We went to a Quakerism talk that Kevin gave in November and he is an excellent and knowledgeable speaker.
3. The eagerly awaited London Grove Friends Plant Sale will be from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 13.

LIBRARY: History back on display

Jeff Yetter, vice president of the Kennett Library (aka the Bayard Taylor Library), shared with me the welcome news that the 1911 Wanamaker tall-case clock is back on display at the library.
The clock, donated to the library by the Darlington family, was removed in 2015 during library renovations and been living at a board member's house.
Jeff adds that "the planning for the new Kennett Library is coming along and the Library should be making some design concepts public in the next few months. . . . We are moving forward."
In other library news, the annual House & Garden Tour is Saturday, June 3. As usual, I am writing the little blurbs for the tour program and it is a fantastic lineup of houses this year, all right around Unionville.

MEDICARE: Keep track of your bills

A Unionville reader wrote to me about her recent dispute with Medicare, which denied payment for her husband's ambulance trip from the cardiologist's office to the ER. The bill was nearly $1,000.
"Of course, we appealed their decision--there are 5 levels of appeal. The third step of the appeal process is a teleconference with an administrative law judge. He was very helpful & ruled in our favor," she said.
"I am telling you our story because more people should be aware of this situation. I'm sure many people grumble and just pay the bill," she wrote. "Medicare recipients need to be careful if an ambulance is ever called for them."I asked her how her husband is doing, and she said he was fine and was in fact, at that moment, stripping wallpaper from the bathroom walls. 

THEATER: Magic on Cherry Tree Lane

We're looking forward to attending the UHS Spring Musical, "Mary Poppins," this coming weekend. I remember the Disney movie from when I was in first grade (yes, I can still sing "Supercalifragilistic" ...  etc.) and the wonderful (and very different) P.L. Travers books from when I was a little older.
The UHS kids always put on a great show and have staggering amounts of talent. In recent years they've done "West Side Story" and "Shrek" and in both cases they outshone professional versions we've seen, in both the performances and the sets.
The show is at the high school at 7:30 p.m. March 16, 17, and 18.

CAT: A feline smorgasbord

Now that Clarence the Amazing Wonderful Miracle Rescue Cat has gained back the weight he lost when he was a stray, he is becoming more cat-like in his food preferences. Though he is always happy to see kibble (Purina Fancy Feast Filet Mignon Flavor With Real Seafood & Shrimp) in his dish, his taste in canned food is inscrutable; I am constantly trying new products.
Last night we were in the pet aisle in the Giant, which features a bewildering array of manufacturers and brands, even several "organic" and "lite" lines (diet food for cats ... groove on that for a minute). Cans with a "Gravy Lovers" label seemed like they would appeal to Clarence, as did pouches of "decadent" broth.
As I fretted, Minder #2 looked on with amusement, calculating that the per-pound cost of some special "hand-flaked tuna" would be about $57. He noted that in his household, the dogs eat what he puts in front of them or go hungry, and hinted that Clarence may be slightly (read: extraordinarily) spoiled.
"Yes," I agreed, "but we're so lucky to have him!"
"That cat," he said darkly, "has a darn good gig."

Sunday, March 5, 2017

KENNETT: Last meal at the Half Moon

On Saturday we paid a farewell visit to the Half Moon Restaurant and Saloon, which is closing its doors on March 11. Judging by the crowd -- the rooftop dining area was completely full -- a lot of other folks were saying goodbye, too. I ordered my favorite Full Moon cheeseburger with caramelized onions, and we shared a heaping plate of cheese-slathered waffle fries.
Taking over the Half Moon's premises will be the Grain Craft Bar and Kitchen. That restaurant has a branch on Main Street in Newark, and I'm told that we are in for a treat.

WORKING: On the sales floor

On Saturday evening we were running some errands at a "big box" store and a sales clerk, an older gentleman, came up and asked us if we needed any help. He offered some good advice that allowed us to avoid an unnecessary purchase, and we joked that we wouldn't tell his boss.
He snorted, saying he wasn't entirely sure who his boss actually was these days; it seems there had been some major reshuffling in the chain's management structure.
It was slow in the store, so we struck up a conversation. He explained that he likes to keep busy, and this is one of two post-retirement jobs that he has. He said the store is woefully short-staffed and has difficulty finding quality workers. He used as an example a young colleague who is temporarily off on worker's comp. Our friend saw little difference in the amount of work that got done whether the youth was able-bodied or out on disability.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

WORK: The voice of experience

As a freelance copy editor I need to pay attention to minute details, and I take a strange but lucrative pleasure in getting a sloppy book whipped into shape.
I'm working on a prestigious book about adolescent mental health disorders, and of course there's a list of contributors in the front, giving their degrees and academic affiliations. I thought the spelling of one eminent psychiatrist's endowed chair looked a little off, so I checked his website and the university's website. All three spellings were different. (He insisted that his was the correct spelling, so I went with it.)
But some projects are just no-win situations. The other day I got a job offer that involved cleaning up another copy editor's mistakes (the first red flag), and the project involved alphabetizing Arabic names in the index and fixing biographical entries that involved books and articles written by the same authors.
After a moment's consideration, I wrote back saying that unfortunately my schedule wouldn't allow me to accept the project. So sorry.

Friday, March 3, 2017

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Fireworks are back

Longwood Gardens put its marvelous fireworks displays on hiatus during the massive fountains renovation project, but it sounds like they'll be back this summer. Pending township approval, they're scheduled for May 28, July 2, July 22, August 12, September 2 and September 16.

UNIONVILLE: A happy ending

A stray German shepherd showed up on my friend Kelly's porch in Unionville the afternoon of March 2, with an ID tag from a vet's office in Kentucky. Kelly called the number, which turned out to be a shelter, and learned that the dog had been transferred to LaMancha Animal Rescue and had just recently been adopted. The owner was contacted and by suppertime, the dog was back with her family.
"She was so sweet and sad," said Kelly. "She wouldn't even drink her water and her nose was so dry. She missed her humans."
Well done, Kelly!

MAIL: A waste of paper

I mentioned a few months ago that a friend whose views differ radically from mine signed me up for a subscription to a political magazine, hoping to show me the woeful error of my ways. I've now received two issues and, if I manage to overlook the gratuitous insults and stereotypes, the periodical is really not too bad.
I can't say the same for the ancillary ads, mailings and requests for donations that have started showing up on my doorstep. It seems this magazine sells its list of subscribers to all and sundry, and let's just say that these other publications and entities do not contribute very much to civil civic discourse. You're wasting your money on me, guys.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

AVONDALE: A date night double header

Mid-week we try to do something a little special, so this past Wednesday evening we arranged to meet at TSS for a hour's worth of target shooting, followed by dinner at Perkins next door.
"Just don't get your locations mixed up," warned one droll friend.
(Both halves of the evening were great, by the way. We even ran into friends at TSS!)

NEWLIN: One lane only

When I heard on March 2 that Brandywine Creek Road was being closed to westbound traffic in Newlin Township, I had to investigate. Sure enough, just east of Harvey's Bridge, PennDOT workers were installing concrete barriers next to the guardrail to reduce the already narrow road down to one lane. The scenic stretch of the road runs along the top of a steep slope that goes straight down to the creek, and the problem is that the pavement is actually crumbling down the hill. 
The detour for westbound traffic uses Harvey's Bridge Road, which has its own issues: as one former resident notes, "It is very narrow and has a killer S-curve that is `blind' -- beep your horn when going through and go slowly!"
Also, when they say that this stretch of road is reduced to one lane, they mean it. There's a concrete barrier on one side and a hill with rocks on the other, with no shoulder whatsoever.
Nearby, but on the other side of the creek, Laurel Road has been completely closed to through-traffic since May 2014, when part of the road collapsed after a heavy storm.

Brandywine Creek Road is being closed to westbound traffic in Newlin Township, near Harvey's Bridge.

UNIONVILLE: Feedback from the readers

At the Giant in New Garden the other day I ran into two longtime Unionville residents who recognized me as "Tilda" and said all manner of kind things about my column. While standing in the bakery department, we had an excellent chat about everything from local politics (who will be running for East Marlborough supervisor?) to speeding motorists in Unionville to the nutritional benefits of hemp milk. They were so persuasive about the latter that I retraced my steps to the organic aisle and bought some.