Sunday, June 25, 2017

WEST GROVE: A plan to reduce composting odors?

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

GIANT: Caring for our companions

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

CONCERTS: Free summer series starts

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

RIP: Curtain call for the Dame

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

KENNETT: Before the battle

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

FRAMED: A good frame shop

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

UNIONVILLE: A joyful noise

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

MOVING: A rite of passage

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

UNIONVILLE: Rescue dogs on parade

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

UNIONVILLE: The Quilt has a home!

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

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

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

BICYCLISTS: Sharing the road

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

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Mulch for the taking

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

LONDONDERRY: The 926/41 intersection

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

BASE BALL: The Mohicans will play July 9

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

AVONDALE: Route 41 in the summer

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

UNIONVILLE: The Cheshire Puppy Show

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

From left, Bruce Davidson, Joe Cassidy, and Barry Magner (with three of the male hounds) at the Cheshire puppy show.

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

NEW GARDEN: A crab feast

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

MEMOIR: South Philly in the old days

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

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Outdoor Meeting for Worship

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

LONGWOOD: "HMS Pinafore"

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

KENNETT: Two history tours

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

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Good-bye to Al and Eddie

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

POCOPSON: A great hardware store

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

ROUTE 926: Phase 2 of the bridge construction

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Code Appeals Board formed

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

LANDOWNERS: Finding missing people

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

STAPLES: Impressive service

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

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Under the speed limit

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

Monday, June 5, 2017

KENNETT SQUARE: It's called "Kennett Squared"

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

The base of the "Kennett Squared" sculpture.

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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

UNIONVILLE: Support for a beloved jockey

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

GARDENS: I can dig it!

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

UHS: The show must go on!

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

UNIONVILLE: The library tour

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

Saturday, June 3, 2017

BIRDS: No good deed...

Earlier this spring I was admiring the beautiful goldfinches at my mother's birdfeeder. A kind and generous woman (as always), the next time I saw her she gave me a big bag of the kind of seeds that finches like.
I bought a feeder with tiny holes (the seed is very small) and hung it out in the backyard. Within minutes, chickadees found the new food source, and the glorious goldfinches were not far behind.
Unfortunately, my gain was my mother's loss: she hasn't seen a finch ever since I put out my feeder.

KENNETT: Kids at play

If you're like me, you spend a lot of time sitting at the stoplight at Union Street in busy downtown Kennett Square, waiting for the green arrow to appear so you can turn left onto Cypress Street. And once the arrow finally appears, our natural inclination is to hit the gas and make a very fast left turn.
Don't do it.
A lot of young kids who live in the apartment building at the southeast corner of that intersection play on the sidewalk and parking lot. On Tuesday afternoon one little boy went dashing across Cypress Street to chase a wayward ball, and of course he didn't stop to look before he crossed. Thank goodness all the drivers were paying attention, because a tragedy could so easily have happened.
Just bear it in mind. Being 30 seconds later to your coffee date or gym class doesn't really matter.

YMCA: A clear round

During a class the other evening, our Y instructor was telling us what specific exercises the next segment of the workout would involve.
"Pushups, kickbacks, bar work: that's the order of go," she told us.
"Are you a horse-show mom, by any chance?" I asked.
She was amazed and acknowledged that in fact she did spend many hours watching her equestrian kids compete at shows. She laughed when she realized how she had used that dead-giveaway phrase without even thinking about it