Monday, July 17, 2017

KENNETT SQUARE: Some business changes

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

The fish tacos at Michoacana Grill.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

ELKTON: Cecil County Fair

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

MARSHALLTON: Keeping cool

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

KENNETT: Four concerts are left

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

EAST MARLBOROUGH: An Aldi supermarket is proposed

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

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

              POCOPSON: Bluebird Chat

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

              EAST MARLBOROUGH: The art of rock

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

              WEST MARLBOROUGH: Swept away

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

              Sunday, July 9, 2017

              POCOPSON: Bliss on the Brandywine

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

              WEST MARLBOROUGH: Increase in traffic volume and speed

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

              RESPECT: An open-and-shut case

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

              EAST MARLBOROUGH: A menace in an Audi

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

              Thursday, July 6, 2017

              KENNETT: A nostalgic night

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

              STEREOTYPES: Don't judge a book...

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

              Monday, July 3, 2017

              BOOKS: A new biography of Douglass

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

              WRENS: Birthday for the birds

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

              Saturday, July 1, 2017

              FAMILY: A summer reunion

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

              PHL: Stress-free airport pickup

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

              SUMMER: Frayed tempers

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

              EAST FALLOWFIELD: Route 82 is open again

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

              WILLOW STREET: Apples and Vulcans

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