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.